Fields, Factories, and Workshops : Chapter 4 : Of Agriculture
(1842 - 1921) ~ Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism : As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From : Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "...the strength of Anarchy lies precisely in that it understands all human faculties and all passions, and ignores none..." (From : "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
• "...let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions." (From : "The Spirit of Revolution," by Peter Kropotkin, fi....)
• "Which side will you take? For the law and against justice, or for justice and against the law?" (From : "An Appeal to the Young," by Peter Kropotkin, 1880.)
FEW books have exercised so pernicious an influence upon the general development of economic thought as Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population exercised for three consecutive generations. It appeared at the right time, like all books which have had any influence at all, and it summed up ideas already current in the minds of the wealth-possessing minority. It was precisely when the ideas of equality and liberty, awakened by the French and American revolutions, were still permeating the minds of the poor, while the richer classes had become tired of their amateur excursions into the same domains, that Malthus came to assert, in reply to Godwin, that no equality is possible; that the poverty of the many is not due to institutions, but is a natural law. Population, he wrote, grows too rapidly and the new-comers find no room at the feast of nature; and that law cannot be altered by any change of institutions. He thus gave to the rich a kind of scientific argument against the ideas of equality; and we know that though all dominion is based upon force, force itself begins to totter as soon as it is no longer supported by a firm belief in its own rightfulness. As to the poorer classes--who always feel the influence of ideas circulating at a given time amid the wealthier classes--it deprived them of the very hope of improvement; it made them skeptical as to the promises of the social reformers; and to this day the most advanced reformers entertain doubts as to the possibility of satisfying the needs of all, in case there should be a claim for their satisfaction, and a temporary welfare of the laborers resulted in a sudden increase of population.
Science, down to the present day, remains permeated with Malthus's teachings. Political economy continues to base its reasoning upon a tacit admission of the impossibility of rapidly increasing the productive powers of a nation, and of thus giving satisfaction to all wants. This postulate stands, undiscussed, in the background of whatever political economy, classical or socialist, has to say about exchange-value, wages, sale of labor force, rent, exchange, and consumption. Political economy never rises above the hypothesis of a limited and insufficient supply of the necessaries of life; it takes it for granted. And all theories connected with political economy retain the same erroneous principle. Nearly all socialists, too, admit the postulate. Nay, even in biology (so deeply interwoven now with sociology) we have recently seen the theory of variability of species borrowing a quite unexpected support from its having been connected by Darwin and Wallace with Malthus's fundamental idea, that the natural resources must inevitably fail to supply the means of existence for the rapidly multiplying animals and plants. In short, we may say that the theory of Malthus, by shaping into a pseudo-scientific form the secret desires of the wealth-possessing classes, became the foundation of a whole system of practical philosophy, which permeates the minds of both the educated and uneducated, and reacts (as practical philosophy always does) upon the theoretical philosophy of our century.
True, the formidable growth of the productive powers of man in the industrial field, since he tamed steam and electricity, has somewhat shaken Malthus's doctrine. Industrial wealth has grown at a rate which no possible increase of population could attain, and it can grow with still greater speed. But agriculture is still considered a stronghold of the Malthusian pseudo-philosophy. The recent achievements of agriculture and horticulture are not sufficiently well known; and while our gardeners defy climate and latitude, acclimate sub-tropical plants, raise several crops a year instead of one, and themselves make the soil they want for each special culture, the economists nevertheless continue saying that the surface of the soil is limited, and still more its productive powers; they still maintain that a population which should double each thirty years would soon be confronted by a lack of the necessaries of life!
A few data to illustrate what can be obtained from the soil were given in the preceding chapter. But the deeper one goes into the subject, the more new and striking data does he discover, and the more Malthus's fears appear groundless.
To begin with an instance taken from culture in the open field--namely, that of wheat--we come upon the following interesting fact. While we are so often told that wheat-growing does not pay, and England consequently reduces from year to year the area of its wheat fields, the French peasants steadily increase the area under wheat, and the greatest increase is due to those peasant families which themselves cultivate the land they own. In the course of the nineteenth century they have nearly doubled the area under wheat, as well as the returns from each acre, so as to increase almost fourfold the amount of wheat grown in France.1
At the same time the population has only increased by 41 per cent., so that the ratio of increase of the wheat crop has been six times greater than the ratio of increase of population, although agriculture has been hampered all the time by a series of serious obstacles--taxation, military service, poverty of the peasantry, and even, up to 1884, a severe prohibition of all sorts of association among the peasants.2 It must also be remarked that during the same hundred years, and even within the last fifty years, market-gardening, fruit-culture and culture for industrial purposes have immensely developed in France; so that there would be no exaggeration in saying that the French obtain now from their soil at least six or seven times more than they obtained a hundred years ago. The "means of existence" drawn from the soil have thus grown about fifteen times quicker than the population.
But the ratio of progress in agriculture is still better seen from the rise of the standard of requirement as regards cultivation of land. Some thirty years ago the French considered a crop very good when it yielded twenty-two bushels to the acre; but with the same soil the present requirement is at least thirty-three bushels, while in the best soils the crop is good only when it yields from forty-three to forty-eight bushels, and occasionally the produce is as much as fifty-five bushels to the acre.3 There are whole countries--Hesse, for example --which are satisfied only when the average crop attains thirty-seven bushels, or Denmark, where the average crop (1908-1910) is forty-one bushels per acre (forty-four bushels in l910).4 As to the experimental farms of Central France, they produce from year to year, over large areas, forty-one bushels to the acre; and a number of farms in Northern France regularly yield, year after year, from fifty-five to sixty-eight bushels to the acre. Occasionally even so much as eighty bushels have been obtained upon limited areas under special care.5 In fact, Prof. Grandeau considers it proved that by combining a series of such operations as the selection of seeds, sowing in rows, and proper manuring, the crops can be largely increased over the best present average, while the cost of production can be reduced by 50 per cent. by the use of inexpensive machinery; to say nothing of costly machines, like the steam digger, or the pulverizers which make the soil required for each special culture. They are now occasionally resorted to here and there, and they surely will come into general use as soon as humanity feels the need of largely increasing its agricultural produce.
In fact, a considerable progress has already been realized in French agriculture by labor-saving machinery during the last twenty-five years; but there still remains an immense field for further improvement. Thus, in 1908, France had already in use 25,000 harvesting machines and 1,200 binders as against 180 only of the former and sixty of the second, which were used in 1882; but it is calculated that no less than 375,000 more harvesting machines and 300,000 mowing machines are required to satisfy the needs of French agriculture. The same must be said as regards the use of artificial manure, irrigation, pumping machinery, and so on.
When we bear in mind the very unfavorable conditions in which agriculture stands now all over the world, we must not expect to find considerable progress in its methods realized over wide regions; we must be satisfied with noting the advance accomplished in separate, especially favored spots, where, for one cause or another, the tribute levied upon the agriculturist has not been so heavy as to stop all possibility of progress.
One such example may be seen in the district of Saffelare in East Flanders. Thirty years ago, on a territory of 37,000 acres, all taken, a population of 30,000 inhabitants, all peasants, not only used to find its food, but managed, moreover, to keep no less than 10,720 horned cattle, 3,800 sheep, 1,815 horses and 6,550 swine, to grow flax, and to export various agricultural produce.6 And during the last thirty years it has continued steadily to increase its exports of agricultural produce.
Another illustration of this sort may be taken from the Channel Islands, whose inhabitants have happily not known the blessings of Roman law and landlordism, as they still live under the common law of Normandy. The small island of Jersey, eight miles long and less than six miles wide, still remains a land of open-field culture; but, although it comprises only 28,707 acres, rocks included, it nourishes a population of about two inhabitants to each acre, or 1,300 inhabitants to the square mile, and there is not one writer on agriculture who, after having paid a visit to this island, did not praise the well-being of the Jersey peasants and the admirable results which they obtain in their small farms of from five to twenty acres --very often less than five acres--by means of a rational and intensive culture.
Most of my readers will probably be astonished to learn that the soil of Jersey, which consists of decomposed granite, with no organic matter in it, is not at all of astonishing fertility, and that its climate, though more sunny than the climate of these isles, offers many drawbacks on account of the small amount of sun-heat during the summer and of the cold winds in spring. But so it is in reality, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century the inhabitants of Jersey lived chiefly on imported food. (See Appendix L.) The successes accomplished lately in Jersey are entirely due to the amount of labor which a dense population is putting in the land; to a system of land-tenure, land-transference and inheritance very different from those which prevail elsewhere; to freedom from State taxation; and to the fact that communal institutions have been maintained, down to quite a recent period, while a number of communal habits and customs of mutual support, derived therefrom, are alive to the present time. As to the fertility of the soil, it is made partly by the sea-weeds gathered free on the sea-coast, but chiefly by artificial manure fabricated at Blaydon-on-Tyne, out of all sorts of refuse--inclusive of bones shipped from Plevna and mummies of cats shipped from Egypt.
It is well known that for the last thirty years the Jersey peasants and farmers have been growing early potatoes on a great scale, and that in this line they have attained most satisfactory results. Their chief aim being to have the potatoes out as early as possible, when they fetch at the Jersey Weigh-Bridge as much as £17 and £20 the ton, the digging out of potatoes begins, in the best sheltered places, as early as the first days of May, or even at the end of April. Quite a system of potato-culture, beginning with the selection of tubers, the arrangements for making them germinate, the selection of properly sheltered and well situated plots of ground, the choice of proper manure, and ending with the box in which the potatoes germinate and which has so many other useful applications, --quite a system of culture has been worked out in the island for that purpose by the collective intelligence of the peasants.7
In the last weeks of May and in June, when the export is at its height, quite a fleet, of steamers runs between the small island of Jersey and various ports of England and Scotland. Every day eight to ten steamers enter the harbor of St. Hélier, and in twenty-four hours they are loaded with potatoes and steer for London, Southampton, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Scotland. From 50,000 to 60,000 tons of potatoes, valued at from £260,000 to £500,000, according to the year, are thus exported every summer; and, if the local consumption be taken into account, we have at least 60,000 to 70,000 tons that are obtained, although no more than from 6,500 to 7,500 acres are given to all potato crops, early and late--early potatoes, as is well known, never giving as heavy crops as the later ones. Ten to eleven tons per acre is thus the average, while in this country the average is only six tons per acre.
As soon as the potatoes are out, the second crop of mangold or of "three months' wheat" (a special variety of rapidly growing wheat) is sown. Not one day is lost in putting it in. The potato-field may consist of one or two acres only, but as soon as one-fourth part of it is cleared of the potatoes it is sown with the second crop. One may thus see a small field divided into four plots, three of which are sown with wheat at five or six days' distance from each other, while on the fourth plot the potatoes are being dug out.
The admirable condition of the meadows and the grazing land in the Channel Islands has often been described, and although the aggregate area which is given in Jersey to green crops, grasses under rotation, and permanent pasture --both for hay and grazing--is less than 11,000 acres, they keep in Jersey over 12,300 head of cattle and over 2,300 horses solely used for agriculture and breeding.
Moreover, about 100 bulls and 1,600 cows and heifers are exported every year,8 so that by this time, as was remarked in an American paper, there are more Jersey cows in America than in Jersey Island. Jersey milk and butter have a wide renown, as also the pears which are grown in the open air, but each of which is protected on the tree by a separate cap, and still more the fruit and vegetables which are grown in the hothouses. In a word, it will suffice to say that on the whole they obtain agricultural produce to the value of £50 to each acre of the aggregate surface of the island.
Fifty pounds' worth of agricultural produce from each acre of the land is sufficiently good. But the more we study the modern achievements of agriculture, the more we see that the limits of productivity of the soil are not attained, even in Jersey. New horizons are continually unveiled. For the last fifty years science--especially chemistry--and mechanical skill have been widening and extending the industrial powers of man upon organic and inorganic dead matter. Prodigies have been achieved in that direction. Now comes the turn of similar achievements with living plants. Human skill in the treatment of living matter, and science--in its branch dealing with living organisms--step in with the intention of doing for the art of food-growing what mechanical and chemical skill have done in the art of fashioning and shaping metals, wood and the dead fibers of plants. Almost every year brings some new, often unexpected improvement in the art of agriculture, which for so many centuries had been dormant.
We just saw that while the average potato crop in the country is six tons per acre, in Jersey it is nearly twice as big. But Mr. Knight, whose name is well known to every horticulturist in this country, has once dug out of his fields no less than 1,284 bushels of potatoes, or thirty-four tons and nine cwts. in weight, on one single acre; and at a recent competition in Minnesota 1,120 bushels, or thirty tons, could be ascertained as having been grown on one acre.
These are undoubtedly extraordinary crops, but quite recently the French Professor Aime Girard undertook a series of experiments in order to find out the best conditions for growing potatoes in his country.9 He did not care for show-crops obtained by means of extravagant manuring, but carefully studied all conditions: the best variety, the depth of tilling and planting, the distance between the plants. Then he entered into correspondence with some 350 growers in different parts of France, advised them by letters, and finally induced them to experiment. Strictly following his instructions, several of his correspondents made experiments on a small scale, and they obtained, --instead of the three tons which they were accustomed to grow--such crops as would correspond to twenty and thirty-six tons to the acre. Moreover, ninety growers experimented on fields more than one-quarter of an acre in size, and more than twenty growers made their experiments on larger areas of from three to twenty-eight acres. The result was that none of them obtained less than twelve tons to the acre, while some obtained twenty tons, and the average was, for the 110 growers, fourteen and a half tons per acre.
However, industry requires still heavier crops. Potatoes are largely used in Germany and Belgium for distilleries; consequently, the distillery owners try to obtain the greatest possible amounts of starch from the acre. Extensive experiments have lately been made for that purpose in Germany, and the crops were: Nine tons per acre for the poor sorts, fourteen tons for the better ones, and thirty-two and four-tenths tons for the best varieties of potatoes.
Three tons to the acre and more than thirty tons to the acre are thus the ascertained limits; and one necessarily asks oneself: Which of the two requires less labor in tilling, planting, cultivating and digging, and less expenditure in manure--thirty tons grown on ten acres, or the same thirty tons grown on one acre or two? If labor is of no consideration, while every penny spent in seeds and manure is of great importance, as is unhappily very often the case with the peasant--he will perforce choose the first method. But is it the most economic?
Again, I just mentioned that in the Saffelare district and Jersey they succeed in keeping one head of horned cattle to each acre of green crops, meadows and pasture land, while elsewhere two or three acres are required for the same purpose. But better results still can be obtained by means of irrigation, either with sewage or even with pure water. In England, farmers are contented with one and a half and two tons of hay per acre, and in the part of Flanders just mentioned, two and a half tons of hay to the acre are considered a fair crop. But on the irrigated fields of the Vosges, the Vaucluse, etc., in France, six tons of dry hay become the rule, even upon ungrateful soil; and this means considerably more than the annual food of one milch cow (which can be taken at a little less than five tons) grown on each acre. All taken, the results of irrigation have proved so satisfactory in France that during the years 1862-1882 no less than 1,355,000 acres of meadows have been irrigated,10 which means that the annual meat-food of at least 1,500,000 full-grown persons, or more, has been added to the yearly income of the country; homegrown, not imported. In fact, in the valley of the Seine, the value of the land was doubled by irrigation; in the Saône valley it was increased five times, and ten times in certain landes of Brittany.11
The example of the Campine district, in Belgium, is classical. It was a most unproductive territory--mere sand from the sea, blown into irregular mounds which were only kept together by the roots of the heath; the acre of it used to be sold, not rented, at from 5s. to 7s. (15 to 20 francs per hectare). But now it is capable, thanks to the work of the Flemish peasants and to irrigation, to produce the food of one milch cow per acre--the dung of the cattle being utilized for further improvements.
The irrigated meadows round Milan are another well-known example. Nearly 22,000 acres are irrigated there with water derived from the sewers of the city, and they yield crops of from eight to ten tons of hay as a rule; occasionally some separate meadows will yield the fabulous amount --fabulous to-day, but no longer fabulous tomorrow--of eighteen tons of hay per acre, that is, the food of nearly four cows to the acre, and nine times the yield of good meadows in this country.12 However, English readers need not go so far as Milan for ascertaining the results of irrigation by sewer water. They have several such examples in this country, in the experiments of Sir John Lawes, and especially at Craigentinny, near Edinburgh, where, to use Ronna's words, "the growth of rye grass is so activated that it attains its full development in one year instead of in three to four years. Sown in August, it gives a first crop in autumn, and then, beginning with next spring, a crop of four tons to the acre is taken every month; which represents in the fourteen months more than fifty-six tons (of green fodder) to the acre."13 At Lodge Farm they grow forty to fifty-two tons of green crops per acre, after the cereals, without new manuring. At Aldershot they obtain excellent potato crops; and at Romford (Breton's Farm) Colonel Hope obtained, in 1871-1872, quite extravagant crops of various roots and potatoes.14
It can thus be said that while at the present time we give two and three acres for keeping one head of horned cattle, and only in a few places one head of cattle is kept on each acre given to green crops, meadows and pasture, man has already in irrigation (which very soon repays when it is properly made) the possibility of keeping twice and even thrice as many head of cattle to the acre over parts of his territory. Moreover, the very heavy crops of roots which are now obtained (seventy-five to 110 tons of beetroot to the acre are not infrequent) give another powerful means for increasing the number of cattle without taking the land from what is now given to the culture of cereals.
Another new departure in agriculture, which is full of promises and probably will upset many a current notion, must be mentioned in this place. I mean the almost horticultural treatment of our corn crops, which is widely practiced in the far East, and begins to claim our attention in Western Europe as well.
At the First International Exhibition, in 1851, Major Hallett, of Manor House, Brighton, had a series of very interesting exhibits which he described as "pedigree cereals." By picking out the best plants of his fields, and by submitting their descendants to a careful selection from year to year, he had succeeded in producing new prolific varieties of wheat and barley. Each grain of these cereals, instead of giving only two to four ears, as is the usual average in a cornfield, gave ten to twenty-five ears, and the best ears, instead of carrying from sixty to sixty-eight grains, had an average of nearly twice that number of grains.
In order to obtain such prolific varieties Major Hallett naturally could not sow his picked grains broadcast; he planted them, each separately, in rows, at distances of from ten to twelve inches from each other. In this way he found that each grain, having full room for what is called "tillering" (tallage in French15), would produce ten, fifteen, twenty-five, and even up to ninety and 100 ears, as the case may be; and as each ear would contain from 60 to 120 grains, crops of 500 to 2,500 grains, or more, could be obtained from each separately planted grain. He even exhibited at the Exeter meeting of the British Association three plants of wheat, barley, and oats, each from a single grain, which had the following number of stems: wheat, ninety-four stems; barley, 110 stems; oats, eighty-seven stems.16 The barley plant which had 110 stems thus gave something like 5,000 to 6,000 grains from one single grain. A careful drawing of that wonderful stubble was made by Major Hallett's daughter and circulated with his pamphlets.17 Again, in 1876, a wheat plant, with "105 heads growing on one root, on which more than 8,000 grains were growing at once," was exhibited at the Maidstone Farmers' Club.18
Two different processes were thus involved in Hallett's experiments: a process of selection, in order to create new varieties of cereals, similar to the breeding of new varieties of cattle; and a method of immensely increasing the crop from each grain and from a given area, by planting each seed separately and wide apart, so as to have room for the full development of the young plant, which is usually suffocated by its neighbors in our corn-fields.19
The double character of Major Hallett's method--the breeding of new prolific varieties, and the method of culture by planting the seeds wide apart-- seems, however, so far as I am entitled to judge, to have been overlooked until quite lately. The method was mostly judged upon its results; and when a farmer had experimented upon "Hallett's Wheat," and found out that it was late in ripening in his own locality, or gave a less perfect grain than some other variety, he usually did not care more about the method.20 However, Major Hallett's successes or non-successes in breeding such or such varieties are quite distinct from what is to be said about the method itself of selection, or the method of planting wheat seeds wide apart. Varieties which were bred, and which I saw grown still at Manor Farm, on the windy downs of Brighton may be, or may not be, suitable to this or that locality. Latest physiological researches give such an importance to evaporation in the bringing of cereals to maturity that where evaporation is not so rapid as it is on the Brighton Downs, other varieties must be resorted to and bred on purpose.21 I should also suggest that quite different wheats than the English ought to be experimented upon for obtaining prolific varieties; namely, the quickly-growing Norwegian wheat, the Jersey "three months' wheat," or even Yakutsk barley, which matures with an astonishing rapidity. And now that horticulturists, so experienced in "breeding" and "crossing" as Vilmorin, Carter, Sherif, W. Saunders in Canada and many others are, have taken the matter in hand, we may feel sure that future progress will be made. But breeding is one thing; and the planting wide apart of seeds of an appropriate variety of wheat is quite another thing.
This last method was lately experimented upon by M. Grandeau, Director of the Station Agronomique de l'Est, and by M. Florimond Dessprèz at the experimental station of Capelle; and in both cases the results were most remarkable. At this last station a method which is in use in France for the choice of seeds was applied. Already now some French farmers go over their wheat fields before the crop begins, choose the soundest plants which bear two or three equally strong stems, adorned with long ears, well stocked with grains, and take these ears. Then they crop off with scissors the top and the bottom of each ear and keep its middle part only, which contains the biggest seeds. With a dozen quarts of such selected grains they obtain next year the required quantity of seeds of a superior quality.22
The same was done by M. Dessprèz. Then each seed was planted separately, eight inches apart in a row, by means of a specially devised tool, similar to the rayonneur which is used for planting potatoes; and the rows, also eight inches apart, were alternately given to the big and to the smaller seeds. One-fourth part of an acre having been planted in this way, with seeds obtained from both early and late ears, crops corresponding to 83.8 bushels per acre for the first series, and 90.4 bushels for the second series, were obtained; even the small grains gave in this experiment as much as 70.2 and 62 bushels respectively.23
The crop was thus more than doubled by the choice of seeds and by planting them separately eight inches apart. It corresponded in Dessprèz's experiments to 600 grains obtained on the average from each grain sown; and one-tenth or one-eleventh part of an acre was sufficient in such case to grow the eight and a half bushels of wheat which are required on the average for the annual bread food per head of a population which would chiefly live on bread.
Prof. Grandeau, Director of the French Station Agronomique de l'Est, has also made, since 1886, experiments on Major Hallett's method, and he obtained similar results. "In a proper soil," he wrote, "one single grain of wheat can give as much as fifty stems (and ears), and even more, and thus cover a circle thirteen inches in diameter."24 But as he seems to know how difficult it often is to convince people of the plainest facts, he published the photographs of separate wheat plants grown in different soils, differently manured, including pure river sand enriched by manure.25 He concluded that under proper treatment 2,000 and even 4,000 grains could be easily obtained from each planted grain. The seedlings, growing from grains planted ten inches apart, cover the whole space, and the experimental plot takes the aspect of an excellent cornfield, as may be seen from a photograph given by Grandeau in his Etudes agronomiques.26
In fact, the eight and a half bushels required for one man's annual food were actually grown at the Tomblaine station on a surface of 2,250 square feet, or forty-seven feet square--that is, on very nearly one-twentieth part of an acre.
Again, we may thus say, that where we require now three acres, one acre would be sufficient for growing the same amount of food, if planting wide apart were resorted to. And there is, surely, no more objection to planting wheat than there is to sowing in rows, which is now in general use, although at the time when the system was first introduced, in lieu of the formerly usual mode of sowing broadcast, it certainly was met with great distrust. While the Chinese and the Japanese used for centuries to sow wheat in rows, by means of a bamboo tube adapted to the plow, European writers objected, of course, to this method under the pretext that it would require too much labor. It is the same now with planting each seed apart. Professional writers sneer at it, although all the rice that is grown in Japan is planted and even replanted. Everyone, however, who will think of the labor which must be spent for plowing, harrowing, fencing, and keeping free of weeds three acres instead of one, and who will calculate the corresponding expenditure in manure, will surely admit that all advantages are in favor of the one acre as against the three acres, to say nothing of the possibilities of irrigation or of the planting machine-tool, which will be devised as soon as there is a demand for it.27
More than that, there is full reason to believe that even this method is liable to further improvement by means of replanting. Cereals in such cases would be treated as vegetables are treated in horticulture. Such is, at least, the idea which began to germinate since the methods of cereal culture that are resorted to in China and Japan became better known in Europe. (See Appendix 0.)
The future--a near future, I hope--will show what practical importance such a method of treating cereals may have. But we need not speculate about that future. We have already, in the facts mentioned in this chapter, an experimental basis for quite a number of means of improving our present methods of culture and of largely increasing the crops. It is evident that in a book which is not intended to be a manual of agriculture, all I can do is to give only a few hints to set people thinking for themselves upon this subject. But the little that has been said is sufficient to show that we have no right to complain of over-population, and no need to fear it in the future. Our means of obtaining from the soil whatever we want, under any climate and upon any soil, have lately been improved at such a rate that we cannot foresee yet what is the limit of productivity of a few acres of land. The limit vanishes in proportion to our better study of the subject, and every year makes it vanish further and further from our sight.
|Wheat crop in
2 In a recent evaluation, M. Augé-Laribé (L'evolution de la France. agricole, Paris, 1912) arrives at the following figures:--
|Years.||Area under wheat.
|Years.||Area under wheat.
The average crops for each ten years since 1834 are given as follows:--
|Years||Crops in bushels.||Years.||Crops in bushels|
The wheat crop has thus increased in seventy-five years by 74 per cent., while the population increased only by 20 per cent. For potatoes, the increase is still greater: while 198,800,000 cwt. of potatoes were grown in 1882, the crop of 1909 was already 328,300,000 cwt., the average yield of the acre growing from 148 cwt. in 1882 to 212 cwt. in 1909.
3 Grandeau, Etudes agronomiques, 2e série. Paris, 1888.
4 Although 36 per cent. of the cultivable area is under cereals, there were in Denmark, in 1910, 2,253,980 head of cattle, as against 1,238,900 in 1871, and 1,470,100 in 1882.
5 Risler, Physiologie et Culture du Blé. Paris, 1886. Taking the whole of the wheat crop in France, we see that the following progress has been realized. In 1872-1881 the average crop was 16.5 bushels per acre. In 1882-1890 it attained 17.9 bushels per acre. Increase by 14 per cent. in ten years (Prof. C. V. Garola, Les Céréales, p. 70 seq.).
6 O. de Kerchove de Denterghen, La petite Culture des Flanders belges, Gand, 1878.
7 One could not insist too much on the collcctive character of the development of that branch of husbandry. In many places of the South coast of England early potatoes can also be grown--to say nothing of Cornwall and South Devon, where potatoes are obtained by separate laborers in small quantities as early as they are obtained in Jersey. But so long as this culture remains the work of isolated growers, its results must necessarily be inferior to those which the Jersey peasants obtain through their collective experience. For the technical details concerning potato-culture in Jersey, see a paper by a Jersey grower in the Journal of Horticulture, 22nd and 29th May, 1890. Considerable progress has been made lately in Cornwall, especially in the neighborhood of Penzance, in the development of potato-growing and intensive market-gardening, and one may hope that the successes of these growers will incite others to imitate their example.
8 See Appendix L.
9 See the Annales agronomiques for 1892 and 1893; also Journal des Economistes, février, 1893, p. 215.
10 Barral in Journal d'Agriculture pratique, 2 février, 1889; Boitel, Herbages et Prairies naturelles, Paris, I887.
11 The increase of the crops due to irrigation is most instructive. In the most unproductive Sologne, irrigation has increased the hay crop from two tons per hectare (two and a half acres) to eight tons; in the Vendée, from four tons of bad hay to ten tons of excellent hay. In the Ain, M. Puris, having spent 19,000 francs for irrigating ninety-two and a half hectares (about £2 10s. per acre), obtained an increase of 207 tons of excellent hay. In the south of France, a net increase of over four bushels of wheat per acre is easily obtained by irrigation; while for market gardening the increase was found to attain £30 to £40 per acre. (See H. Sagnìer, "Irrigation," in Barral's Dictionnaire d'Agriculture, vol. iii., p. 339.) I hardly need mention the striking results obtained lately by irrigation in Egypt and on the dry plateaus of the United States.
12Dictionnaire d'Agriculture, same article. See also Appendix M.
13 Ronna. Les Irrigations. vol. iii, p. 67. Paris, 1890.
14 Prof. Ronna gives the following figures of crops per acre: Twenty-eight tons of potatoes, sixteen tons of mangolds, 105 tons of beet, 110 tons of carrots, nine to twenty tons of various cabbage, and so on.--Most remarkable results seem also to have been obtained by M. Goppart, by growing green fodder for ensilage. See his work, Manuel de la Culture des Maïs et autres Fourrages verts, Paris, 1877.
15 "Shortly after the plant appears above ground it commences to throw out new and distinct stems, upon the first appearance of which a correspondent root-bud is developed for its support, and while the new stems grow out flat over the surface of the soil, their respective roots assume a corresponding development beneath it. This process, called 'tillering,' will continue until the season arrives for the stems to assume an upright growth." The less the roots have been interfered with by overcrowding the better will be the ears (Major Hallett, "Thin Seeding," etc.).
16 Paper on " Thin Seeding and the Selection of Seed," read before the Midland Farmers' Club, 4th June, 1874.
17 "Pedigree Cereals," 1889. Paper on "Thin Seeding," etc., just mentioned. Abstracts from The Times, etc., 1862. Major Hallett contributed, moreover, several papers to the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society, and one to The Nineteenth Century.
18Agricultural Gazette, 3rd January, 1876. Ninety ears, some of which contained as many as 132 grains each, were also obtained in New Zealand.
19 It appears from many different experiments (mentioned in Prof. Garola's excellent work, Les Céréales, Paris, 1892) that when tested seeds (of which no more than 6 per cent. are lost on sowing) are sown broadcast, to the amount of 500 seeds per square meter (a little more than one square yard), only 148 of them give plants. Each plant gives in such case from two to four stems and from two to four ears, but nearly 360 seeds are entirely lost. When sown in rows, the loss is not so great, but it is still considerable.
20 See Prof. Garola's remarks on "Hallett's Wheat," which, by the way, seems to be well known to farmers in France and Germany (Les Céréales, p. 337).
21 Besides, Hallett's wheat must not be sown later than the first week of September. Those who may try experiments with planted wheat must be especially careful to make the experiments in open fields, not in a back garden, and to sow early.
22 Upon this method of selecting seeds opinions are, however, at variance among agriculturists.
23 The straw was eighty-three and seventy-seven cwts. per acre in the first case; fifty-nine and forty-nine cwts. in the second case (Garola, Les Céréales). In his above-mentioned paper on "Thin Seeding," Major Hallett mentions a crop at the rate of 108 bushels to the acre, obtained by planting nine inches apart.
24 L. Grandeau, Etudes agronomiques, 3e série, 1887-1888, p. 43. This series is still continued by one volume every year.
25 On one of these photographs one sees that in a soil improved by chemical manure only, seventeen stems from each grain are obtained; with organic manure added to the former, twenty-five stems were obtained.
26 Most interesting experiments for obtaining new sorts of wheat, combining the qualities of Canadian wheat with those of the best British sorts, are being carried on now at the Cambridge University. Similar experiments have been made in Germany by F. von Lochow, at Petkno, in order to produce new races of rye rich in gluten and prolific. These last experiments were made on Mr. Hallett's method, and the results were satisfaotory, as it appears from a report published in Fuehling's Landwirthschaftliche Zeitung, Leipzig, January and February, 1900, pp. 29 and 54.
27 See Appendix N.
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