« AnteriorContinuar »
its improved husbandry, and as far as it may be interesting, or can have a bearing upon the subject of the evening's discussion, the agriculture of Massachusetts, I will, as the meeting appear to expect, say a few words upon what has attracted my notice. How far, in a question of this kind, the example of other countries is to be followed, is an inquiry worthy of much consideration. The example of a foreign country may be too closely followed. It will furnish a safe rule of imitation only as far as the circumstances of the one country correspond with those of the other. The great objects of agriculture, and the great agricultural products of England and of Massachusetts, are much the same. Neither country produces olives, nor rice, nor cotton, nor the sugar-cane. Bread, meat, and clothing are the main productions of both. But, although the great productions are mainly the same, there are many diversities of condition and circumstances, and various modes of culture. The primary elements which enter into the consideration of the agriculture of a country are four, – climate, soil, price of land, and price of labor. In any comparison, therefore, of the agriculture of England with that of Massachusetts, these elements are to be taken particularly into view. The climate of England differs essentially from that of this country. England is on the western side of the eastern, and we on the eastern side of the western continent. The climate of all countries is materially affected by their respective situations in relation to the ocean. The winds which prevail most, both in this country and in England, are from the west. It is known that the wind blows, in our latitude, from some point west to some point east, on an average of years, nearly or quite three days out of four. These facts are familiar. The consequences resulting from them are, that our winters are colder and our summers much hotter than in England. Our latitude is about that of Oporto, yet the temperature is very different. On these accounts, therefore, the maturing of the crops in England, and the power of using these crops, creates a material difference between its agriculture and ours. It may be supposed that our climate must resemble that of China in the same latitudes; and this fact may have an essential bearing upon that branch of agriculture which it is proposed to introduce among us, the production of silk
The second point of difference between the two countries lies in the soil. The soil of England is mainly argillaceous, a soft . and unctuous loam upon a substratum of clay. This may be considered as the predominant characteristic in the parts which I visited. The soil in some of the southern counties of England is thinner; some of it is what we should call stony; much of it is a free, gravelly soil, with some small part which, with us, would be called sandy. Through a great extent of country, this soil rests on a deep bed of chalk. Ours is a granite soil. There is granite in Great Britain; but this species of soil prevails in Scotland, a part of the country which more resembles our own. We may have some lands as good as any in England. Our alluvial soils on Connecticut River, and in some other parts of the country, are equal to any lands; but these have not, ordinarily, a wide extent of clay subsoil. The soil of Massachusetts is harder, more granitic, less abounding in clay, and altogether more stony, than the soil of England. The surface of Massachusetts is more uneven, more broken with mountain ridges, more diversified with hill and dale, and more abundant in streams of water, than that of England. The price of land in that country, another important element in agricultural calculations, differs greatly from the price of land with us. It is three times as high as in Massachusetts, at least. On the other hand, the price of agricultural labor is much higher in Massachusetts than in England. The price of labor varies considerably in different parts of England; but it may be set down as twice as dear with us here. These are the general remarks which have suggested themselves to me in regard to the state of things abroad. Now, have we any thing to learn from them 2 Is there anything in the condition of England applicable to us, or in regard to which the agriculture of England may be of use to Massachusetts and other countries? . The subject of agriculture, in England, has strongly attracted the attention and inquiries of men of science. They have studied particularly the nature of the soil. More than twenty years ago, Sir Humphrey Davy undertook to treat the subject of the application of chemical knowledge to agriculture in the analysis of soils and manures. The same attention has been continued. to the subject; and the extraordinary discoveries and advances VOL. I. 3S
in chemical science, since his time, are likely to operate greatly to the advantage of agriculture. The best results may be expected from them. These inquiries are now prosecuted in France with great enthusiasm and success. We may hope for like beneficial results here from the application of science to the same objects. But although the circumstances of climate and situation, and nature of the soil, form permanent distinctions which cannot be changed, yet there are other differences, resulting from different modes of culture, and different forms of applying labor; and it is to these differences that our attention should be particularly directed. Here, there is much to learn. English cultivation is more scientific, more systematic, and more exact, a great deal, than ours. This is partly the result of necessity. A vast population is to be supported on comparatively a small surface. Lands are dear, rents are high, and hands, as well as mouths, are numerous. Careful and skilful cultivation is the natural result of this state of things. An English farmer looks not merely to the present year's crop. He considers what will be the condition of the land when that crop is off; and what it will be fit for the next year. He studies to use his land so as not to abuse it. On the contrary, his aim is to get crop after crop, while still the land shall be growing better and better. If he should content himself with raising from the soil a large crop this year, and then leave it neglected and exhausted, he would starve. It is upon this fundamental idea of constant production without exhaustion, that the system of English cultivation, and, indeed, of all good cultivation, is founded. England is not original in this. Flanders, and perhaps Italy, have been her teachers. This system is carried out in practice by a well-considered rotation of crops. The form or manner of this rotation, in a given case, is determined very much by the value of the soil, and partly by the local demand for particular products. But some rotation, some succession, some variation in the annual productions of the same land, is essential. No tenant could obtain a lease, or, if he should, could pay his rent and maintain his family, who should wholly disregard this. White crops (wheat, barley, rye, oats, &c.) are not to follow one another. Our maize, or Indian corn, must be considered a white crop; although, from the quantity of stalk and leaf which it produces, and which are such excellent food for cattle, it is less exhausting than some other
white crops; or, to speak more properly, it makes greater returns to the land. The cultivation of maize has not, however, been carried to any extent in England. Green crops are turnips, potatoes, beets, vetches, or tares (which are usually eaten while growing, by cattle and sheep, or cut for green food), and clover. Buck or beech wheat, and winter oats, – thought to be a very useful product, — are regarded also as green crops, when eaten on the land; and so, indeed, may any crop be considered, which is used in this way. But the turnip is the great green crop of England. Its cultivation has wrought such changes, in fifty years, that it may be said to have revolutionized English agriculture. Before that time, when lands became exhausted by the repetition of grain crops, they were left, as it was termed, fallow; that is, were not cultivated at all, but left to recruit themselves as they might. This occurred as often as every fourth year, so that one quarter of the arable land was always out of cultivation, and yielded nothing. Turnips are now substituted in the place of these naked fallows; and now land in turnips is considered as fallow. What is the philosophy of this? The raising of crops, even of any, the most favorable crop, does not, in itself, enrich, but in some degree exhausts, the land. The exhaustion of the land, however, as experience and observation have fully demonstrated, takes place mainly when the seeds of a plant are allowed to perfect themselves. The turnip is a biennial plant. It does not perfect its seed before it is consumed. There is another circumstance in respect to the turnip plant which deserves consideration. Plants, it is well understood, derive a large portion of their nutriment from the air. The leaves of plants are their lungs. The leaves of turnips expose a wide surface to the atmosphere, and derive, therefore, much of their subsistence and nutriment from these sources. The broad leaves of the turnips likewise shade the ground, preserve its moisture, and prevent, in some measure, its exhaustion by the sun and air. The turnips have a further and ultimate use. Meat and clothing come from animals. The more animals are sustained upon a farm, the more meat and the more clothing. These things bear, of course, a proportion to the number of bullocks, sheep, swine, and poultry which are maintained. The great inquiry, then, is, What kind of crops will least exhaust the land in their cultivation, and furnish, at the same time, support to the largest number of animals 2 A very large amount of land, in England, is cultivated in turnips. Fields of turnips of three, four, and even five hundred acres, are sometimes seen, though the common fields are much less; and it may be observed here, that, in the richest and best cultivated parts of England, inclosures of ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty acres seemed more common. Since the introduction of the turnip culture, bullocks and sheep have trebled in number. Turnips, for the reasons given, are not great exhausters of the soil; and they furnish abundant food for animals. Let us suppose that one bushel of oats or barley may be raised at the same cost as ten bushels of turnips, and will go as far in support of stock. The great difference in the two crops is to be found in the farmer's barn-yard. Here is the test of their comparative value. This is the secret of the great advantages which follow from their cultivation. The value of manure in agriculture is well appreciated. M'Queen states the extraordinary fact, that the value of the animal manure annually applied to the crops in England, at current prices, surpasses in value the whole amount of its foreign commerce. There is no doubt that it greatly exceeds it. The turnip crop returns a vast amount of nutritive matter to the soil. The farmer, then, from his green crops, and by a regular system of rotation, finds green fodder for his cattle and wheat for the market. Among the lighter English soils is that of the county of Nor. folk, a county, however, which I had not the pleasure of visiting, Its soil, I understand, is light, a little inclined to sand, or light loam. Such soils are not unfavorable to roots. Here is the place of the remarkable cultivation and distinguished improvements of that eminent cultivator, Mr. Coke, now Earl of Leices. ter. In these lands, as I was told, a common rotation is turnips, barley, clover, wheat. These lands resemble much of the land in our county of Plymouth, and the sandy lands to be found in the vicinity of the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers. The cultivation of green crops in New England deserves attention. There is no incapacity in our soil, and there are no circumstances unfavorable to their production." What would be the best kind of succulent vegetables to be cultivated, whether tur.