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BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND
GRANTS FOR AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION AND RESEARCH, 1905-1906.
ANNUAL REPORT TO THE SECRETARY OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES.
HEREWITH I have the honour to submit the annual record of the Board's work in the direction of Education in Agriculture and cognate branches of rural economy. From this it will be seen that during the year ending with March last, the Board were able to add two educational institutions to those that they previously supported with financial aid, having awarded a Grant of £100 to the Hampshire Farm School at Basing, and a similar sum in respect of the Agricultural Institute in the County of Bedford. The former of these institutions approaches in character the socalled "Winter-schools" of Germany, which open in autumn after the main work in the fields is over for the year, and close in spring in time to allow of the pupils returning to their homes in readiness to take part in the important operations of early spring. In summer the school premises are utilized in imparting instruction in dairying to female students. A school with precisely similar functions has for some years existed in Cumberland, and has been found to be of the greatest possible assistance to the County Councils of Cumberland and Westmoreland in the development of their schemes of rural education. It is a type of institution that might with much advantage be duplicated once or oftener in every county in England, and the Board are glad to be able to give their support to examples in the north and in the south, which may serve as models to other Education Authorities. The Agricultural Institute in Bedfordshire is at present in something of a transition stage, functionating as a Winter School in Agriculture and a
Summer School in dairying.
It is hoped that it may develop into a centre from which the local requirements of a group of counties in East Anglia may be served.
In pursuance of their policy of encouraging the acquisition of farms by Agricultural Colleges, and Agricultural Departments of Universities and University Colleges, the Board were glad during the past year to be in a position to award a Grant of £200 to the University College of Aberystwyth in respect of such an addition to the equipment of its Agricultural Department. They were at the same time able to increase their Grant by £50 in respect of the farm that is put to such excellent account by the Midland Agricultural and Dairy College.
The special Grants for Experiment and Research have remained practically unaltered during the past year, the diminition of £75 in the aggregate amount being accounted for by the non-recurrence of a Grant awarded under somewhat exceptional circumstances during the year 1904-5.
As regards the work of education at the various institutions aided by the Board, I have to report the same steady progress that has characterised it during past years. On all sides there is abundant evidence of the broadening of the educational basis, of the widening of public interest in the subject, and of an increase in the number of pupils. Two years ago, on the strength of the very careful Reports of the Board's Superintending Inspector, I ventured to make an estimate of the number of students who had, during the previous year, come directly under the influence of the various courses of instruction provided by the institutions aided by the Board, and the aggregate figure arrived at was 23,000. I have again gone into this subject, with the result that I find that during the past year some 1500 pupils pursued courses within the walls of the various institutions, while about 32,500 attended local courses provided by, or in association with, the central institution. The aggregate, therefore, I now estimate at some 34,000, which indicates a very substantial and gratifying advance on the figures of 1903-4. What proportion the figure I have mentioned may bear to the total agricultural youth of England and Wales of the age of say 20 years, it may be difficult to estimate, but there would appear to be no room for doubt that, in the aggregate, education is now playing a most important part in agricultural production, while every year its influence must increase.
While it is from systematic education, in the ordinary acceptance of the term, that most is to be expected, it is gratifying to find that farmers are more and more utilising the organisation of the collegiate centres for the supply of information on the practical details of their business. The number of direct inquiries by practical farmers that are addressed to the members of the staffs with regard to such subjects as manures, foods, seedmixtures, insects, and diseases is annually increasing; while the scheme instituted by the Board, under which dairy farmers may be kept informed of the periodic and individual fluctuations in the quality of milk, is attracting more and more attention.
As is well known, many of the collegiate centres give considerable attention to agricultural experiments and demonstrations, and although much of such work is primarily of local interest, a not inconsiderable proportion of the results are of wider application. For some time past the Board have given much thought to the question as to how the conclusions arrived at may be most effectively rendered available for the use of farmers in general, and they have resolved to issue a series of short monographs dealing, in the first instance, with the manuring of individual crops. While it may be objected that special local conditions are often sufficient to upset general principles, it is equally true that general principles guide the practice of manuring as a whole. The Board have frequently called attention in the past to the necessity of farmers determining, by means of simple trials, the manurial requirements of their own crops and fields, and for this purpose they issued a series of practical schemes which might serve as guides to those desiring to pursue the subject. But those unwilling or unable to experiment for themselves may find many useful suggestions in the experiences of others, and it is for use under these circumstances that the special articles are being prepared.
In previous Reports the Board have endeavoured to supply specific information in regard to special aspects of rural education, and in this way Local Education Authorities have had placed at their disposal useful summaries on Education in Rural Districts and on School Gardens. In the present volume the special subject dealt with is the "Processes of Agriculture," and, as the result of detailed inquiry, the experiences of County Councils who have provided for instruction in this subject are brought together in Appendix II. The Board have found that in consequence of information in regard to the organisation of school gardens being
made readily available, many local authorities have given their attention to the subject, with the result that this valuable educational agency is being much more fully utilized than formerly. It is to be hoped, and it may be expected, that a similar result will follow the distribution of information on the Processes of Agriculture, a subject which is intimately associated with the efficiency of rural labour, and with the success of agricultural operations.
In Appendix III. an account is given of the form, extent, and organisation of the various branches of agricultural instruction provided by County Councils in England and Wales during the year under review. A large proportion of the counties, it will be seen, are in direct association with a collegiate centre, while others maintain an independent county staff, or engage temporary instructors. It is found to be possible to produce satisfactory results under both systems, though the experience of the Board convinces them that where local circumstances make association with a collegiate centre practicable, the work gains both in persistency and productiveness. Notwithstanding the unremitting efforts of the Board to effect an improvement, certain counties still do little or nothing for rural education, and one cannot but feel surprise that the farmers of these counties are content to exclude themselves from opportunities which are conferring such conspicuous benefits upon their neighbours.
Appendix iv. contains a tabular statement of the amount received by County Councils under the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Act of 1890, and the manner of its utilization