MANURES AND THEIR APPLICATION
NATURE is always just; she never requires more of her workers than she furnishes them the means to accomplish. She requires the soil to produce plants only in proportion to the plant food she supplies to it. How does she manage with the trees of the forest? The seed is dropped upon the soil and comes up a small and tender plant, requiring but little food. Its foliage is annually dropped about its roots to protect and, by its decay, to nourish them. As it increases in size it yields more foliage, a large portion of whose substance is made up of the gases of the atmosphere condensed in the vessels of the leaves, and thus conducted to the earth. The increased amount of food which the in- creasing growth of the tree annually demands is thus, by its own action, annually supplied, and the supply is always in advance of the demand, so that when the trees have become too large, the mould is often accumulated to a great depth. In ancient forests, whose monumental trunks stand as land- marks of the centuries, the amount of nourishment which they require is inconceivably great; but the masses of foliage, the decaying limbs, and the broken boles decaying in the soil, supply them with abundant food. How wonderful is this process of nature, by which the supply is increased in proportion to the demand! This is true vegetable philosophy. Says Stockhardt, “Good farming consists in taking large crops from the soil, while at the same time you leave it better than you found it.” This is what nature does in the forest, on the prairie and natural meadow, until man interferes with her operations. His method is wholly unlike hers. He plants a hundred apple trees upon his field; he cultivates the soil, and perhaps manures it while they are small; when they have become large enough to yield a hundred barrels of fruit, and at least a hundred barrels of leaves, he carries away the fruit, and the winds scatter the leaves. Here are two hundred barrels of vegetable matter annually removed from the soil. Could this amount of vegetable substance remain and decay upon the soil, he might reasonably expect its fertility to be sustained. But, no! He expects the soil to yield the annual crop of fruit and leaves, and to supply, in addition, the material for the increasing growth of the trees; and the larger they grow the less cultivation he gives them, and the less manure he supplies to the soil. He takes two tons of hay from his acre of virgin soil. Can he reasonably expect another crop as large unless he applies something to protect and nourish the roots of the grass? He takes two tons of stover and fifty bushels of corm from his acre. Will he take as large a crop the next year? Unless the supply returned to the soil be in some proportion to the demand made upon it, the most fertile soil will become exhausted. A virgin soil, in which a large quantity of humus has been accumulated, may endure such a drain for a few years, but the rich prairies of Illinois, under continual cropping, are yielding an annually diminishing harvest. Even the valley of the Nile and the cane-brakes of the Mississippi, unless renewed by the deposit from the overflowing water, would in time lose their fertility. This theory is confirmed by universal experience. In the new soils of the eastern and northern regions of our country scarcely two or three crops can be taken from the land without convincing proof of the truth of this philosophy. In all this region the soil, except upon the river bottoms, is comparatively thin and sterile, and the effect of every demand upon its resources, like that of a demand upon the resources of a poor man, becomes at once apparent. The great law of good husbandry is, to return to the soil an equivalent for the crop taken from it. By rotation of crops, and by deeper ploughing, tolerable crops may be obtained for a longer period, but the unproductive and deserted fields in some of the northern States and in the older southern States show that this is only a battle with time, in which time is sure to win.
We arrive, then, at the conclusion that there can be no good farming without manure. In northern climates there is an additional argument for the use of manure. Many of the most valuable crops require naturally a longer season for their growth and maturity than the climate allows, and it becomes necessary to push them forward by stimulating manures.
Such being the facts, it is obvious that the manure heap is the bank from which the farmer must draw his working capital. What, then, is manure? We have said it is plant food—any substance upon which the plant feeds in the soil. Anything which the plant derives from the atmosphere, although it contributes to its nourishment, is not denominated manure. We confine the term to substances applied to the soil. The term is said to be derived from manus, the hand, and is confined to substances applied to plants by the hand. The food of plants consists, first, of carbonic acid, or carbon combined with oxygen. By this chemical combination carbon is rendered capable of being taken into the vessels of plants. The framework or chief bulk of all trees and plants is composed of carbon, and, and it decays more slowly than most of the other components of vegetables, it is left in the process of decay more: or less free from all other elements. The bulk of all the solid excrement that passes through animals consists of carbonaceous matter. Starch, gum, sugar, oils, and woody fibre consist largely of carbon. Peat consists of decayed vegetable matter, chiefly carbon, combined with earths, acids, and salts. All the substances composing the compost heap, whether animal excrement or decayed vegetable matter, as muck, grasses, straw, beans, vines, fruits, grains, seeds, or other vegetable growths, consist largely of carbon, either combined with oxygen, or rapidly coming into a condition that will enable it to combine with it.
Second, Salts. Various salts enter into the composition of plants, as the salts of lime, potash, soda, silex, magnesia, sulphur, iron, and manganese. Nitrogen and hydrogen also are important elements of plants, but as they are extremely volatile they are applied in the-form of ammonia, which consists of these two gases. Ammonia is never found in plants, but is decomposed either in the soil or in their vessels before its constituents are appropriated to their use. These salts are all found in the secretions of animals, especially in the liquid secretions, being derived by them chiefly from the vegetables on which they feed. Ammonia is abundant in animal secretions, being formed in them by the chemical union of hydrogen and nitrogen. The elements of ammonia not only enter into the composition of plants, but they operate as stimulants to their secreting and assimilating vessels. Decaying animal substances, as flesh, hair, wool, feathers, skin, and gelatine, yield:a large amount of ammonia, it being formed in the process of putrefaction by the union of their nitrogen with the hydrogen of water. All. these salts are also found in the soil, the source from which they are ultimately derived by animals. By salts we mean earths, alkalies, and metals, chemically combined with acids, as carbonate and sulphate of lime, sulphate and muriate of potash and soda, silicate of lime, sulphate of iron and manganese, &c. These all come into the category of plant food, and are essential elements of manures.
Third, Acids. These are important elements in manures, They are seldom, with the exception of carbonic acid, found in a free state, but combined with the earths, alkalies, and metals. Their chief use appears to be as solvents for these substances. Salts compounded of them enter sparingly into the composition of vegetables. The acids themselves are believed by some vegetable chemists to be decomposed, and to enter into new combinations, thus assisting to form the acids found in the fruits and juices of many plants.
Fourth, Gases. Another important element of plant food, and consequently of manure, consists of various gases combined with the soil, or dissolved. in water. They are sulphuretted hydrogen, consisting of sulphur and hydrogen; carburetted hydrogen, consisting of carbon and hydrogen; phosphuretted hydrogen, consisting of phosphorus and hydrogen; and carbonic acid gas, consisting of carbon and oxygen. The sulphuretted and phosphuretted hydrogen occasion the peculiar and offensive odors given off by manures in a putrefying state, Ammonia exists in manures in a gaseous form, except when combined with sulphuric. or other acids, or with carbonaceous or aluminous substances, which have the power of condensing and retaining it.
Fifth, Water. Water, either pure or in combination with acids or alkalies, is the universal solvent employed by nature. If pure water cannot dissolve a substance, nature adds an acid or an alkali, and sometimes a third substance, to enable it to effect the solution. Water cannot dissolve silex, but, by first dissolving a quantity of carbonate of lime, it becomes able to dissolve silex, and form silicate of lime. Water contains, in solution, earths, alkalies, acids, and gases. It is everywhere present when animal or vegetable growth is going on, supplying to the vessels of their organs, in that state of minute division which can be effected only by solution, the materials which they require to construct their different tissues. Besides this, it enters largely into the composition of the blood and juices of all organized beings, and readily allows itself’ to be decomposed when either its oxygen or hydrogen are wanted.
The above-named substances, viz: carbon, salts with alkaline, earthy and metallic bases, sulphur, iron, manganese, acids, gases, and water, are the principal elements of manures. They are found in different proportions in different manures, and are rarely all found in any one manure. The different, effects of different manures is owing to this fact, is well as to the difference in the soils to which they are applied. Carbonaceous manures applied to a soil consisting largely of humus will produce but little effect upon the growing crop except as a mechanical means of lightening the soil. Such soils require alkalies or matter containing nitrogen. On the other hand, sandy soils, which are deficient in carbon, are greatly benefited by manures containing a large percentage of carbon, Hence we may learn the advantage of mixing soils containing different elements. The peaty soil does not afford the silex and lime needed to give firmness and strength to the culms of grass and grain. The sandy soil does not furnish the carbon needed to construct their growing frame work. A mixture of the two will furnish all the materials needed. Manures containing a large proportion of nitrogen stimulate plants to a large and vigorous growth. Those containing phosphorus, or phosphate of lime, contribute to the size and plumpness of the grain and seed—hence the benefit of combining them both in the culture of the garden and field. That may be considered a manure which supplies any want of the soil, or of the growing crop. But a perfect manure is that which supplies all the wants of all crops in all soils, or a manure containing all the elements above named. To use such a manure in all cases would be a waste of material, for they are not all wanted, perhaps, in any one case. To determine what elements of manure we can most economically use, it is necessary to ascertain the condition of the soil, and the elements of nutrition required by the crop to be raised upon it. Several of the elements of plant food, as we have seen, are volatile, and will not remain permanently in the soil. Others are readily soluble, and will soon be washed out of it. If they or any of them are not wanted for the immediate crop, there will be a waste of material. Gould we make use, in every instance, of only those elements that are wanted to enable the soil to produce the present crop, or those that will remain permanently in the soil for the use of future crops, it is obvious that much material would be saved. Science and experience may afford us some aid, but the difficulties in the way of determining the wants of the soil and of the plants we cultivate, and of adapting our manures to these results, are so great that we must be content to submit to the loss resulting from our inability and ignorance.
Carbonaceous matter, as we have seen, is derived from the natural decay or chemical decomposition of vegetables. Vegetables collected into masses, as leaves, wood, grasses, straw, the stalks and stems of all plants, fruits, grains, roots, &c., under favorable conditions of temperature and moisture, rapidly undergo, first, the fermentation; and, secondly, the putrefaction process. Where there is too much or too little heat, or too much or too little moisture, fermentation will not go on. The fibres of vegetables thus collected in masses, under favorable circumstances, soften and swell, and become permeable to air and water. Their salts, starch, gum, sugar, gluten, and extractive matter are dissolved, their carbon combines with oxygen, and carbonic acid is formed and penetrates the whole mass. This acid combines with the alkalies that are present, as potash, lime, soda, magnesia, and ammonia, and carbonates of potash, lime, &c., are formed. Certain elements in the mass soon take on the action of putrefaction. This process is owing chiefly to the presence of elements containing nitrogen, as gluten and other matters of animal origin. All animal substances pass rapidly into the process of putrefaction, and the larger the proportion of such substances mingled with the vegetable masses, the more rapidly putrefaction proceeds. Hence the addition of animal manures to vegetable composts facilitates putrefaction. By the process of putrefaction hydrogen also is rapidly developed, and combines with phosphorus and sulphur when these are present, forming sulphuretted and phosphuretted hydrogen. When the surfaces of these putrefying masses are exposed freely to the atmosphere, these gases, which are very volatile, are rapidly dissipated. To prevent this, substances should be applied which have the power of absorbing and retaining them. Carbon, when nearly pure and dry, has a strong affinity for them. The addition of dry charcoal, or of peat, will absorb large quantities of them. When these gases are thus absorbed their presence. ceases to be indicated by their peculiar odors. The sulphates of lime, iron, and zinc have a similar power, hence their value as deodorizers, These sulphates have also the power of decomposing carbonate of ammonia, displacing the carbonic acid, and forming sulphate of ammonia, which is not volatile. Chloric and nitric acids will also decompose carbonate of ammonia, forming with it chlorates and nitrates of ammonia, which are soluble in water, as are also. salts which they form with the other alkalies. Vegetable compost, then, when the decomposition is complete, consists chiefly of carbonaceous matter combined with gases and salts.
By a process in many respects similar to that above described, vegetable substances are decomposed in the digestive organs of animals. The fibres are comminuted by the teeth, and fitted to be pervaded and softened by the fluids contained in the stomach and intestines. A large portion of the starch, gum, sugar, gluten, and salts is dissolved out, and taken up by the lacteal vessels of the animal, and serve the purposes of nutrition, while the remainder, mixed with the juices of the animal, containing various salts, is ejected. This process is accomplished much more rapidly than the ordinary process of vegetable decay, and the substance resulting is mixed with a large amount of animal matter, which fits it for rapid putrefaction. When the necessary conditions are present, this animal matter, which pervades the mass like leaven, sets up the process of putrefaction at once. These two processes, vegetable composting and the feeding of animals with vegetables, are the sources from which carbonaceous manures are chiefly derived. Vegetables reduced by the process of digestion, although they have parted with a large portion of their nutritive elements, yet, in consequence of the condition to which they are brought, and the additions which they have received, are more valuable as manures than when, without serving the purposes of nutrition, they are reduced by the ordinary process of decay. But the slow decomposition of vegetables is always going on in nature, and thus one generation of plants affords nutriment to those that come after it.
The carbonaceous matter resulting from the decay of vegetables is not all taken up as it is formed. Masses of it have accumulated in swamps, basins, and meadows. These accumulations, mingled with more or Jess of insoluble earths, constitute muck or peat, and furnish an almost unlimited amount of carbonaceous material fitted for the immediate use of the cultivator. The difference which is found in different accumulations of this material is owing in part to the difference in the vegetables from which it has been formed, and in part to the difference of the soils upon which it rests and by which it is surrounded. In some deposits the matter is almost purely carbonaceous; in some the composition is complete; in others but partial. But the most essential difference in different deposits of muck is, that some contain acids, or acids combined with minerals, while others are nearly or quite free from them. These acids are the carbonic, humic, crenic, and apocrenic. When deposits of muck are underlaid by clay, or receive the wash of clay beds in their vicinity, and iron is present, which it often is in the form of bog ore, the sulphate of alumina, which is the basis of clay, is decom- posed, and the sulphuric acid combines with the iron and forms sulphuret of iron, or pyrites, which is often found in muck in sufficient quantity to impair its value as a fertilizer. When any of these acids abound in muck it is unfit to be used in a simple state. Alkalies are the proper correctives, and of these lime seems to be the best adapted to remedy the evil. Quicklime, mixed with peat, has the effect of rapidly rendering it pulverulent and light. Its influence seems to extend through the whole mass, like that of yeast through the whole mass of dough, while at the same time it combines with the acids and decomposes the salts of iron, forming salts of lime, which themselves are essential to the growth of many plants. Muck, when free or nearly free from acids, may be used by itself with great benefit on light, sandy soils, or on any soils from which the vegetable matter is exhausted; or it may be composted with stable manure, ashes, guano, or animal matters, with peculiar advantage, since it has, as we have already observed, the power of absorbing and condensing the gases arising from the putrefaction of these substances. Such composts are adapted to nearly all the uses of the garden and field.
No substance is so well adapted to composting with night soil and urine as dry muck, since it deodorizes these manures and retains all their valuable elements, and renders them manageable and easy of application, affording at the same time the dilution which is necessary for the safe application of concentrated manures. Composted with putrefying fish, muck forms an exceedingly valuable manure. The best mode of preparing muck for use is to throw it from its bed in the autumn, and leave it exposed to the action of the frosts of the succeeding winter. If it is to be composted with lime or ashes it may be used the following spring. But if it is to be composted with stable manure, night soil, or animal matters, it is better to let it remain in the heap until the following autumn, when it should be deposited in the barn-yard or cellar, and mixed, from time to time, with the drippings of the animals. It should be provided in sufficient quantity to be used freely as a deodorizer about the premises whenever or wherever it may be wanted. It will thus become charged with gases and salts, and be converted into a highly valuable manure, which for a garden and for fruit culture has perhaps no equal. Many skillful farmers consider a compost of one-half good muck and one-half stable manure fully equal for corn culture to pure stable manure.
Vegetable composts, animal excrements, and muck are then the chief sources of carbonaceous manures. With these, as we have seen, are combined various gases and salts which are essential to vegetable growth, either as elements. of nutrition or as stimulants. These may also be found in more concentrated forms and in smaller bulk, capable of more easy and direct application to growing plants. Variously combined and condensed, these fertilizing elements constitute the numerous articles known in commerce as artificial manures. All plants during their growth take from the soil more or less mineral matters, Some require them in large quantities. Such plants are said to exhaust the soil on which they grow. The small grains, which appropriate in their culms and seeds much silex, lime, and potash, are instances of this class. The elements of which we are now speaking are all soluble, and are washed out of the soil—and the better the soil is worked and the finer the tilth, the more rapidly does this take place—and, unless they are frequently renewed, the cultivated soil is soon exhausted of them.
Owing to their small bulk they are easily applied. Nitrogenous manures are Peruvian guano, night-soil, poudrette, urine, hair, wool-waste, fish manures, and animal substances generally. The phosphates are bone-meal, superphosphate of lime, and Mexican guano. All these are combined with mineral earths and alkalies, and it is to these that is due whatever permanent value such manures possess, the other elements being so soluble and volatile that their effects are immediate and temporary.
In this connexion we may mention the saltpetres or nitrates, a class of manures to which little attention has been paid in this country. Earth containing nitrate of potash is often found in caverns, where it has been accumulating for ages, protected from the weather. Nitrate of soda is found in extensive beds in New Jersey and in the northeast part of the State of New York, Large quantities of it are imported from Chili. The nitrates may be manufactured artificially by means of nitre beds. These are formed by means of earth and animal manures mixed with potash, lime, and soda. They are protected from the rain by roofs open on all sides to the air. The mixture is kept at the proper degree of moisture, and frequently stirred to expose new surfaces to the atmosphere. The alkalies, thus treated, combine with the nitrogen of the air confined in the porous mass, and by a somewhat complicated process nitrates of lime, potash, and soda are formed, and the whole mass becomes impregnated with them. The principal use that has hitherto been made of the substances thus treated has been to leach them, by which the nitrates of soda and potash are dissolved out. When they are reduced to a solid state by evaporation they are used for the manufacture of gunpowder, and for other purposes in the arts. The whole mass, unleached, applied to the soil, is a very active manure; and there is no doubt that large quantities of most valuable manures might thus be prepared. Whether it can be done economically, experience only can determine. Mineral substances are restored to the soil by the direct application of lime, gypsum, ground bones, ashes, salt, sea-weed, and the nitrates of lime and soda. The effects of such substances are very apparent, especially when the application is followed by crops into whose composition they largely enter, as wheat, oats, potatoes, &c.
We have already seen that most of the natural manures contain elements that are volatile and soluble. It is obvious that when such substances are exposed to the rain and snow the soluble portions will be dissolved and washed out, and that if they are exposed to the free action of the sun and air the volatile elements will be dissipated as fast as they are evolved, and this will be nearly in proportion to the elevation of the temperature. The free action of the air will not only dissipate their gases, but will also carry off the moisture that is necessary to sustain chemical action. Hence it follows that in composting and preparing manures for the soil, whether they consist of stable manures or those mixed with soil, or with muck or other vegetable or animal substances, they should be carefully protected from the weather. Such exposure subjects the cultivator to a loss he can ill afford. The most convenient arrangement for the protection of manures is the barn cellar, and this is coming rapidly into use in the eastern and northern States. In every section of the country in which barns are required for the storage of forage and the protection of stock in winter we would recommend the barn cellar as both a convenient and economical arrangement. It should be easy of access, of sufficient height, be built of brick or well-pointed stone walls, and with a bottom impervious to water. It should be protected from currents of air, and if possible secured from frost, so that fermentation and putrefaction may go on through the winter. Material should be provided and placed in or near the cellar, and be frequently spread over the fresh droppings of the animals in sufficient quantity to absorb the liquids and to take up the gases as fast as they are formed. Some careful farmers spread the material daily over the droppings, and thus a thorough mixture is secured. The materials, whether they consist of muck, loam, or leaves, should be as dry as possible. In this condition they will retain much more of the liquid excrement, are more easily pulverized, and will mix more readily and thoroughly with the droppings. There should be as much muck or other material used as will be sufficient to absorb all the liquid and render the solid excrement dry enough for convenient manipulation. When the floor of the cellar is tight, this will be found to be no less in bulk than the mass of solid excrements. When cattle are highly fed more than this will be required. When the urine is taken off by a drain into a reservoir, for separate use, a less quantity will be required. We know of no better rule with respect to the quantity of material to be added in the composting of stable manures than the above. If the mass thus gradually formed in the cellar is allowed to freeze, very little decomposition takes place during the winter. But if the frost is kept out, the laboratory will be kept at work, more or less actively, according to the temperature, through the entire winter, and the manure will be fit to be used in early spring. It will become mellowed and rendered fine by its own internal action, and will-not require so much labor in overhauling for the sake of breaking and pulverizing it. If it is kept frozen, or near the freezing point, the animal excrement will be in the condition of green manure, and will not so readily combine with the soil, or act so immediately on the growing crops.
The farmer who is not so fortunate as to have a cellar should cover his manure heap with a roof at least, to protect it from the rains. If it is not covered, it would be well to remove it into the field during the winter, and deposit it in as large heaps as possible, that it may present the smallest surface to the weather, and cover it neatly with soil, that may protect it from the rain and absorb the gases as they are formed, which will be but slowly during the cold weather. It is wise economy to deposit in the autumn a quantity of dried muck near the spot where it is intended to deposit the manure from the barn. This should be mixed with it as it is hauled and used to cover the heap. Compost heaps thus formed should be overhauled in the early spring, and the ingredients well mixed. Scarcely too much importance can be attached to overhauling manure in the spring, and mixing its ingredients and making them fine, but this should be done before it is heated by fermentation, as soon as the frost is out of the heap. It should then remain a few days until it begins to be warm, when it may be overhauled again. In this state it readily combines with the soil, and comes into contact with the roots of the growing plants. It is an excellent plan to mix gypsum with it as it is being overhauled, or to sprinkle the heap from time to time with a solution of copperas, or with diluted sulphuric acid, as these will combine with and retain the ammonia as it is formed in ‘the putrefying mass. A pound of acid, or five pounds of sulphate of iron, may be used with; a barrel of water.
Ashes or quicklime should never be directly combined with green manure, or urine, or Peruvian guano, or any substance that contains a large percentage of carbonate of ammonia, as they will combine with the carbonic acid and set free the ammonia, which will, of course, be lost, unless there is some other substance present that has a strong affinity for it, which may combine with it and retain it. When lime or ashes are to be applied to the same soil with stable manure, or compost containing a large share of such manure, the best method is to plough in the manure and spread the lime or ashes broadcast on the surface, or apply them in the hill. When hoed crops are to be cultivated, ashes may be profitably applied to the surface at the first hoeing and worked in with the hoe. Manures should be applied to the soil with all the elements belonging to their constitution. If a portion of these elements is diffused into the atmosphere, it is obvious that that portion has been lost, and that is usually the most active and stimulating portion.
Some farmers prefer to introduce stable manures into the soil in a crude state. In this condition it is in a state of integrity. All its elements, as they are developed, are absorbed by the soil, and we are not surprised that those who have not experienced the advantages of composting in a cellar should prefer this mode of application. We have already referred to the combination of muck with night-soil when speaking of muck as a deodorizer. Human excrement, including urine, contains a great number of elements. In addition to carbonaceous matter, it has been shown by analysis to contain chloride of soda, or common salt, chloride of potash, hydrate of potash, soda, lime, magnesia, iron, phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid, silica, urea, and urates of lime and ammonia. The composition is doubtless much varied by the food; the number of pounds of urine is at least double that of the solid excrement. An immense amount of this material is annually wasted in our cities, which, if it could be deodorized and preserved, would be of inestimable value to the farmers and gardeners in their vicinity, and would add. incalculably to. the resources of their vegetable markets. Probably there is no better mode of preparing this highly valuable substance known at present, than to mix it with a sufficient quantity of peat in a dry state, to absorb its moisture and destroy its odor. If a quantity of plaster, or a little diluted sulphuric acid, be added to this composition, we shall have one of the best manures that can be composed for most crops, and especially for garden and fruit crops, It is said that the Chinese make use of clay, dried and pulverized, to mix with night-soil. This has considerable power as a deodorizer, and is very tenacious of gases and moisture, and when dried peat cannot be readily obtained may. be substituted for it with much advantage.
Fowl manure.—Almost all families in the country, and many in all our villages, keep hens to supply themselves with eggs and poultry for the table. The droppings of fowls are of much more value than is generally supposed, and by a little pains a large amount of manure, which may be called. domestic guano, may be prepared. Fowls, from the force of instinctive habit, always resort to the same place to roost, which should always be under a roof, where convenient roosts should be provided for them. Under the roosts a quantity of dry peat or good loam or coal.ashes should be spread to receive the droppings. Once in a few days an additional quantity should be spread over them. Let this be continued through the year, and where a dozen or twenty hens are kept quite a heap of valuable manure will be found at its close. It is best not to disturb it until just before it is wanted for use, when it should be worked quite fine and well mixed and thrown into a heap. If gathered oftener, for the sake of cleanliness, it should be preserved dry, in boxes or barrels. For early garden vegetables, as lettuce, peas, sweet corn, and cucumbers, no better manure can be found. As it contains a large per cent. of ammonia, it should be exposed to the air as little as possible, and should be covered to a moderate depth in the soil. A small quantity of this manure added to the hill where corn is planted, will bring forward the young and tender blades rapidly and vigorously.
The saving and use of liquid manures is deserving of more attention than it has hitherto received in this country. When cattle are kept in stalls through the winter, and especially where soiling is practiced, and cows are kept in the stall through the year, the floor should be so arranged as to conduct the urine into troughs beneath it, which will convey it into a reservoir in the cellar or outside the barn, This can be done at very little expense. The accumulated urine may be pumped into a water cart, to which a sprinkler is attached, similar to those used. for watering the streets. If it is pumped in through a strainer the sprinkler does not become clogged, and it may be immediately conveyed to the field and distributed as a top dressing upon grass or grain. When the soil is not deficient in carbonaceous matter there can probably be no better top dressing applied. It is not as permanent in its effects as the solid excrements, but more immediate, and may be applied two or three times a year. For raising green crops for soiling it is invaluable. Here there is a constant and abundant supply of the material. It should be applied after the grass has started in the spring, and after each cutting. Its application is attended with less expense of labor than that of composts. The cost of the necessary apparatus for saving and distributing it is very small. As a dressing for land to be planted with turnips it is very excellent. As a top dressing in the spring or during the summer for pasture lands it is, perhaps, superior to any dressing that can be applied. If the undiluted urine is thought too strong, it may be easily diluted in the field if water is at hand. An intelligent farmer who has been using it as a top dressing for grass during the three years past, considers it fully equal in value to the solid excrement of the same animals; and he states that one man can dress as much land in one day with liquid manure, as two men can in two days with solid manure, without taking into account the expense and labor of collecting and mixing the material of which the compost is made. If this statement be correct, it must be more economical than any compost as a dressing. When applied to lands in which humus is deficient, it will not probably be found to meet all the wants of the crops. Its effects will be much like those of guano on similar soils. It remains to be determined by experience whether it is of equal value with superphosphate of lime, ashes, plaster, guano, or other concentrated manures as a top dressing. These may all be applied with equal facility and with even less labor, and some of them, as lime and ashes, are more permanent in their effects. In applying liquid manure the labor of one man and a horse will top-dress one acre a day within a quarter of a mile of the barn. This would be worth not far from three dollars. Will the value in any other dressing add as much to the value of the grass or grain crop as will the dressing in question? This can be ascertained only by experiment.
English farmers are making extensive application of manures in a liquid form. They have in some cases dissolved solid manures in large quantities of water, and applied them as a top dressing. They seem to be in favor of diluting them largely, and their effects may be due in some measure to the quantity of water in which they are dissolved. Liquid manures may be applied so strong as to injure tender plants. It is well known that pure guano, applied directly to the germinating seed, operates as a caustic upon its softened substance, and entirely prevents its growth. The same thing is true of ashes and lime under certain circumstances; and it is also true of urine, for when this is applied in large quantity upon young and tender grass, it will often kill it entirely. There is no doubt that the English mode of application is the safest, but by it the labor is much increased; and we are hardly prepared to believe that the fertilizing power is increased in proportion to the dilution, as is said to be the ease with homeopathic medicines. Within certain limits the immediate effects of fertilizers may be and are increased by dilution. The particles of soluble bodies are more finely distributed, and are readily taken up by the radicles of plants and carried into the circulation. Indeed, this is doubtless the reason why liquid manures are more active than solid. Water must always be present to render manure, of any kind, effective. Potash, soda, lime, and all other salts, must be in a state of solution before they can be absorbed by plants. Horticulturists well understand that such substances can be applied with more immediate effect in a state of free solution. When the sulphates of potash, soda, and ammonia are applied in solution to strawberries, after the fruit is set, the effect upon the size of the fruit is sometimes truly wonderful. Applied in a solid form, in a season of drought, they have but little or no effect until the falling rain dissolves them, when they will operate sometimes with almost magical effect. Guano, applied as a top dressing, is often wholly inoperative unless the application is followed by rain. Hence, when this fertilizer is applied in this way, it should be in the early spring, while the ground is still wet, or during a rain, or upon an April snow, in order that it may be dissolved and carried into the ground, and thus be protected from the atmosphere as well as be applied to the roots of the grass and grain. There can be no doubt that lime and ashes, applied in the form of lime water and weak lye, would be more immediately efficacious than when applied in the ordinary way, but it would be attended with more labor and expense. How far this mode of applying manure will be found economical in this country, where labor absorbs so large a part of the working capital of the cultivator, each must judge for himself. Our own opinion is that, with the exception of urine from the stable and the house, which may be easily saved, and which is apt to be lost, in great measure at least, by any other plan of management, the application of liquid manures will be confined chiefly to the garden. For garden uses, soapsuds and the sewerage of the house are usually sufficient to fertilize a garden that will supply the family with vegetables. All the liquids from the house should be conducted to a reservoir. A garden engine and a water cart, with a few feet of hose and a sprinkler attached to it, will be all the machinery needed. The soil should be well sprinkled before the seed is sown, and at such times subsequently, during the growing season, as may be convenient or necessary. A little practice will soon teach the needful skill in the application. If plaster, or a solution of sulphate of iron, is added occasionally to the reservoir, it will act as a deodorizer, while at the same time it adds to the efficacy of the manure.
Much excellent manure might be prepared in this way if every farmer and every cultivator of a garden would take the pains necessary to provide a suitable reservoir. The material that now runs to waste, and is for the most part a nuisance around the premises, might thus be made to add no inconsiderable amount to the products of the soil. Each family, of five hundred families in a country town, might save manure to the value of five dollars annually that is now wasted. This would amount to twenty-five hundred dollars, or one dollar for each individual in the town. This would be sufficient to pay the highway tax and build one good school-house, or it would pay the entire school tax of most towns of that number of inhabitants. If such would be the value of this saving to a town of five hundred families, its value to the whole country must be a very large sum. As the population increases, the demand for garden vegetables and fruits will increase. This demand will lead to better and more thorough culture of all such products. This, in its turn, will lead to the careful preservation and application of all the means of enriching the soil. The crowded populations of Asia and Europe are far in advance of us in this respect. The low price of land has led our people to rely, hitherto, more upon the inherent energies of the virgin soil than upon the appliances of art. Our systems of agriculture have been based upon this, and when the fertility of one field is so far exhausted that it will not yield a satisfactory return for the labor expended upon it, we resort to another; but as the value of land increases we shall turn our attention to preserving and increasing the fertility of the soil we continuously cultivate. Then we doubt not that. means of enriching the surface soil will be found often beneath the soil itself, and that a great amount of material that now runs to waste will be saved and applied as fertilizers to the soil.
In our discussion thus far, we have had direct reference to natural manures prepared on the farm, but we have introduced several observations relating to another class of manurial substances, which have become articles of commerce and trade, These are called special manures. By common consent this term has come to mean something used as a fertilizer or as a stimulant that is not derived from the ordinary sources of the farm—that is, from the stable and compost heap. The substances included under this term may be divided into commercial and artificial manures. The principal commercial manures are the guanos, bones, wool-waste, hair, woollen rags, and the oil cakes. The Peruvian and Mexican guanos, and more recently guanos from Baker’s and Jarvis’s islands, are, we believe, the only manures of this class imported into this country. Those that may with strict propriety be called artificial manures, are prepared on a large scale, in manufactories devoted to this special purpose, and are found for sale in all the agricultural stores. They are bone meal and flour, superphosphate of lime, muriate of lime, soda ash, sulphates and nitrates of potash, soda and ammonia, and various poudrettes. Most of these manures, as they are received from the manufactories, need little or no preparation, but are ready to be applied directly to the soil, or to be composted with other manures, or to be dissolved for use,in a liquid form. Some of the old Roman writers speak of the value of ashes and lime, but seem not to have had the remotest idea of many of the important substances which have been brought to act so important a part in modern husbandry, and which do actually increase the value of many of our crops to no inconsiderable extent. One after another these specific agents have been discovered and introduced, until they are by some thought indispensable in good farming. That some of them are of great value, giving not only a present but permanent power of production to the soil, there can be no doubt. That such are the effects produced by the use of bones, was long ago learned by the farmers of England, who increased their wheat crop by the agency of bones and thorough drainage, from the low standard of fifteen bushels per acre up to forty, with an average of above thirty. So great was the demand for them that they soon became an important article of commerce, and British ships navigated every sea, and visited the remotest lands, to secure cargoes of bones. Our own shores were stripped of thousands of tons, that went to fertilize the British isles while our own acres were starving for them. _ They not only visited the hunting grounds of Africa, but gathered up the bones of countless herds of cattle on the pampas of South America, that had been killed for their hides, horns, and tallow alone. Even battle-fields, where men and brutes had found a common grave, were carefully gleaned of the decaying relics of unnumbered soldiers and horses, who thus found a too early resurrection from the tomb, and were exchanged for British gold. All these were transferred to the soil, and, with an improved husbandry in other respects, gave it a productive power which it never had before. And it was not a spasmodic power, but a permanent and reliable one, that has brought the most luxuriant crops for more than half a century. The example of our transatlantic friends at length awakened our own people to a sense of the importance of bones as food for plants, and some of them have been gathered and converted into superphosphates, bone meal, and bone flour, to be used both as a fertilizer and to be mingled with the food of our domestic animals. The value of bone as a fertilizer may be readily inferred from its composition. Fresh well-cleaned bone contains about thirty- eight per cent. of animal matter. The remainder is mineral.matter, nine-tenths of which is phosphate of lime and one-tenth carbonate. The animal matter is of great value on account of the nitrogen it yields to the growing crops, and the phosphate is especially favorable to the development of seeds and grains. It is on account of the phosphate of lime that bone dust is so beneficial to dairy lands, as milk and cheese both contain it. There is about half a pound of phosphate of lime in ten gallons of milk, Bone dust is an excellent manure for wheat, for although this is a silica plant, in whose ashes silicate of lime abounds, the presence of phosphates in the soil is essential to the formation of the seed. If the soil be rich in silicates, but deficient in phosphates, excellent straw will be obtained, but the grain will be small in amount. It will be a crop better calculated to make bonnets than bread. It has been estimated that one hundred pounds of bone dust is equal to twenty-five or thirty hundred pounds of stable manure. Although bones contain such fertilizing elements, they must be finely pulverized in order that they may be immediately available in the nutrition of plants. It takes often twenty or more years for small fragments of bone of the size of a hazelnut to become disintegrated in the soil, and yet such fragments are often seen in the bone dust of commerce. Means have been discovered to reduce them to paste or flour, of which we shall speak hereafter.
As auxiliaries or helps in the management of soils, we can unreservedly recommend a careful and judicious use of the special manures. No exact rules can, however, be prescribed for their employment. The nature of the soil, its texture or mechanical condition, the degree of moisture it has, the state of the season, and the time of its application, all have so much to do with them, that exact rules would often prove inapplicable if they were given. The farmer will remember that plants feed only upon matter in solution—that is, the bone, plaster, potash, or ashes, must be dissolved before the roots can avail themselves of its nutriment. If, therefore, any of the special manures are applied to a soil so lacking in moisture as not to render them soluble, they remain inactive. So if a soil for the want of drainage is constantly charged with cold water, which keeps the temperature so low that putrefaction cannot take place, plants derive but little benefit from manure of any kind, even if a redundance of it is applied. These simple statements will perhaps show why so many experiments with special manures are set down as failures. They are used under such circumstances as to render them completely inoperative. They should be applied upon soils that are fine and porous, so that atmospheric action will be free among the particles, warming and moistening them. Under these circumstances the fine grains or flour of bone, guano, superphosphate, or any of the special manures, soon become softened by the dampness of the soil, then warmed by the genial rays of the sun, which easily penetrate it because it is light and fine, and by fermentation and putrefaction are soon converted into a soluble form, all ready to be appropriated by the roots of the plants.
Treated in this way special manures are quick in their action, giving plants an early and vigorous start, and pushing them rapidly forward until their roots find new means of support in the soil, which they penetrate in all directions. In rows of corn or vegetables where they are applied, the foliage will be found more luxuriant, and of a richer and deeper color, than in rows where none had been placed. These conditions must be observed or they will frequently prove a failure. They should also be near the surface, where they will be kept moist by the dampness of the atmosphere and summer showers. Even when these conditions are observed, it will be well to apply them just before a full of rain, in misty weather, or during a gentle shower.
Guano has been more extensively used as a special fertilizer than any other, perhaps than all others. It consists of the excrement and exuvia of birds dropped upon the same spot through long periods of time. The birds select some island of the ocean where their favorite food abounds, congregate upon it in vast numbers, and there rear their young. This. is also their resting place by day and night. The consequence is that all their droppings, when they are not upon the wing, fall upon the same place. Long before the keel of any vessel divided the waters of the vast Pacific, or the foot of man trod upon its islands, these birds were collecting their food from its prolific bosom, perpetuating their kind, and adding layer upon layer of their excrement, until some of them are now vast accumulations of guano, twenty, forty, or sixty feet in depth. It is calculated that the deposits of it in south and middle Peru amount to more than twenty millions of tons. The best guano is found in those tropical latitudes where it seldom or never rains. This vast mass, however, is not. entirely composed of the digested droppings of the birds, It contains also feathers, bones, and the animal matter which comes from the decay of the birds themselves. The great difference in the results obtained from the analysis of different samples of guano indicates that age, exposure, and other circumstances greatly affect its properties. Sound guano contains a large amount of ammoniacal salts as well as phosphates. In birds. the secretions of the kidneys, as well as the intestines, are carried into the cloaca, where they become mixed and combined. The food of the sea-fowl, which produces this substance, is almost wholly fish, on which account their excrement is much richer in nitrogen than that of birds or animals that feed on vegetable food. Its value depends essentially on this fact.
|Variety.||Water.||Organic matter and ammoniacal salts||Phosphates|
|Bolivian||5 to 7||56 to 64||25 to 29|
|Peruvian||7 to 10||56 to 66||16 to 23|
|Chilian||19 to 13||50 to 56||22 to 30|
|Ichaboe||18 to 26||36 to 44||21 to 29|
This, it is evident at a glance, is an extremely rich manure; the quantities of ammoniacal salts and of phosphates are remarkably large. The Ichaboe guano contains much more water than the others, because the climate in that region is not so dry as on the west coast of South America. It is also more decomposed, giving usually a stronger smell of ammonia. The Pacific guanos have very little smell of ammonia, but if they are mixed with a little quicklime and gently heated, the odor becomes extremely pungent.
More recent importations are from two islands in the Pacific discovered by Americans, and called Baker and Jarvis islands. Says Liebig, "The guanos from these islands are distinguished from others by their acid reaction and greater solubility. They contain only a small quantity of substances containing nitrogen, no uric acid, and small proportions of nitric acid, potash, magnesia, and ammonia. The Baker’s island guano contains as much as eighty per cent., the Jarvis thirty-three or four per cent., of phosphate of lime. The latter has forty- four per cent. of gypsum. These guanos approach nearest in their composition to bone dust. Their condition enables the farmer who wishes to accelerate their action, to convert them into superphosphate, by the addition of from twenty to twenty-five per cent. of their weight of concentrated sulphuric acid.
According to an analysis by Voelker, one pound of guano was found to be equal to fifty pounds of farm-yard manure, and that it contains these elements in the most concentrated form, and permits the application of them to the field more conveniently than farm yard manure, as it may often be done after putting in the seed.
The difference between the Peruvian and Mexican guanos is, that the former contains a larger proportion of the ammoniacal salts and the latter a larger proportion of the phosphates. The especial value of the former may be seen in the increase of the straw and culms in grain and grass; while the value of the latter is manifested in the increased volume and plumpness of the grain and seeds. The high prices at which the guanos have been held for the past few years have greatly diminished their use in this country. At a reasonable price they might be used to great profit on our partially exhausted soils, especially when used in combination with carbonaceous matters. If good guano can be furnished at the seaports at from forty to fifty dollars per ton, it would find an extensive demand. It is capable of increasing, under judicious application, the crops of grain, potatoes, and grass at least thirty-three per cent. Owing to its comparative cleanliness and facility of application, it is peculiarly suited to horticultural and floral improvement.
But guano is shamefully adulterated, and the farmer not only frequently loses the money he pays for it, but loses his labor, the use of his land, and the crop which ought to grow upon it. Professor Johnston mentions an instance of four vessels which sailed from English ports, ballasted with plaster of Paris intended for admixture with the guano when the vessels were loaded at the islands. Another favorite material for adulteration is umber, so that in some cases the farmer gets fifteen hundred pounds of umber to the ton, and only five hundred pounds of guano. In order to protect the purchaser from such outrageous impositions,
the professor gives the following as tests:
1st. The drier the better; there is less water to pay for and transport.
2d. The lighter the color the better; it is not so completely decomposed.
3d. If it has not a strong ammoniacal smell, it ought to give off such a smell when a spoonful of it is mixed with a spoonful of quicklime in a glass.
4th. When put into a tumbler with water and well stirred, and the water and fine matter poured off, it ought to leave little sand or stones.
What is the effect of guano upon crops ?
In the first place, is it permanent? The popular notion is that it is not; but we think it must extend to two crops, because if its ammoniacal salts are nearly exhausted the first year the phosphates will continue to act beyond one year. Professor Johnston says guano very much resembles bones in its composition, and as bones are known to benefit crops in an entire rotation, guano ought to do the same. The chief difference between bones and guano is this: that the guano contains ammonia ready formed, or forming, so to speak, while the bones contain gelatine, which forms ammonia only during putrefaction. The ammoniacal part of the one, therefore, will act early; of the other, after a longer period, while the permanent effects of the remaining ingredients of both will be very much alike. The guanos, then, having the most ammonia will have the greatest present effect, while those having a larger amount of the phosphates will be the most permanent. Nearly all the authorities we have consulted agree in the conclusion that three or four hundred pounds of pure guano is worth as much as fourteen to eighteen loads of ordinary manure. An instance of its energy is stated by Professor Norton, where eight hundred pounds being put upon an acre of turnips, they all grew to tops and produced no bulbs. Even the succeeding crop of wheat was so rank in its growth that the grain was miserable. The Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, well known to the country as one of its leading pomologists, applied eight hundred pounds per acre, and harvested from it sixteen hundred bushels of carrots. he following statements were communicated to us several years since by David Mosely, esq., of Westfield, Massachusetts. Mr. Mosely is a thrifty, observing farmer, who manages his estate with singular ability and success. He says (New England Farmer, vol 8, p. 238) that three hundred pounds of guano, in one instance, increased the crop of corn fifteen bushels per acre; that in another $53 worth of guano gave a profit of $77; that in a third instance he manured a field of seven acres with fifteen cart-loads of good stable manure, and on five acres of it sowed one hundred and fifty pounds of guano per acre. The portion on which the guano was put yielded twenty-three bushels per acre more than the remainder of the field. In a fourth instance he sowed two hundred and fifty pounds per acre, which increased the crop twenty bushels an acre, and it was ten or twelve days earlier for the guano. He further states that three hundred pounds have given him more bushels of potatoes than twenty loads of manure.
1st. As we have already stated, guano is best applied in damp or showery weather.
2d. It should be put on grass lands in the latter part of March or the early part of April.
3d. When applied to land just ploughed, it should be immediately mixed with the soil by harrowing, or, as Mr. Mosely states, by brushing it with birches or other bushes.
4th. When grain is sowed early in the autumn, only a portion of the guano intended to be applied should be then used, but the balance should be put on in the spring. If the whole is applied in the fall the grain sometimes becomes too luxuriant and is liable to be injured by the frosts.
5th. Guano should be applied with reference to the present crop only, and not with the purpose of benefiting succeeding crops.
6th. Guano, before application, should be mixed with five or six times its weight of charcoal, fine soil, or dried muck. We once caused four tons of Peruvian guano to be spread upon a floor and mixed with six times its weight of fine black muck in layers of the two articles. After it had remained in this condition two weeks, it was overhauled and the pile evened up and covered with clean muck. The same operation was repeated in two weeks more. At planting time, two or three weeks after the second overhauling, it was shovelled into carts, taken into the field, and a moderate handful thrown into each hill. The corn not appearing in due time, examination was made into its condition, when it was found that most of the kernels had sprouted, but as soon as the tender germ had reached the guano it perished. Of the sixteen acres to which it was applied not a tenth part of the corn came up. Our next conclusion, therefore, is—
7th. That guano should on no account be allowed to come in contact with the seed.
English chemists have recommended guano as a means of increasing the growth of the sugar cane upon the partially exhausted soils of the West India islands; and we see no reason to doubt that it would give a greatly increased growth to the cotton plant, especially on soils. that have been cultivated several years in that most important crop. It should be applied largely diluted with peat, rich loam, or marly earth, in the furrow at the time of sowing the seed. It should be spread over the whole width of the furrow, which should be eight or ten inches wide. It would give.a rapid growth to. the young and tender plants, which would thus attain a larger size and become more deeply rooted before the approach of the dry season. Experience alone can determine what quantity can be applied with advantage. Vrobably about the same quantity that is required for corn will be required, viz: from two to three hundred pounds, according to the condition of the soil. Guano is often applied by gardeners and floriculturists in a weak solution. If it should be found to injure the germs of the cotton plants it might be applied in solution at the first hoeing, upon the surface of the ground.
The importation of guano into Great Britain in the year 1845 was two hundred and eighty-three thousand and three hundred tons, and in 1851 two hundred and forty-five thousand tons, at a cost that year of about ten millions of dollars. So that, with the experience of six years in its use, the farmers in that country thought it profitable to expend ten millions for this special fertilizer in a single year!
Bones, as we have already said, in their entire state—that is, containing all the gelatine of the periosteum and cells which compose their framework, and all the fat and earths with which these cells are filled—consist of about thirty- eight parts animal matter, forty-four parts of phosphate of lime, three per cent. of magnesia, soda, and other salts, with twelve per cent. of moisture. If a quantity of entire bones ground to a fine powder, are placed in a box or other vessel in a warm temperature and slightly moistened, putrefaction will be quickly set up and ammonia will be rapidly evolved. It is obvious that in this condition bone must be a highly stimulating and active manure, and must contribute to a vigorous growth of the stalk and an abundant crop of grain and seed. The bone meal and flour now in the market purport to consist of the entire bone reduced to different degrees of fineness. Could we be sure that the glue-makers and soap-makers have not had a share of it, we should consider it the most valuable of all the manufactured manures. As long as we have farm stock, cattle, sheep, swine, and horses, they must have bones, and as phosphate of lime exists so largely in them, it must be provided for them in the food they eat. Accordingly it is present in all cereal grains, in leguminous plants, and many other vegetables, the soil of course furnishing it to them. It is not only, then, the animal substance in bones, the gelatine and fat, that makes them a good manure, but the mineral part is of essential service to some crops, especially if the soil be at all deficient in phosphate of lime. Bones contain, as we have seen, forty-four per cent, of phosphate of lime. But phosphate of lime is almost insoluble. We see bones lying exposed to the weather for years, and only slowly crumbling into the soil. The animal matter has long since wasted. out of them; but the phosphate of lime remains. How can this be rendered soluble, so that it can speedily yield its valuable elements to the growing plants? Neutral salts consist of acids completely saturated with some base. Thus, sulphate of lime, or gypsum, consists of sulphuric acid combined with all the quicklime. it will take up. The new compound thus formed no longer presents the sensible properties of either of the ingredients. The acid of the one and the alkali of the other are not perceptible to the taste, and the caustic property of both is no longer present. The compound, then, is neither acid nor alkaline, but neutral. But many neutral salts, as the gypsum of which we are speaking, are sparingly and slowly soluble in water, By the addition of an excess of the acid used in forming them, they become more soluble. By removing a portion of the base, or alkaline earth, from the compound, the same effect is produced; for if there was just sufficient in the compound to neutralize the acid, the removal of a part leaves the acid unsaturated or in excess. The salt will not then be neutral, but an acid salt, or, in chemical language, a super salt. Phosphate of lime, as found in bones, is a neutral salt, consisting of one part of phosphoric acid and three parts of lime. It may be rendered soluble by adding phosphoric acid, so that it shall no longer be neutral, but an acid or superphosphate; or the same effect may be produced by the addition of any other acid. having a sufficiently strong affinity for lime to take away a portion of it from the phosphoric acid. The remaining lime no. longer neutralizes the phosphoric acid, and the compound becomes an acid or superphosphate. Sulphuric acid has so strong an affinity for lime that if it be mixed with neutral phosphate of lime it will seize upon and combine with one of the three parts of lime which, as we have said, enter into its composition, and will form with it sulphate of lime, or gypsum. This mixture of phosphate of lime with sulphuric acid will then consist of superphosphate of lime and plaster or gypsum. This is the substance known in the market as superphosphate of lime. If no additional plaster or other substance is mixed with it, it is a valuable manurial substance. Could the animal matter contained in the eutire bone be separated from it before it is subjected to the action of the sulphuric acid, and be restored to the mixture afterward, a very powerful manure would be obtained. This is said to be done in the manufacture of the superphosphates in the market. But we have found so much difference in the sensible properties and in the effects of different samples of it, that we conclude that the soap-maker at least gets his share, even if the glue-maker is denied, or that the material used in the manufacture consists of bones so long exposed to the action of the weather that the animal matter has been wasted out of them. When this article is manufactured on a large scale for the trade the process is as follows:
Bones are collected from every possible source; boys and girls gather them in the streets of cities; butchers and provision dealers save them; men scour the country with horses and wagons, picking up from house to house every pound or bushel they can get, while vessels collect them in large quantities wherever they can be found, and find a profit in the business. These bones are in a raw condition, not having been used by soap-boilers, or in any other way to lessen their value. When collected and thrown into heaps, under cover, each bone is examined, and all such as are suitable to be used in the arts are then laid-aside for turners, cutters, and so forth, to be used for knobs, handles of knives, canes, and umbrellas, and the smaller pieces to be made into buttons. Such as are not fit to be used in the arts are thrown into iron retorts, each holding two barrels. The covers of these retorts are fitted so exactly that they are nearly or quite air-tight. When thus made ready they are let down into a furnace, where the whole mass, retort and bones, soon acquires a red heat; but no air being admitted,no flame takes place in the bones. In this intense heat, all the animal matters, the gelatine, oils, ammonia, &c., are driven off, and in the form of steam pass through a pipe to a reservoir prepared for them in a remote part of the building. The pipe through which they pass, as in the process of distillation, is immersed in cold water, so that the oil and gelatine leave it in a thickened state, and most highly charged with the pungent ammonia. Careful experiment having taught the workmen how long to allow the retorts to remain in the furnace, when that time has expired they are taken out and set upon iron wheelbarrows and placed away to be cooled off. The bones are now reduced to what is called bone-black or animal charcoal. This is extensively used in refining sugar. They are of a shining black color, brittle, and can be easily and rapidly ground, not into flour, but into quite small particles. Two barrels of this ground bone is then placed in a wooden vat, and spread evenly over the bottom. Four gallons of the liquid that ran out of the retort are thrown upon it, and the whole is thoroughly stirred. When the mass is sufficiently mixed, from fifty to sixty pounds of sulphuric acid are added and mingled. A powerful ebullition or boiling takes place, which continues several minutes, during which time the workmen keep the whole mass in motion. When it subsides, the article has become what is called superphosphate of lime. It is then spread-upon floors in lofts, or in fine weather upon platforms made for the purpose in the open air, and when partially dried is packed in barrels or bags, and is ready for the market. By this process nothing that the bones originally contained is lost, although it has undergone important chemical changes.
Can it be doubted then that superphosphate of lime, judiciously applied to soils fitted for it and needing it, will greatly promote the growth of many of our crops? It is said, however; to be often adulterated with black loam or pulverized muck, which so nearly resembles the burnt bone in color and texture that it is difficult to detect the imposition without the aid of chemical tests.
There are other modes of reducing bones so as to make their properties available: by the farmer. One of these is to mix one part of sulphuric acid with two parts water, and immerse the bones in the mixture until they are softened into a paste, and then mix them with dry muck or some other substance that will separate the adhesive particles and make them convenient for use.
Another and a better way is to reduce them by steam, by the following process: A strong steam box is hung upon a frame go as to be easily turned over. A square hole is cut through one of the sides, and a cover tightly fitted to it, and held in place by clamps and a screw. The box is charged with bones through this hole, the cover closed and the steam admitted. It requires a superheated steam to break them down, which must be constantly applied for several continuous hours. It is claimed that by this process all the animal and mineral matters that enter into the composition of bones are saved. A portion of the gelatine which is driven out from the bones is conducted away, allowed to ferment in contact with dry muck, and then a certain quantity of the dissolved bone is added, making what is termed ammoniated superphosphate of lime.
After the mass in the steam box is sufficiently cooked, the cover is removed, the box turned over, and the contents precipitated upon the floor; from the floor it is carried by machinery to a room above, that is heated by steam, and dried, and as it becomes sufficiently dry is moved along to a hopper, passes through a mill, and comes out in fine granular particles, which can be readily broken down by the thumb and finger. The first requisite in the use of superphosphate is that it be absolutely pure. Numerous cases of failure that have been reported, have undoubtedly arisen from the shameful adulterations, either by the manufacturer or by those who have purchased to sell again. In some instances, however, failures may be traced to total misapplication, as when it is applied to soils so completely charged with cold water that they are rarely warmed to a degree to induce fermentation and the other processes of decay; or, again, when it is applied to dry gravelly soil entirely deficient of humus. Superphosphate is not equally adapted to all plants. On all the Brassica family, including the cabbage, Swedish turnip, common flat turnip, cauliflower, broccoli, &c., its influence is usually striking and profitable. The leaves of the plants grow larger and thicker and assume a darker green than we have ever seen them under the stimulus of any other fertilizer. It is also useful to beets, mangolds, peas and beans, and all other of the field and garden crops.
Several years since we made an experiment with it on a young pear orchard containing one hundred and fifty trees. It was applied at the rate of six hundred pounds to the acre, and sowed broadcast in November. The land was a sandy loam, had been moderately manured for several years in succession, but heavily cropped each year with carrots, parsnips, grapes, and raspberries. In the spring succeeding the dressing with superphosphate, the carrots and parsnips were omitted, and white beans and grapes were planted. All the crops were almost extravagantly luxuriant during the summer. The change in the size and color of the leaves of the pear trees was remarkable, and afforded a striking contrast between themselves and the leaves of other pear trees but a short distance from them. The fruit in the autumn was of corresponding excellence. The beans planted were the white pea bean, which usually grows about a foot high; they also felt the power of the fertilizer, and instead of modestly keeping near the ground, as is their habit, made an average growth of three feet, some of them climbing into the branches of the pear trees, six feet from the ground. The young grape vines also made a rapid growth, as did the stools of raspberries. The same spot has been annually dressed in November with farm compost, moderately, and spaded in. The pear trees are ten feet apart each way. Between them in the rows is a grape vine and two stools of Brinkle Orange raspberries, and beans planted between the rows of pear trees. With such management the crops, crowded as these are, continue at the close of six years to be as luxuriant as ever. During the last autumn the pear trees required propping to enable them to sustain their load of fruit, and the grapes trained to stakes broke their accustomed fastenings and fell to the ground. The beans yielded annually at the rate of about forty bushels to the acre.
We have thus stated somewhat in detail what phosphate of lime is, how it is produced, what crops it is best adapted to, and something of its power upon crops when properly used—so that the farmer, unaccustomed to its use, may avail himself of its advantages without the risk of loss.
Nitric acid with potash, soda, ammonia, and lime, forms salts, which go by the general name of saltpetres. The nitrates of potash and soda are best known to us. The former is imported largely from the East Indies; the latter comes to this country mostly from Peru, where it is found in extensive beds combined with earths, from which it is extracted by a rude process of lixiviation [leaching -ASC] and evaporation.
From some experiments which we have made with saltpetre, we are inclined to think that its value as a manure is not fully appreciated. In those experiments, at a cost of five cents a pound, we found it among the cheapest manures we had ever used. Its use is not a modern discovery. The first English author who wrote upon husbandry, in 1532, Anthony Vitzherbert, describes it as having the power to insure the farmer the most abundant crops. A hundred years after, Evelyn told the farmers of his age if they could obtain a plentiful supply of saltpetre they would need but little other compost to meliorate their ground. Even Jethro Tull [is this in 'Cup of Wonder' ;) -ASC], who zealously denied the necessity of manures of any kind, placed nitre at the head of his list of those substances which he deemed to be the essential food of plants. But it is only in modern days that saltpetre has been extensively used as a fertilizer, for it is not long that it has been produced in quantities sufficiently reasonable to enable the farmer to use it profitably as a manure. It is so extensively used in the arts, especially in the manufacture of gunpowder, that the price has been thought too high to make it a profitable investment in the soil. In large quantities, however, and in ordinary times, we think it may be obtained at as low prices as Peruvian guano or the superphosphate of lime.
Experiments are not wanting to show the results of the use of saltpetre upon crops, and this is the point of interest to us. A gentleman used it in the kitchen and flower garden, where it increased the beauty and prolonged the bloom of the flowers: and, at the rate of two hundred pounds per acre, on a crop of horseradish, with the most beneficial results. It prevented mildew on early peas and wall fruit trees. Its application to red clover greatly increased the crop.
In England it is supposed that the most effective method of enriching land is by folding sheep upon it, and yet a gentleman in Hertfordshire produced with one hundred pounds of saltpetre to the acre, eeffects [sic] more than equal to those produced by folding sheep, Another gentleman states that on the sandy lands of Surry, with one hundred pounds of nitre on clover, he produced results fully equal to those of twenty-five cubic yards of horse dung. Still another, by the use of one hundred pounds to an acre of light land, obtained an increase of six and a half bushels of wheat. In a report of the Hardstone Farmers’ Club, it is stated to be the unanimous opinion of the meeting that saltpetre was excel- lent in its effects on heavy clover lays, and that on light lands it was highly beneficial to wheat, clover, and other lays, and tares. A farmer in Essex county, England, got forty-four bushels of barley, without saltpetre, on an acre, and with a top dressing of one hundred pounds got fifty-four bushels.
Several years since, when the potato rot passed over the land as a scourge, and the prospect seemed to be that this most valuable esculent was to be blotted out from the rich list of table vegetables, we instituted some experiments with saltpetre which afforded the most gratifying results. We ploughed a portion of an old grass field, harrowed it into a fine tilth, and sowed two hundred pounds of gypsum, and mingled with it one pound of saltpetre to the square rod, or one hundred and sixty pounds to the acre. The saltpetre was pulverized as finely as could well be done with the crude means at hand for such a purpose. The crop was hoed twice and all weeds kept down. The potatoes planted were of the white Chenango variety, and yielded one hundred and fifty bushels per acre, They were very smooth and fair, and not a peck of rotten ones was found where the plaster and saltpetre was applied. On a part of the field which had received no special fertilizers, the potatoes were fair, but rotted so rapidly, and emitted so foul an odor, that a part was dug and buried in the field out of sight.
The remark that we made respecting guano is also true of saltpetre, and in fact of all other manures, viz: that if they are made fine, and applied in wet or moist weather, their effects will be more immediately apparent.
The poudrettes consist of blood, fish and animal matters, and night-soil, dried and combined with substances capable of deodorizing them and absorbing their ammonia, phosphuretted hydrogen, and other gases and moisture, and reduced to powder. A species of poudrette, called fish manure, is now prepared by steaming and pressing the fish, chiefly menhaden, for the purpose primarily of obtaining their oil. These fish are taken in nets in large quantities at certain seasons. They are steamed and subjected to strong pressure, by which the oil is forced out, and the residuum is left almost as dry as so much seasoned wood. It is then ground and packed in barrels for the market. All the poudrettes are packed in barrels or bags, and can be readily transported by land or water. In some instances the entire fish, fresh from the ocean, are used for carrying a crop of corn, by depositing one or two in a hill, drawing a little soil over them, and dropping the corn upon it. Fish are extensively and profitably used by the farmers on Long Island and in many places on the coast of New England. On Chesapeake bay, in Maryland, the farmers collect large quantities of fish offal and cart them many miles inland, and also from the fisheries on the Potomac, Delaware, and other rivers.
When properly manufactured the poudrettes are very valuable manures. When applied to the roots of plants, in a soil well supplied with coarser manures, they give a vigorous start to young plants, and a larger development and a deeper tint to the petals of flowers. When applied in the hill they give to the young corn a fine and early growth. They are rapidly decomposed in the soil, and should always be so deeply covered that their evolving gases may be retained by it. They should be sprinkled over a surface of ten or twelve inches square, rather than thrown in a mass around the seeds or roots of you plants. If the soil is cold, or the season backward, their good effects are immediately manifest. The poudrettes have been suggested as a means of improving the culture of the cotton plant, and as they are easy of transportation and application, it is desirable that they should be fairly tried, and the present seems to be a favorable time for trying them. On light soils, or on soils partially exhausted, they must prove a powerful stimulant to the growing plants. They would seem to be well suited to the sandy soils of the sea islands on the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Three or four hundred pounds to the acre will probably be sufficient to insure a large crop. In the warm climates in which cotton is grown, cattle are not fed in the barn; stable composts are, therefore, not to be had. Composts made of beans, weeds, and other vegetables, with lime, ashes and salt, and guano and poudrettes, seem to be the only manures within the reach of the planters. At the present time, when labor is so difficult to be obtained, and cotton is in such demand, we would earnestly urge that experiments should be made with some or all of these substances. Oil cake, made by expressing the oil from the cotton seed, may be found an excellent fertilizer for the plant. If by these means a larger crop can be made on the acre, labor will be saved, and the profit from its culture will be increased. With the introduction of improved farm implements, improved methods of culture should also be introduced, that the losses of past years may be the more speedily recovered.
We would suggest the following method of applying poudrette or guano in cotton culture as one that is both cheap and easy: Plough furrows at such distances from each other as it is desired that the cotton should grow; sprinkle the fertilizer in these furrows; then cover it by turning a light furrow on to it from each side, which will form a ridge; now pass a light roller, long enough to take two at a time, lengthwise of the ridges; plant the seed upon the ridges with a seed sower or by hand, and cultivate in the usual way. By this method the tender germs of the seed will not be brought into immediate contact with the fertilizer; and in the case of guano and ashes this is a matter of much importance. By the time the radicles reach the manure thus buried, they will have become sufficiently firm to resist any caustic action they might exert, and be able to appropriate the stimulating nutriment they afford, and will thus make a vigorous and luxuriant growth.
We have already said so much upon the application of manures, while treating upon their composition and preparation, that the reader will very naturally expect, and probably hope, that we shall very briefly dispose of this part of our subject; but it is a matter of no small importance, and the progressive farmer will be willing to give it a careful consideration. Before discussing more particularly, however, the application of manures, we will institute an inquiry into the effects produced by manures upon growing plants and upon the soil.
Were the theory correct, advanced by Jethro Tull and others, that plants derive all their nutriment from the atmosphere, the application of manures to the soil would be of no benefit to them, unless it were to stimulate them to drink up the carbonic acid and the hydrogen, and, in some cases, the nitrogen of the atmosphere, more eagerly. But experience everywhere teaches us that the liberal application of manures causes vegetables to grow with more vigor, and to attain a much more perfect development. The obvious inference from this fact is, that manures furnish to plants the elements of nutrition, which they eagerly consume and appropriate to their growth. Vegetables, like animals, possess the wonderful, almost creative, power of assimilation; they can transfer particles of inorganic matter to their own organs, and imbue them with the life which exists in those organs. Let us illustrate this by reference to the process of digestion in animals, where it can be more readily traced. The food is received into the stomach, where it undergoes a sort of solution, and is then carried forward into the intestines, where it is presented to the mouths of myriads of little vessels, which drink up the fluid portion and convey it to larger vessels, by which it is conveyed to the heart. By the heart it is sent into the lungs, where it is acted upon by the air in the lung cells, and is then returned to the heart, and by means of the arteries sent to the various tissue-forming vessels throughout the body. The blood in the arteries is apparently a homogeneous fluid, but is in fact a very compound fluid, containing in solution various elements that previously existed in the food. The tissue-forming or assimilating vessels are endowed with the power of selecting from the compound mass presented to them, such elements as they need for their respective purposes, and rejecting the remainder. From the materials selected they build their several structures and repair the waste that is constantly going on in them. Thus one set of vessels forms bone, another muscular fibre, another skin, another hair, &c. Other vessels, from the same circulating fluid, eliminate the various fluids contained in the body, as serum, milk, urine, &c. There is a system in many respects similar in the lower grade of organized beings which we term vegetables. Fluids are drunk up by the hair-like radicles by which their roots are covered, are conveyed upward in vessels arranged for this special purpose, and when they have passed through the stem or trunk, they are distributed to the leaves. The fluid passing from the spongioles to the leaves is called the ascending sap. In the leaf the sap is acted upon by the elements contained in the atmosphere; it then becomes the descending sap, and is presented to the various tissue-forming vessels in all parts of vegetables. It is now apparently homogeneous, but, in truth, exceedingly compound, containing the various bodies in solution which were drunk up by the radicles, and which have been absorbed from the atmosphere in the leaves. The vessels of vegetables have the same seemingly intelligent power of selection that exists in the vessels of animals. They are thus enabled to select from the compound circulating sap, what each set of vessels requires to construct the tissue which each has in charge. One set selects. material for the albumen, another for the leaf and leaf-bud, another forms the fruit bud and ultimately builds up the fruit. One set constructs the woody fibre, another the starch, another the gum, another the resin, another set the bitter principle, another the sweet juices, and still another the poisonous elements. One set forms the sap that blushes or glows in the petals of the flowers; another selects, atom by atom, the lime that enters into the composition of the grain of wheat; another set weaves the’ covering for this same grain from the woody fibre; another deposits the fatty elements and arranges them in layers around the starch, and sugar, and lime, of which the kernel of corn is built up. Thus each tissue and each product of vegetable life is formed, by innumerable vessels, from the descending sap.
This sap, then, must contain all the elements required to form all the various vegetable tissues, and for their rapid and perfect development the supply must be abundant, and must be in due proportion, and must be furnished at the time when it is required by the formative vessels. An animal fed upon starch alone, or upon sugar alone, will soon starve and die; the various vessels cannot obtain the materials necessary to carry on their work; so, if a plant is furnished with only one element of nutrition, be it ever so abundant, it will cease to thrive, or at least only those vessels that require this element will carry on their proper work, For example; certain vegetables supplied with an abundance of nitrogenous manure will produce an exuberant growth of woody fibre, of stalk, of leaf, and but little or no fruit or seed.
We are now prepared to understand somewhat more clearly the effects of manures upon vegetable growth.
Manures furnish to the sap vessels the various elements which they need for the construction of the different tissues, in such a state of minute subdivision that they can take up, atom by atom, what each requires. All the elements existing in the soil furnish their respective quotas to the compound substance constituting the sap. Some of these elements are capable of solution in the soil; others are incapable of direct solution, and without the presence of some other clement capable of either acting upon them, and thus rendering them soluble, or of combining with the solvent and imparting to it a higher power of solution, they would remain inert in the soil. Thus silex is insoluble in simple water, but the presence of lime or potash in the solvent gives rise to a new action, and silicate of lime or potash is formed, which is soluble, and thus becomes an ingredient in the sap. Silex is an important constituent in the epidermis of several of the grasses and of the straw of grain. When such plants do not contain a sufficient supply of silex in their outward coats, they break down under their own weight, and lodge on the ground before they have attained their full maturity. This we often witness in clover, and herd’s-grass [what we now call timothy (Phleum pratense) -ASC], and oats, upon reclaimed meadows and swamps. In such cases a top dressing of sand or gravel will impart to the growing crop of the next season sufficient firmness to enable it to stand erect until its growth is completed. In such cases, even if lime and potash are not directly essential to the growth of plants, they contribute indirectly an important service—they render the silex soluble. This instance affords a beautiful illustration of the chemical action that is constantly going on in the soil.
Different soils require different treatment. Clay soils should be treated with lime, ashes, and light composts; such as contain straw and partially decomposed vegetable matters keep such soils light, and furnish by their decomposition the humus in which. they are deficient. Black, moist soils, that have been long cultivated, are generally exhausted of the lime and silex needed for grass and grain crops; hence composts containing sand are especially useful on such soils. Lime may be applied freely upon the surface of such soils in the form of plaster, slaked lime, or superphosphate, with advantage. On light, sandy soils, well-worked composts, rendered as fine as possible, and containing a large proportion of muck or other carbonaceous substances, and animal manures of all sorts, are peculiarly appropriate. The influence of animal manures upon sandy soils is well illustrated by the luxuriant growth of corn and melons upon the sands of Cape Cod, by means of fish offal and prepared fish manures. Such soils are hungry for the elements which these manures contain. Whatever manures are applied to such soils should be well covered in.
Should manures be deeply covered in the soil, or should they be applied near the surface, are questions about which cultivators differ. So much interest has this question excited, that some five years ago the Massachusetts Agricultural Society offered premiums to induce farmers in different parts of the State, to try experiments with manure placed at different depths in the soil. The plan was as follows: Five lots of the same size, on similar soil, side by side, were to be selected, marked, and numbered. On number one the manure was to be ploughed in deeply; on number two it was to be ploughed in four inches; on number three it was to be spread on the surface and harrowed in; on number four it was to be spread on the surface and not harrowed in; on number five no manure was to be put. The lots were all to be planted and cultivated alike for three years in succession, without the addition of any more manure, and the entire crop of each lot for each year weighed, and an account of the seasons, with a description of the soil, was to accompany each report. The reports indicated that the best average results were obtained from placing the manure about four inches deep. The depth at which manures should be covered will depend upon three circumstances: the nature of the soil, the kind of manure, and the kind of crop. All manures should be placed at a sufficient depth in the soil to keep them moist, or they will be inactive. When a soil is naturally heavy and moist, it is not necessary to bury manure so deep to insure its being kept in a moist state, as when it is light and dry. Manures containing a large proportion of volatile elements should be buried more deeply. These elements, when the soil becomes warm, assume the gaseous form, and tend to rise to the surface, and will be diffused through the soil lying over them, and, if there are elements in the soil having an affinity for them, will be retained. Other elements which are not volatile, as lime, ashes, and salt, but which are soluble in water, may be safely applied on or near the surface, where they will be dissolved by the rain and sink into the soil.
Some vegetables strike their roots deeply into the soil, and for their perfect development require a deep tilth. In such instances trenching or deep ploughing is peculiarly beneficial. For such crops a portion of the manure should be worked deeply into the soil. In preparing a garden soil it is a good method to spread on the surface a coating of manure, and plough or spade it in deeply, and then to add a dressing of fine compost or liquid manure, and work it in with the harrow of rake. Thus the deep-growing plants will find nutriment at every stage of their growth. By a repetition of this process a deep, rich soil will be formed, which will meet the wants of the various esculents of the garden, and supply to each what its nature and habits require. or potatoes it is not necessary to cover the manure so deeply, as they grow near the surface. The same is true of the flat turnip. The question has been often asked, How can manure be best applied for the corn crop? Shall it all be put upon the soil before ploughing, and be ploughed in deeply 2 or shall a portion of it be placed in the hill or near the surface? When corn is. to be grown on newly turned grass land, shall the manure be spread upon the grass and turned under the sod? This is certainly the easiest mode of applying it, and many farmers assert that when it is applied in this way, although the corn may not be as vigorous in the early part of the season, yet in the latter part of it, when the roots have struck through the rotting sod and found the manure deposited beneath, it will grow with sufficient energy to make up for the time lost in the early part of the season. Others prefer to turn over the soil in the autumn, and in the spring work in the manure upon the surface of the furrows with the harrow or the cultivator. In this way it is said the corn will get a fine start in the early season, and when its roots strike into the mellow sod, they will find all the nourishment they require to complete the growth of the plant. Doubtless both these methods have been successful. If the season proves to be wet, or the soil is naturally moist, the manure near the surface will give a good crop, but if the season should prove dry, we may expect the best result from the more deeply covered manure. The manure, fermenting under the sod, causes it to become rapidly mellow and crumble into a fine tilth, and thus a rich bed is furnished to the growing roots. But the largest crop of corn we have ever seen, was produced by a combination of the two methods. Two thirds of the manure, sixteen ox-cart loads of rich stable manure to the acre, were spread upon the sward in the spring, which was then turned over by the plough; the harrow was vigorously applied, and after this furrows were made for the rows with a light plough. Then the other third, eight loads, was put into the furrows and the kernels dropped ten inches apart. This gave the corn an early start, and it grew vigorously from the commencement, and its roots soon found the rich nutriment deposited below the sod. The crop in this case was one hundred and four bushels to the acre. As the corn crop is perhaps the most important crop in the country—is, in fact, the national the proper method of applying manure to it is a subject of great importance; but it is questionable whether any rule of universal application can be given, as different soils require different modes of application. In a heavy clayey soil it is important that the management should be such as to render the soil warm and light. To accomplish this object a large portion of the manure should be incorporated with the soil by the plough. Green manures do well on soils of this description, but as such soil, unless underdrained, is cold and does not set the crop forward early, something more is wanted. A small quantity of well composted manure in the hill meets this deficiency. This process is attended with labor and expense, but these are fully repaid by the larger crop. Indeed, in such soils the crop is uncertain without the use of some such means, unless the season is peculiarly favorable. In light, warm soils the whole of the manure may be worked into the soil with safety, and perhaps with more advantage to the soil, if the object is to prepare it for future crops. In any soil, if the chief purpose is to improve it and prepare it for grass, grain, or other crops as speedily as possible, and the present crop of com is a secondary object, the whole amount of barn manure should be thoroughly incorporated with the soil, and a little guano, poudrette, or superphosphate put into the hill to serve as a stimulus to the corn crop. In this way, when the soil is cold and tenacious, a good corn crop may be secured, and the soil rapidly prepared for future use. The stimulant will be expended on the corn crop, and will contribute little or nothing to the permanent improvement of the land.
For this we must depend wholly, so far as manures are concerned, upon stable and compost manures. When these are not used in sufficient quantity to effect this object, artificial manures must be annually applied. But we think the corm crop is of sufficient importance to be considered a primary crop, and that the mode of applying the manure in all cases should be such as to insure a good crop, while, at the same time, the permanent improvement of the soil is secured. These objects are by no means incompatible, and may. both be attained at the same time, and by the same process. In the culture of corn, manures should be liberally applied. There is less labor and less expense in raising sixty bushels of corn on one acre than on two; and, in the former case, the land will be left in better condition than in the latter. One great necessity for applying manure in the northern portions of our country is, that plants may be forced more rapidly through all the stages of their growth, since, if left to themselves, the season is not long enough to bring them to perfection; and that system of culture which pushes them forward early, that they may get well rooted, and therefore be the better able to endure the droughts that so often occur in July and August, and thus arrive at early maturity before the frosts of September, must be the best system. Could we add another month to the summer in this climate, we could cultivate many crops with a much less amount of stimulants than are now required. Now we have to guard against the droughts of summer and the early frosts of autumn, and we do not esteem it safe practice to deposit the manure for the corn so deeply in the soil, that the growing crops cannot reach it till late in the season. When stable manure or compost, then, is ploughed in deeply, we would recommend the application of well-diluted guano, superphosphate, bone meal, or fine compost, in the hill. In this way, with a season at all favorable, the crop will seldom fail.
As a general rule, we would say that all compost should be well worked over in the early spring, before the weather becomes sufficiently warm to occasion a rapid development of the gases, and rendered as fine as possible. If the heap is too wet to work fine, a sufficient quantity of dry soil, peat, pulverized charcoal, or plaster should be added, to absorb the moisture and destroy the tenacity of the mass. All manures should be applied in as fine a state as is possible, without too much exposure to the action of the atmosphere. If manures are reduced in cool weather, when they are not in a state of actual fermentation, it may be done without great loss of their gases. All manures that are to be applied to the surface should be pulverized as finely as possible. Some plants spread their roots and seek, their food near the surface, as the strawberry, and the whole family of the cucurbitace&ligae;, These, especially, require finely reduced manure. When manures are to be buried deeply in the soil, this mode of preparation is less absolutely necessary. All manures, whether applied in a coarse or fine state, should be immediately covered under the soil, that as much as possible of their volatile elements may be absorbed by the soil. These elements, as we have said, permeate the soil and divide its particles, and render them light and easily traversed by the delicate radicles of plants. This mechanical effect is one of no small importance. A soil rendered light and porous by fermenting manure is as much better for this operation, as bread risen by yeast is better than a mass of dough.
It the general practice of our farmers to apply manures but once in a season; but certain manures may be applied more than once with much profit, provided they are applied during the growing stage of the plants, and in such a form as to mingle at once with the soil, and become a constituent part of it. It must be either finely pulverized, or in a liquid state. In either form, it should be immediately worked into the soil around the plants with the hoe or rake. Many plants, including most of the small fruits, may be treated in this way with excellent, results. We have already seen that liquid manures may be applied several times during the season to grasses, thus enabling us to take two or three crops or cuttings in a year. This is an important fact in soiling cattle, as it enables us to supply them with green and succulent food during the entire summer and autumn from the same ground.
Did we understand more perfectly the chemical constitution of the plants we cultivate, we might, doubtless, in many cases, supply to the soil the elements especially adapted to them; but such is the influence of the vital powers in modifying the laws of organic chemistry, that we do not anticipate any important results from the doctrine of specific manures considered by itself. Grapes appropriate a large amount of potash. Asparagus, originally a marine plant, appropriates marine salts. But we cannot depend upon lime and ashes to give us luxuriant grapes, nor upon marine salts to give us large and succulent asparagus. They both require, in addition to these substances, a generous supply of the same elements of nutrition that other plants require. This subject is but imperfectly understood. Theories may give us indications in this direction, but they will need to be corrected by much experimental research before they can guide us to any certain results.
Nature works out from a few simple elements, variously combined, the wonderful variety of products exhibited by vegetable life. If left to herself she always obtains a supply of these elements; but when disturbed in her operations by man, who removes from the soil its productions for his own use, instead of leaving them to decay where they grew, the soil becomes exhausted of necessary elements, and, unless they are returned to it in the form of manures, she soon becomes unable to complete the process which she commences, for want of material. The plant is not perfect; its framework is not fully developed, or its seed does not reach a perfect form, or does not arrive at maturity, because the needful elements are annually diminishing. The Fellahs, in Egypt, raise wheat a few inches high, with heads not more than two inches long, upon soil that was once the granary of the world. But Ishmael is teaching them a better style of farming, by showing them upon his plantations wheat standing four feet high upon the soil. In the older western States we are told that the wheat crops have diminished from one-fourth to one-third in quantity per acre, and, unless the elements that have been removed from the soil are returned to it, the crops will continue to diminish in a still more rapid ratio, until it ceases to be a remunerative crop. In eastern Virginia and Maryland, the soils that formerly yielded thirty bushels of wheat now yield five or six, and are being deserted because their produce will not sustain their cultivators. Guano has been applied to such soils; the nitrogen, and phosphates, and alkalies which it contains, render soluble certain elements still left in the soils, and one or two crops of ten or twelve bushels have been obtained. But this process will soon cease, and the soil be left more completely exhausted than before. Portions of this exhausted soil are being treated in a different way by cultivators of market vegetables, who are applying muck, stable manure, lime, leached ashes, green crops, and whatever will restore to the soil, in the most permanent form, the elements required by such vegetables. Hundreds of acres may now be found covered by thrifty crops of strawberries, gooseberries, currants, celery, radishes, turnips, beets, onions, melons, and similar crops, which a few years ago did not repay the labor of cultivation. The favorable climate and convenient markets render such crops highly remunerative. The neighboring cities furnish the means of restoring to the soil the elements needed to sustain the large draught made upon it. The outlay for manures in this case is large, and for grain culture probably would not pay. But it shows in a convincing manner what manures may accomplish. There is a vast amount of manurial substance produced in all cities, the largest part of which is annually wasted. If it could be carefully collected and judiciously applied to the soils in their vicinity, their productiveness would be wonderfull increased. But the transportation of manures to the soil to be cultivated is an expensive operation, and will prove economical only within certain limits, and for certain purposes. The true system of farming is undoubtedly to consume upon the farm so much vegetable matter that the solid and liquid animal excrement resulting, applied either simply or composted with other suitable substances, shall enable the farmer steadily to increase his crops, while, at the same time, his soil shall be as steadily growing richer and more productive. Every acre cultivated should be left in better condition after the crop is taken off, than it was when it was put on. To attain this point, no more land should be cultivated than can be done without exhausting it. The good teamster will keep his horses or oxen at work steadily, without diminishing their flesh or strength. Every one who has had experience will affirm that it is the most profitable to keep his team in high condition. The same is true of the soil. if the good teamster has food for only two horses, he will not attempt to keep three. So the judicious farmer will cultivate no more acres than he can feed well. In most instances it is better and more profitable, and attended with less expense and labor, to raise a large crop from one acre, than to raise the same amount from two. The soil of the one acre is left in a better condition, and in a better state for any succeeding crop, than is the soil of the two acres.
We think that, in general, the farmers must rely upon their own farms for their permanent supply of manures. Imported manures and artificial manures may be resorted to occasionally as temporary expedients; but unless the produce can be sold at a near market and at a high price, their use will not be found economical in the long run. Although we think every farmer should rely upon his own farm, he may with propriety avail himself of such natural sources of supply as his own neighborhood affords. The cultivator upon the sea-shore may and ought to use the materials thrown at his feet by the waves. It would be very unwise for him not to do so, Fish and fish offal are a resource of great value to those within its reach. If combined with peat as a deodorizer during its putrefaction, it may be used without inconvenience. Marl-beds are so many mines of wealth to cultivators in their neighborhoods. In the vicinity of soapworks every one will be eager to avail himself of the leached ashes. Woollen factories afford wool-waste and the washings of the wool, articles of great value as fertilizers. Various manufacturing establishments, as glue-making, tanning, gas-making, &c., furnish waste materials that may be obtained by farmers in their vicinity at a remunerative price. Every opportunity to obtain these and similar materials to add to the manure of the farm will be improved by the enterprising farmer.
There is one other means of reclaiming and fertilizing an exhausted soil, to which we have barely alluded, that is worthy of more attention than it has received in this country, especially on light, sandy soils, at a distance from the farm or from extra sources of supply; we mean the ploughing in of green crops. As a means of recuperating exhausted lands in sections of country where stable manures cannot be obtained, as old prairie lands or cotton fields, this must ultimately come to be a matter of the highest importance. Instead of leaving such lands to lie fallow, to recover by the slow processes of nature, and to be filled with the seeds of weeds, which it requires great labor to eradicate, buckwheat, clover, or other crops, ploughed into the soil, will become the means of rapidly restoring their fertility. But this whole subject of green manuring has been treated so expansively by Mr. Wolfinger, in the last Report, that we will abstain from its further discussion.
We have now spoken of the elements which enter into the composition of the principal manures in use, of the sources from which they are derived, and the principles which should guide us in their preparation and application. The quantities of the several kinds which may be most profitably applied, must depend upon the circumstances of each case. The nature and condition of the soil, the kind of crop, and the character of the manure, must all be taken into consideration. When manures are carbonaceous, and not volatile, they may be applied in large quantities at a time, and their effects will be permanent. When manures consist largely of volatile elements it is a better rule to apply annually, or oftener, in such quantities as are needed for immediate effect. Such manures cannot be depended on for the permanent improvement: of soils, for their active properties are soon converted into gases and lost; their power is expended in the growth of the present crop; hence they should be applied with reference only to the present, crop, and in such quantities as its wants require. The quantity of any kind of manure must be determined by observation and experience; the judgment and skill of the farmer must be his guides in this matter. There is undoubtedly a disposition to cultivate too much land, to spread manure over too large a surface. We do not yet understand the capacity of land. A stable keeper in Massachusetts kept fifteen horses, and spread all their manure on one acre and a half of land for several years in succession, and took off at three crops seven and a half tons of good hay in a year, as much as he would have got had the manure been spread on three or four acres.
Spreading manure over a large surface answered tolerably well when the soil was new, and good crops were obtained for a time; but in this way many farms have become exhausted. As the soil becomes exhausted of the fertilizing elements stored up in it, by repeated croppings, the injurious effects of this treatment become more and more apparent. Men are slow to renounce the usages that were established in former times and under different circumstances. They hesitate to give up allegiance to custom, in agriculture as in other things, and pursue practices of ruinous tendency merely because they are sanctioned by authority. Needed reformations are seldom inaugurated until they are compelled by necessity. But many of our most intelligent cultivators have commenced the work of reform; and when we shall all so cultivate our lands that they shall become more fertile and more productive after every successive crop, we shall have learned the only true and economical method of applying manures.