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powerful State agricultural society, of a local society in nearly every county, of numerous and widely circulated agricultural journals; and they have enjoyed all the assistance that cities and villages can give to the cultivators of the soil.
In 1845 there were 11,737,968 acres under improvement in that State; in 1850 the number had increased to 12,408,968. Gain in five years, 671,692 acres. If the land neither increased nor decreased in fertility, the crops, neat stock, horses, swine, and sheep should have gained in the same ratio with the increased area brought under cultivation. If the land yielded more food for man and his domesticated animals per acre in 1850 than it did in 1845, then it would have increased in productiveness; but if it produced less, the legitimate inference is that it must have parted with more of the essential elements of crops than it regained.
The number of horses in the State in 1845 was 505,155; in 1850 it was 447,014; showing a decrease of 58,141 in five years. In these five years a large number of horses was brought into the State and sold in the growing cities of New York, Brooklyn, Albany, Troy, Utica, Syracuse, Auburn, Rochester, and Buffalo. The decrease of horses in the farming districts must have been not far from 100,000, instead of an increase proportionate to the increased number of acres of improved land. In 1845 there were 999,490 cows milked in the State, and in 1850 931,324; showing a decrease of 68,066, in place of a gain, as there should have been had the soil not been deteriorated, and with 58,141 less horses to feed, and 671,692 acres of land more for dairy purposes.
Of other cattle there were 1,072,840 in 1845, and 945,315 in 1850; showing a decrease of 127,525, in place of a gain.
Of swine there were 1,584,344 in 1845, and in 1850, 1,018,252; showing a decrease of 566,092.
Of sheep there were 6,443,865 in 1845, and only 3,453,241 in 1850. These figures indicate the prodigious falling off in five years of 2,990,624. It would take 400,000 cows to replace all the sheep slaughtered, to say nothing of the diminished number of horses, oxen and young cattle, and swine.
Of potatoes the decrease was 7,255,056 bushels.
Of peas and beans there was a decrease of 1,182,054 bushels.
Of wool there was a decrease of 3,793,527 pounds.
Of wheat there was a decrease of 270,724 bushels.
Of buckwheat there was a decrease of 450,724 bushels.
We will now name the crops in which there was an increase. The crop of corn was 14,722,114 bushels in 1845, and 17,858,400 in 1850; increase 3,136,286 bushels. To produce the corn stated in the census of 1845, 595,135 acres were planted; indicating an average yield of 24 bushels per acre. From the impoverishment of pastures and meadows, and the decrease of forage for sheep, horses, and neat stock, more acres are now planted in corn, relatively, than ten years ago. At least one-tenth of the 671,567 acres increased area of improved land in the State may be set down as planted to this excellent forage as well as grain crop. This estimate indicates an average increase of corn per acre of two bushels. In the Patent Office Report for 1849 we estimated the number of farmers in New York who are improving their lands at onetwelfth of the whole, representing about a million acres of cultivated
land. No reason to vary this estimate has since been found. One twelfth of the corn growers, it is believed, raise an average of 50 bushels per acre, who produce 2,760,000 bushels from 55,200 acres. One-fourth of the farmers in the State so cultivate their farms as to keep them from deterioration, and of course make and apply manure, in one form or another, equal to the draughts on the land by the growth of grass, grain, and roots, and by tillage. The average crops of corn made by these men may be set down at 35 bushels per acre. They cultivate 165,573 acres in corn, and harvest 5,595,055 bushels per annum. These figures leave 441,518 acres in the hands of two thirds of the cultivators in the State, who grow 9,503,345 bushels, being an average product of 21 bushels per acre.
Of rye there was an increase of 1,181,860 bushels. The rye crop of 1845 yielded only 9 bushels per acre. If we allow one-tenth of the 671,692 acres of fresh land brought under improvement between the census of 1845 and that of 1850 to be sown with rye, and produce 15 bushels per acre, the increase would be 1,007,535 bushels, or nearly the quantity that the actual returns indicate as the gain in the State.
Similar remarks will apply with greater force to the increase of 228,163 bushels of oats; the increase of 476,354 bushels of barley; and of 26,796 tons of hay. One-tenth of the new lands in meadows would be a gain of 67,169 acres, and these, yielding 14 ton per acre, would show an increase of over 100,000 tons, instead of 26,796. There is an increase of 264,361 pounds of butter, and one of 12,991,437 pounds of cheese. These dairy statistics are exceedingly interesting: first, because an increase of population of 494,323 in five years would lead to a corresponding increased consumption of milk before it could be used for making either cheese or butter; and, secondly, because there were nearly 100,000 less cows milked in 1850 than in 1845. In the census of 1850 dry cows were returned among the "milch cows" of the State; in the census of 1845 no cows were included except such as gave milk. These facts prove incontestably that the praiseworthy efforts of the members of the State and county societies to improve dairy stock have been eminently successful. A very considerable share of the domestic animals in New York has been increased in value within the last twelve years by the diffusion of rural knowledge among the people. The "live stock" at the census of 1850 was returned as worth $73,570,499 in that State.
The construction of numerous canals, railways, and plank roads, and the rapid growth of cities and villages, have operated to enhance the market price of farming lands in all parts of the State. So far is this increase of value from indicating a corresponding gain of the elements of fertility in the soil, that it arises solely from the power of its owners to extract these elements in crops, products of the dairy, the orchard, and the garden, and sell them at a fair price on the farm. Grain, hay, provisions, fruit, and vegetables bring prices that render farming lands valuable in New York to wear out by the usual system of tillage and husbandry. Two-thirds of all the improved lands in that State are damaged to the extent of at least three dollars per acre a year, involving an annual loss of $25,000,000. How to prevent this constant impoverishment of the soil in all the States is a question of vast moment to the well-being of the republic.
Before we proceed to the consideration of remedies, it is thought advisable to bring before the reader additional evidence of the extent and certainty of the malady. "To know ourselves diseased is half our cure." The Massachusetts State Board of Agriculture has adopted the following pregnant resolution :
Resolved, That the necessity of this improvement [agricultural education] is apparent from the report of the valuation committee to the last legislature; by which it will be seen that, although there have been added to the lands under improvement since 1840 more than three hundred thousand acres, and although the upland and other mowing lands have been increased more than ninety thousand acres, or nearly 15 per cent., yet the hay crops have increased only about 3 per cent., showing a relative depreciation of 12 per cent.; and although the tillage lands have been increased more than forty thousand acres in the same period, yet there has been no increase in grain crops, but an absolute depreciation of six hundred thousand bushels; and although the pasturage lands have been increased more than one hundred thousand acres, yet there has been scarcely any augmentation of neat cattle, while in sheep there has been a reduction of more than one hundred and sixty thousand, and in swine of more than seventeen thousand."
These facts prove that home markets, a net work of excellent railroads, and most flourishing agricultual societies and journals, are as insufficient to teach the true principles of agriculture in Massachusetts as in New York. The practice of drawing on American soil as an inexhaustible capital prevails equally all over the United States, and it is truly bred in the bone and flesh of the people. Wherever it is possible to bring the light of truthful statistics to bear on the land under cultivation, there the consumption of its virgin fertility is demonstrated. Of the one hundred and twenty-five million acres now under cultivation in the United States, four fifths, or one hundred millions, are damaged to the extent of three dollars an acre per annum. By which remark we mean that complete restitution of the elements of crops removed, such as potash, soda, lime, magnesia, chlorine, phosphoric and sulphuric acids, and ammonia, cannot be made short of an expense of three dollars per acre. All manuring of every kind implies the necessity of making restitution to the earth cultivated by man; but this first and highest duty of the cultivator and husbandman is now almost universally neglected.
In what way can the natural resources of the soil be best preserved from injury and saved from destruction? Of all problems in agriculture the one just stated is the most important, and perhaps the most difficult to solve. Public sentiment, and the moral sense of the people everywhere, assume the right to extract from the surface of the earth its elements of bread, meat, wool, flax, hemp, cotton, and tobacco, and waste them at home or export them abroad, never to return. These elements of crops, of which a cubic foot of common soil contains about one part in a thousand in an available form, are now being extracted and wasted in cities and elsewhere, as fast as five million laborers and five thousand million dollars capital can well perform the task. Commerce, trade, the mechanic arts, and manufactures, all participate in the wealth drawn
from the impoverished grain, cotton, and tobaco fields of the United States. Hence not one of these great interests has ever manifested a wish to arrest the present practice of exhausting the natural fruitfulness of the soil. Commerce urges the cotton planter, the grain grower, and the producer of provisions to push every laborer and every acre of improved land to their utmost, and furnish agricultural staples to be exchanged for foreign goods. The owners of railroads, canals, steamboats on rivers, and shipping on the great lakes, as well as on the ocean, look mainly to the tillers of the earth for freight, travel, and profits; while all manufac turers desiderate cheap wool and cheap cotton, cheap wheat, corn, butter, meat, and lard, no matter what damage is done to the arable lands of the country. The great primary source of the food and clothing of all is regarded as unworthy of a moment's serious consideration. At what cost of the elements of fertility three million bales of cotton are annually made and sent off the plantations which produce them, is a question of fact about which no statesman inquires, and to which public attention has never been turned. In the absence of statistics calculated to throw light upon this subject, we are constrained to ask, in what way such an annual drain upon the cotton lands of the South can be supported in all coming time? What answer does art or science give to this question? The soil loses thousands of tons of its most precious constituents of crops every year, and receives no equivalent in manure, potash, soda, and magnesia, or in ammonia and phosphoric acid. Without adequate restitution the impoverishment of arated fields is inevitable. But how can full restitution to all the cotton, tobacco, corn, and wheat fields of the United States be made?
It is important to show that individual farmers and agricultural societies can never accomplish this truly national object. So long as the inhabitants of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities, choose to waste the elements of fertility taken from the soil in breadstuffs and provisions, and necessarily sent to cities for consumption, what can the owners of impoverished land do to prevent them? Clearly the wheat grower of Michigan has no control over the flour sent from that State, whether it be consumed in New York, New England, or Old England. The farmer must export his grain and provisions, and the planter his cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar, whether his fields suffer exhaustion or not. While American soil is thus parting with millions of tons annually of the atoms which alone secure fruitfulness to the earth, from what source, and by what agencies, is the equivalent of these exported atoms to be restored to the land that is barren, because it has lost them? It is not the cultivator that wastes the raw material of cotton, wool, grain, vegetables, fruits, and provisions. It is commerce, manufacturers, and the community at large, that place the elements of crops beyond the reach of the good husbandman. If the community, through its State and national legislatures, will do nothing to aid the farmer in giving back to the land its own elements of fruitfulness, restitution is impracticable. The same principle which secures to every one the quiet and peaceable possession of the acres to which he has a legal title, as a common right enjoyed alike by all, must be applied to the enduring fertility of these acres, in which every one that eats bread, or wears clothing, has an inalienable interest. The twenty-five millions of people now in the United States did not create, nor produce in any way, the
natural fertility of the land which they are so rapidly exhausting, as the most trustworthy statistics demonstrate. It is right and proper for each generation to use all the natural resources of the earth; but for any one generation to destroy or seriously injure them, is a wrong of the gravest character and of inestimable magnitude. In twenty-four years from this time there will be fifty millions of inhabitants in the present confederacy to be supported, no matter how much we may injure the soil by taking every thing out of it and putting nothing back. The damage done to the arable lands in the present decade, from 1850 to 1860, will be at least fifty per cent. greater than was ever before inflicted in the same length of time. This result will accrue, because every improvement in tillage, husbandry, farm implements, railroads, river, lake, and canal navigation, furnishes increased facilities for robbing the subsoil as well as the surface soil of its elements of crops. Art and genius alike assist the cultivator to draw constantly on the subsoil for the raw material of cotton, grain, grass, tobacco, and roots. The certain and most obvious effect of this practice will be the impoverishment of the subsoil in a few years. Deep ploughing, and large crops sent off the farm, mean nothing more than deep sterility in the end. Such farming will build up cities, construct hundreds of railroads and thousands of ships, and erect numberless mechanic shops and manufactories; but it will certainly consume the natural fertility of a continent in the operation. There is but one way now practicable in which to escape such a disaster. The means already in use for the benefit of agriculture, important and valuable as they are, can never overcome all the difficulties in the way of universal reform. The evil is too deep-seated, and the wrong imposed upon the soil and posterity too little appreciated by the masses, for them voluntarily to adopt, as by a miracle, the proper remedy.
As a principle, founded in nature and sound morality, restitution is the offspring of modern science. When plants and animals grow, and gain in weight and substance, not an atom of new matter is called into existence; and when they die and rot, not an atom is lost or annihilated. Some atoms are scarce, like those of potash, soda, chlorine, magnesia, ammonia, sulphuric and phosphoric acids, in ordinary soils; others are abundant, like those of water, sand, iron, and alumina. Every product of farm labor is either a vegetable or animal substance, and is always formed of the same kind of atoms. Thus no other atoms than those of oxygen and hydrogen can yield the water, so largely consumed by all living beings; nor can any other substance perform the functions of water in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. The same remarks apply to carbon, nitrogen, and other constituents of crops. The science of agriculture consists mainly in the systematic study of atoms, and of the natural laws by which they are governed, as minerals, and as organized bodies endowed with vitality. The deeply interesting but occult phenomena of tillage and husbandry cannot be successfully investigated by common farmers with their present advantages, and therefore they need institutions designed expressly to develop new truths in agriculture, for the equal benefit of mankind. The want of such institutions is the true reason why rural sciences are exotics in the United States, and appear incapable of taking root in American soil. In all North America there is not one agricultural school; and yet there are men so hopeful and credulous as to expect agricultural sciences to yield a rich harvest before the