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There the pistillate flowers are at the top of the stalk, and the staminate flowers below; so that the pollen, contrary to the other example, must rise to fertilize the germ. Then there is another class of grasses, which may be called polygamous grasses, where a portion of the flowers will be wholly staminate, another portion wholly pistillate, and another and larger portion perfect, including both sexes. A few of the grasses belong to this class; for instance, some species of the panic-grasses, and a few of the wood-grasses, called andropogon by the botanists. But by far the greater number, almost the whole, of our natural and cultivated grasses and grains, have perfect flowers; that is, the staminate and pistillate flowers are arranged together, and fertilization takes place in many cases before the flower opens. Those are what are called perfect flowers, where the pistils and stamens are arranged together in the same covering, and where the two parts come to maturity at the same time. Of course cross-fertilization, or fertilization from other species, could not take place in such plants; and hybridization does not take place, as it does when different varieties of Indian-corn grow near each other. Now, with regard to these perfect-flowered plants, which constitute by far the larger portion of our natural grasses, there are some peculiar circumstances which might make cross-fertilization possible. In a few of them the stigmas are thrust out of the covering before the stamens; and they will retain their fertilizing power, their freshness, but a very short time. They must get their pollen from flowers already opened. Take, for instance, our common swees-scented vernal-grass. There the stigmas are thrust out before the stamens appear, and they must be fertilized by flowers which have previously opened before the pollen appears in its own flowers. I think there are one or two other species of grasses of that kind, as the meadow-foxtail. The reed canary-grass is another example where the stigma is thrust out before the stamen appears; but, in that case, the stigma retains its freshness longer than in the case of the sweet-scented vernal-grass. Possibly cross-fertilization might take place in such a plant as that ; but practically I should say that cross-fertilization would not be possible in most of our natural grasses, though it is very common in Indian-corn.
I think that answers the question sufficiently. At one o'clock the Board adjourned to two, P.M.
The meeting was called to order at two o'clock; and the secretary of the Board was introduced, who spoke as follows, On
THE GRASS AND HAY CROP.
BY CHARLEs L. FLINT.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, – In my Fourth Annual Report to the Legislature, in 1856, now more than twenty years ago, I devoted over two hundred and thirty pages to a consideration of the grass and hay crop, discussing it in all its bearings. I do not propose, of course, to travel over the same ground now. The most I can expect to do is to glance at a few of the more striking points in which we have made decided progress since then, and to point out, in a somewhat desultory way, how we may increase the quantity, and improve the quality, of our grass and hay crop.
I need not, I am sure, stop to enlarge upon the importance of the subject. I need not remind you that the grass-crop lies at the very foundation of all our prosperity and success as farmers in this northern latitude. I need not say that a greater extent of land is devoted to it, that a greater value is realized from it, than from any one crop, not excepting cotton: I might almost say, than from all other crops put together. You know, that, before the late Rebellion, our Southern brethren were accustomed to boast that cotton was king; but I claim, that, if any precedence is due to any one cultivated crop over another, that claim, of right, belongs rather to the grass and hay crop. I will not attempt to prove that no successful, profitable, and progressive system of farming can be carried on without the use of manure, no matter what the climate may be, and that we depend, to a very large extent, upon the grass and hay crop for that great basis of all successful cultivation of the soil.
The great besetting sin of New-England farming has been,
that we have robbed our grass-land to feed our hoed crops and our arable lands. We have done it persistently, almost from the first settlement of the country, certainly until a very recent period; and here and there we do it even now. It is a source of some satisfaction, I am sure, to such an intelligent body of farmers as this, to feel that we have now made a turn ; that, taking New England over, we are improving gradually, and perhaps as rapidly as could be expected in the other direction. Thoughtful, intelligent farmers have now come to the conclusion, that it is time to give more study, more attention, and more care, to their grasslands, and a little less perhaps, comparatively, to their cultivated lands. The old system of farming has now been abandoned on the best-managed farms, and ought to have been abandoned long ago. I remember perfectly well, don't you?— when the grass-crop was practically considered a secondary crop, and the manure made from it went to the ploughed lands. It was, in most cases, very poor manure at that, — manure that was coarse, that was full of the butts of cornstalks, that had lain leaching under the eaves of the barn for months, until all the soluble materials had disappeared. There was no barn-cellar in my neighborhood when I was a boy; and, if there had been, the value of it would not have been understood or appreciated. The common practice was, as you know, to select some piece of run-out grass-land, which the cows, perhaps, had gnawed bare, plough it up, and put in potatoes, – a very exhausting crop, — with the manure in the hill. The next year it was planted with corn, with a lot of white beans or bush-beans in each hill; and almost invariably a pumpkin-seed or two was stuck in with them. The manure in the hill was sufficient to give all those plants a brisk and rapid start at the outset; but they had no sooner left the manure in the hill than they were drawing upon the very heart and fertility of the soil itself. The third year the farmer would generally sow oats, and a little grass-seed with them. He would cut his oats some time in midsummer, or a little later; and, if the season happened to be favorable, the grasses would make out to sustain life; but in a great many cases, as you remember very well, we had severe droughts, that killed out all the young plants after the oats were harvested. The next year, if we happened to be reasonably fortunate, we had a feeble stand of grass, – Timothy and red-top, — which was cut, and then the field pastured to death all the fall. There was no economy, no profit, no lasting improvement of the land, in such a system as that. And yet you know — every farmer who was born and raised on a farm forty or fifty years ago knows—perfectly well, that such was the almost universal practice. What wonder that our grass-lands were run out until an average hay-crop was less than a ton to the acres
I say we have made some progress, some improvement, since then, a decided improvement. The popular notions in regard to the comparative value of the grass and hay crop, and the hoed or cultivated crops, have considerably changed in the last twenty years; so that, from having been accustomed to raise less than a ton to the acre, we are now raising something over a ton; and we must take hold and see if we cannot double it. How are we going to do it?
In the first place, I should say, by a greatly improved tillage of our lands and by under-draining. On the first point, the matter of tillage, I shall have something to say hereafter. As to the matter of under-draining, it has been very thoroughly discussed in my Report for 1871, and in several other Reports, by Col. Waring and others, who have gone very minutely into the question of how it should be done, the profits of it, &c.; so that I need not stop to dwell upon that point here.
I should say, in the second place, by a greater quantity, and especially a greater variety, of grass-seed in our mixtures. You know our forefathers, the Pilgrims and Puritans, sowed no grass-seed whatever. They relied upon the spontaneous productions of the soil, upon the salt-marshes lying along the seashore, or upon the bogs, swamps, or swales farther inland; and you know, if you recollect the early history of these colonies, that the towns along the seashore — Plymouth, Duxbury with its large extent of salt-marshes, Marshfield with its two thousand acres or more of open salt-marsh, Hingham, Charlestown at that time abundantly supplied with salt-marshes, Lynn, Ipswich, Newbury, all shore-towns — were settled among the first, because they afforded extensive facilities for the use of the natural productions of the saltmarshes. *
The settlement of our inland towns was almost analogous to that. It is but a short time since I visited a great bowlder in the town of Grafton, under the lee of which the first white man passed the winter; and it was under these circumstances, —and I mention the fact, simply because the history of the first settlement of that town is precisely the same as the history of scores of other towns, not only in Massachusetts, but in New Hampshire, and, I suppose, in other States, – the first white man went up from Marlborough to Grafton through the woods. There were gunners and venturesome scouts in those days, as there have been since, and they went off long distances through the forests; and wherever they found a large open swamp or marsh (what we call “meadows” in this part of the State), with a luxuriant growth of swale-grasses, they marked that spot. This man had gone up in the summer, and had found what he called “Broad Meadow; ” and he was so well pleased with the luxuriant grasses, that he went up and cut and stacked them; and in the fall he drove his cows up there, and kept them on the hay which had been cut in the summer. He drove them up to prevent them from starving, and to secure for himself the means of carrying his cows through the winter. . This is a single isolated case; but there are hundreds of others, where, if the facts were known, you would find that the existence of large swale-meadows accounts for the fact of the first settlement, and for the fact that one locality was settled before another whose natural advantages you would suppose were greater. These bogmeadows, or swale-lands, were considered, in the early days of the colonies, the most valuable part of the farm itself.
The early settlers sowed no grass-seed, I say, for some years. They had not been accustomed to it. The first European dwellers upon these shores had to endure untold hardships, privations, and dangers. They found a climate which they had never known before, a soil which the foot of white man had never trod, and natural productions with which they were not acquainted. The people in England, from which they emigrated, had not been acustomed, at that time, to grow and cut grasses for hay to anything like the extent that they have come to practise it since then. Red clover was not introduced into England as a cultivated plant until some years after the Pilgrims had left there; and white or Dutch clover,