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or is it the result of the attack of insects, deficiencies of soil, or fungi, as others think? (Vide Mr. Delafield's experience in wide planting of the potato-Trans. 1850, page 498.)
21. Inefficiency of supposed antidotes.-As mildew has been principally concerned in the potato disease during the last two years, and knowing the effect of sulphur in resisting it upon the grape, I was induced to make a similar application of it to the potato. It was mixed with some other substances, as follows: sulphur, ten pounds; wheat flour, three quarts; lime, slacked, two quarts; unleached ashes, eight quarts; and plaster of Paris equal to all the other articles combined. This mixture was made by no particular rule. The wheat flour was for the purpose of making the mass adhere to the leaves of the potato. The other articles will all be seen to be antiseptics. The whole was most thoroughly mixed by being passed together through a sieve before being used. It was applied early in the morning, while the dew was upon the plant, with a small sieve, at the end of a long handle. The application was made to different sorts of potatoes, some of which were considerably affected with mildew, and some very little. Such was the state of the weather after its application, which was made August 6, that it remained upon the foliage—at least, more or less of it-eight or ten days. The application had no perceptible influence either for good or evil upon the crop.
22. The cause of disease in late-ripening varieties.
(1.) It is a settled point in the culture of tropical plants in this climate that their elaborations are less healthful in the cool, dark, and damp weather of autumn than at an earlier period. Melons of all sorts, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, beans, and even hardy plants—as peas-are never so rich and healthful, when forming their fruits or pods late in the season, as at an earlier period; all this is equally true of the potato. A variety that matures very late, and so, equally, early sorts that are planted very late, will become diseased from that very circumstance.
(2.) There is, perhaps, another reason: while the skin of the mature tuber is very impervious to liquids, not even withering readily under the combined influence of sun and air, the skin of the young potato is very tender, and brobably suffers from cold and dampness in the soil in autumn. Whatever may be the explications of the fact, some varieties that I cultivate, whose foliage, under every variety of weather, is strong, but whose tubers, instead of commencing their formation about the 20th of June, as is common, do not begin their growth until the 20th of August, and even in some cases much later - some such hardy varieties, 1 say, are found diseased in tuber late in autumn.
23. On the use of small potatoes for seed.—Practically, I have found no difference in results between the use of large and small potatoes for seed; my experiments in this respect have extended to various kinds, on various soils, and through many years; I have not, however, practised it upon the same variety, and on the same soil, and through a succession of years. Theoretically, I should be opposed to this latter course; an occasional use of small potatoes for seed, especially where you do not save the crop for the seed of the next year, I think entirely safe, neither leading to disease nor diminution of crop.
24. l'easons of the increased liability of the potato to disease in late years. This increased liability is a painful fact. The reason of that
fact, as adduced in the essays of former years, is exhausted energy. (See Transactions for 1847 and 1848.) This exhaustion of energy is believed to be the result of long cultivation from the tubers, instead of occasional reproduction from the seed-balls. · Our climate, moreover, is clearly less congenial than its native one, being shorter in season, less uniform, and exhibiting wider extremes of temperature. We have, also, over-stimulated it in our anxiety to get large crops. Manuring it for this purpose has made the plant more vascular, as well as overworked its excitability. The proofs of these positions, formerly adduced, were largely inferential and collateral. The remedy was, also, of the same character: that remedy was reproduction from our hardiest old sorts, reimportation from its native clime, and reproduction from such imported sorts, when they were not quite fitted to our climate, in the first instance, by length of season. The confident tone in which this remedy was proposed was considered by some chimerical. The justification of that confidence is now found in simple matters of fact, respectably attested, and still open to the scrutiny
credulous. In short, importations have been made, seedlings have been produced from them, and also from our old varieties. The result of all is, such a character for hardiness and all other good qualities as affords the assurance that a few varieties of the highest character have already been obtained, and that speedily such varieties will be obtained in great numbers. Meanwhile, all other remedies for potato disease, in the shape of change or renewal of soil, antiseptic remedies, and remedies directed to the repulsion of insects, have failed, or at best have been but temporary in their influence, and have not reached the root of the evil.
I have not in this, or in former papers, attempted a minute exhibition of the mode in which, probably, vegetable productions become degenerated by age. This is not a work for me, but for the most acute and discerning of vegetable physiologists. Excepting the slight show of explanation here, and in former papers, (see Transactions for 1847, pp. 453–454; and for 1848, pp 418-421,) I have contented myself with the simple assumption of generally admitted facts.
Experiment --Burying Potatoes. The annexed account of an experiment made by Mr. Goodrich during the past year having been received while the Transactions are being printed, and being important as regards the disease of the potato, we give it an insertion:
May 8, 1851.- I buried twenty tubers of potatoes about two feet deep in the cellar of an out house. The object was to ascertain whether they could be preserved over one summer, so as to be used the second year for seed. The place of deposite was favorable, as the cellar was cool, and underlaid with living quicksand about three feet from the surface, whose temperature is to-day, at two feet from the surface, fifty-five degrees. They were deposited in a flower pot, and this set in another one, larger; the whole was covered with an earthern plate, and this again by a board; no earth was put in. The sorts of potatoes deposited were two varieties of home seedlings of 1849, one Chilian, and three of more common sorts.
Results and Suggestions.
They were dug out May 20, 1852, having been buried one year and twelve days.
1. They all had grown during the last year and formed vines, which had decayed much as they would have done in a heap in the field. The tubers formed amounted to forty-eight—some of them very small. They were none of them so large as those buried; and were by weight, probably, from one-third to one half the weight of those buried.
2. The old tubers were mostly decayed, as in ordinary experience; but one of them was found sound, except that it was a little cracked; while some others, though retaining their shape, were soft.
3. The tubers were colored like the originals, but not so deeply.
4. They were all sound, since they endured none of those severe atmospheric changes which are conceived to be the cause of the disease, as manifesting itself in recent years.
5. They were found, when opened, beginning to sprout. This is a proof of the strong tendency of the potato to germinate when the appro. priate season of the year arrives.
6. As they had no access to soil or water, other than the pervasion of the flower-pot by moist air from below, so their growth must have been the result of a mere transfer of matter from the old tubers to the new vines and tubers.
7. They were planted, except the very small ones, May 21st, in nineteen hills, and are to day, July 31st, quite as flourishing as other hills planted with the same varieties of seed.
8. On the 25th of June, just thirty-four days from the time these new tubers were planted, I discovered that the old sound tuber, noticed in No. 2, above, was sprouting, the flower pot containing it and the other rubbish of this experiment having been left in a somewhat dark and cool position. It was at once planted, and has made a feeble growth of two sprouts four inches long.
9. To those who, on opening heaps of potatoes that had been covered too warmly during the winter, have found young tubers in the middle of the heap half grown, this experiment will not seem at all incredible. Had they been placed in an open box, but still without earth, and set upon the bottom of the cellar, so as to imbibe a little moisture, the superior access to light and warmth which they would have thus enjoyed would probably have made the foregoing results larger.
This experiment, I think, strongly corroborates the suggestions made in late years that the heat and light of our climate are evidently too great for the normal requirements of the potato, and that this excess, taken in connexion with the sudden and severe changes of our climate, indicates the true immediate cause of that disease which has made such powerful ravages during the last nine years. When we superadd to this cause others—such as a course of culture too stimulating, and a neglect to raise it frequently from the seed ball—we have all the needful facts for forming a theory of the potato disease--a disease which is, then, no longer an inscrutable mystery, but a common liability incident to all tropical plants when cultivated in incongenial circumstances.
C. E. GOODRICH.
SOUTHERN AGRICULTURAL EXHAUSTION, AND ITS
The great error of Southern agriculture is the general practice of exhausting culture—the almost universal deterioration of the productive power of the soil, which power is the main and essential foundation of all agricultural wealth. The merchant or manufacturer who was using (without replacing) any part of his capital to swell his early income, or the ship owner who used as profit all his receipts from freights, allowing nothing for repairs or deteriorations of capital, would be accounted by all as in the sure road to bankruptcy. The joint-stock company that should, in good faith, (as many have done by designed fraud,) annually pay out something of what ought to be its reserved fund, or of its actual capital, to add so much to the dividends, would soon reach the point of being obliged to reduce the dividends below the original fair rate, and, in enough time, all the capital would be so absorbed. Yet this unprof. itable procedure, which would be deemed the most marvellous folly in regard to any other kind of capital invested, is precisely that which is still generally pursued by the cultivators of the soil in all the cotton-producing States, and which prevailed as generally, and much longer, in my own country, and which, even now, is more usual there than the opposite course of fertilizing culture. The recuperative powers of nature are indeed continually operating, and to great effect, to repair the waste of fertility caused by the destructive industry of man; and but for this natural and imperfect remedy, all these Southern States (and most of the Northern, likewise) would be already barren deserts, in which agricultural labors would be hopeless of reward, and civilized man could not exist. Let me not be understood as extending censure to all Southern agriculture, and charging this great defect as being universal. It is truly very general, but there are numerous exceptions, of which it is not my purpose to treat. My present business is with errors and defects of Southern agriculture, and with its points of adnitted excellence; as, for example, the elaborate system of rice culture, and for other tillage, the very general and commendable attention paid to the collection of materials for putrescent manures.
* This interesting paper was read by Edmund Ruffin, esq., of Virginia, the justly celebrated American agriculturist, at the late fair of the South Carolina Institute, in Charleston, South Carolina, which we had the pleasure of attending. The author has kindly furnished us a corrected copy, which we hasten to lay before our readers, omitting only the introductory portions, which are of local or personal character.-- Editor of De Bow's Review, New Orleans.
Nothing has appeared to me more remarkable in the agriculture of this region than the close neighborhood (often, indeed, seen on the same property) of the best husbandry in some respects, and almost the worst in most others. The great error of exhausting the fertility of the soil is not peculiar to cotton culture or to the Southern States. It belongs, from necessity, to the agriculture of every newly-settled country, and especially where the land, before being brought under tillage, was in the forest state. When first settled upon, forest land costs almost nothing, and labor is scarce and dear. Even if labor is more abundant, it still will be long before enough land can be cleared to allow changes of culture and rest to the fields; and for some years after each new clearing, it would be even beneficial to continue the tillage of corn, tobacco, or cotton, so as effectually to kill all remains of the forest growth. But as soon as enough land can be brought under culture, and has been put in clean condition, so as to allow space for change of crops and due respite from continual tillage, the previous exhausting course will no longer be best even for early profit. Even in a new country, while land is yet fertile, it is cheaper to preserve that fertility from any exhaustion than it is to reduce it considerably. And in an older agricultural country, like South Carolina, having abundant resources in marl and lime for improving fertility, it would be much cheaper and more profitable to improve an acre of before exhausted land than it is to clear and bring under culture an acre of ordinary land from the forest state, allowing that both pieces are to be brought to the same power and rate of production. New settlers are not censurable for beginning this exhausting culture. But they and their successors are not the less condemnable for continuing it after the circumstances which justified it have ceased. The system was first begun in Eastern Virginia, because it was the first settled part of the present United States, and it continued to prevail, almost universally, until since the course of my adult life began, and only has partially ceased since because the country was nearly reduced to barrenness and the proprietors to ruin. From this erroneous policy so long pursued in Virginia, and the manifest and well-known disastrous results in the gen. eral and seemingly desperate sterility of the older settled portion of the State, the younger Southern States might have taken warning, and have learned to profit by the woful and costly experience of others. But it seems that every agricultural community must and will run the same race of exhausting culture and impoverishment of land and its cultivators before being convinced of the propriety of commencing an opposite course, after the best means and facilities for making that beneficial change have been greatly impaired by the lapse of time, and progress of waste of fertility—if, indeed, these means are not then irretrievably forfeited. If, at this time, the work of improvement, with the aid of marl and lime, were properly begun and prosecuted, there would be found here incalculable advantages over those of the pioneers in the like work in Virginia. These advantages would be—first, a ten-fold better supply of far richer and cheaper marl than is found in Virginia; second, much more remaining organic matter, or original fertility of the soil, as yet unexhausted; third, full information to be obtained of the operations and opinions of thousands of experienced and successful marlers to refer to, of which advantage there was almost nothing existing 30 years ago. In South Carolina more marling could now be done in a year, and in a proper