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and many other plants which we cultivate as grasses, were not known there as cultivated plants at that time. Our forefathers, the Pilgrims and Puritans, were compelled, by the severity of the climate, to provide for much more abundant winter-supplies than their fathers before them had done. Now, the first step of progress which they made was to collect the seeds of grasses on the barn-floor and under the hay-stacks, and sow such collections. They followed that up for some time. The next step which they made was to sow a small quantity of seeds of some of the grasses which they thought most desirable, upon the ground which they had cultivated in their hoed crops. That was practised for many years before they made any farther progress. We have improved considerably upon that. But there is another great step of progress which we must now take; and that is, to select a much larger number of varieties than we have hitherto been accustomed to select, and to sow them more abundantly. St. Paul, you know, says that “he that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully,” and that seems to be good doctrine. Now, what has been our custom in that respect? With our fathers, the practice was to sow about twelve quarts to the acre. Many farmers now sow a larger quantity of seed, when reckoned by measure. But grass-seeds differ very much in weight. A bushel of one kind will contain a vastly greater number of seeds than a bushel of some other kinds. Now, what I wish to suggest is, to select, in the first place, a much greater number of varieties. That, I think, is one of the great points which we should bear in mind. For mowing-lots, I would select grasses that blossom about the same time. I would sow the early grasses by themselves, and the late grasses by themselves. The common custom has been to sow only clover, Timothy, and red-top. Sometimes a farmer has sown with them a little orchard-grass. But orchard-grass blossoms three or four weeks earlier than Timothy, and clover two or three weeks, at least, earlier than Timothy or red-top ; so that when you sow clover, orchardgrass, Timothy, and red-top together, your orchard-grass and clover are ready to cut before the Timothy and red-top will be headed out at all, to say nothing of their being in blossom. And many farmers will hesitate before putting in the scythe when these grasses are in that condition. They want to wait a little while; and, if they wait long enough for the red-top and Timothy to be ready to cut, the orchard-grass has become comparatively worthless; for it has gone to seed, and become hard and woody, and just about as indigestible as a chestnut rail. I do not believe there is any nutriment to be found in it when in that condition ; and, if you should leave it to the judgment and taste of your cows, they would come to the same conclusion. They know what is good for them much better than we do. Now, supposing a man should make up his mind that he will have all the early grasses together, as far as practicable, and all his late grasses together, then he can commence his haying, in some cases, by the middle of June; and he will not be anxious about the condition of his later-fields, because he knows that they will be improving for a few days longer. He is not, therefore, hurried. He has greater command of his labor, and can take it leisurely: whereas, if his grasses come into condition about the same time, he knows, that, before he can get through mowing, some of his grasses will be entirely too ripe to be in their most nutritive and best condition; so that there are some advantages in making this division, — sowing the early grasses by themselves, and the late grasses by themselves. Orchard-grass is one of the earliest varieties. Then we have the June or Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye-grass, not quite so early as orchard-grass, but considerably earlier than Timothy, the meadow-fescue, and perhaps the tall oat-grass. With these we can sow red and alsike clover advantageously. We ought to devote more attention to clover than we generally do. I know very well that most of our farmers raise it to some extent, perhaps, in some cases, to as great an extent as is advisable; but, taking the State over, I do not believe we fully appreciate the value of clover, or give sufficient attention to it. Clover is a very peculiar plant. It is a plant which really fertilizes and improves the soil, rather than the reverse. You know that if corn, or any of our ordinary crops, is allowed to ripen its seed, it is exhausting to the soil. It takes out a great many of the fertilizing elements from the soil to build up its structure; and the soil is, of course, exhausted in proportion to that extraction. Clover is an exception to other crops in that respect. It not only stores up in its roots a large amount of nitrogen, but if it is allowed to stand to be cut for hay, and especially if it is allowed to ripen its seed, it adds a vast amount of nitrogenous elements to the soil through the falling and the decay of its leaves. It is a wonderful exception, in that respect, to our cultivated grasses and other crops. The roots of clover extend down deep, as you know, and get a considerable portion of their sustenance from the subsoil. Then all these broad-leaved plants derive a large proportion of their nutriment from the atmosphere. These elements are stored up, partly in the stalk, partly in the root, and, to a much larger extent, in the soil itself, while the clover remains in it. A careful investigation has shown that an ordinary fair average acre of clover-roots will contain over fifty pounds of nitrogen or nitrogenous compounds; and the soil itself, after the clover-crop has been cut for hay, or allowed to ripen its seed, is filled with nitrogen and its compounds to a much greater extent than it would be by applying a full and complete dressing of nitrate of soda, or any other nitrogenous manure on the surface in the spring. It is a remarkable fact, that while clover takes out of the soil as much, perhaps, of some of the elements of fertility as our other crops (more than wheat or other cereals), it leaves in it a much larger proportion of nitrogen and nitrogenous elements than any other crop. It is a fact which a great many observing farmers in England and this country have noticed, that, after a crop of clover, a grain-crop will grow better than it will after any other crop. The question was asked, Why is it? and how does it happen? Professor Voelcker, one of the best authorities in the world on agricultural chemistry, took pains to investigate very carefully and thoroughly in order to be able to answer that question. He arrived at these conclusions: —
1. That a good crop of clover removes from the soil more potash, more phosphoric acid, more lime, and other mineral matters which enter into the composition of the ashes of our cultivated crops, than any other crop usually grown in the country.
2. There is fully three times as much nitrogen in a crop of clover as in the average produce of the grain and straw of wheat per acre.
3. Notwithstanding the large amount of nitrogenous matter, and of the ash constituents of plants in the produce of an acre, clover is an excellent preparatory crop for wheat. 4. During the growth of clover a large amount of nitrogenous matter accumulates in the soil. 5. This accumulation, which is greatest in the surface-soil, is due to decaying leaves dropped during the growth of clover, and to an abundance of roots, containing, when dry, from one and three-quarters to two per cent of nitrogen. 6. The clover-roots are stronger and more numerous, and more leaves fall on the ground, when clover is grown for seed than when it is mown for hay. In consequence, more nitrogen is left after clover-seed than after hay, which accounts for wheat yielding a better crop after clover-seed than after hay. You see that is a most important consideration; for if you can get a good crop of clover, and have your ground left in better condition than before for wheat, or any other graincrop, that is so much clear gain, is it not? 7. The development of roots being checked when the produce in a green condition is fed off by sheep, in all probability leaves still less nitrogenous matter in the soil than when clover is allowed to get riper, and is mown for hay. Notwithstanding the return of the produce in the sheep-excrements, wheat is generally stronger, and yields better, after clover mown for hay than when the clover is fed off green by sheep. Notwithstanding all the excrements which are left by feeding clover green by sheep, the soil is decidedly better for a wheat-crop, if the clover is allowed to go to seed, than it would be if the clover were cropped green by any number of sheep. That is an important fact. 8. The nitrogenous matters in the clover-remains on their gradual decay are finally transformed into nitrates, thus affording a continuous source of food, on which cereal crops specially delight to grow. There is another important consideration: that is, you apply the Stockbridge Fertilizer, nitrate of soda, or any other form of nitrate, in the spring, as most farmers would apply a special fertilizer, and all that you may apply is not so valuable for a grass-crop or for a grain-crop as the nitrogen which is left after a crop of clover, either cut for hay or ripened for seed.
The amount of nitrogen left by a crop of clover in the soil was carefully investigated by Professor Voelcker, and he found that it was from two and a half to three tons per acre. He found, that, on soils where clover had been grown, not only is all that nitrogen collected and stored up in the soil by the clover, but it is left, when spring arrives, in a vastly better condition to take and carry on a grain-crop than any fertilizer which can be applied in the spring, — a most important consideration. These investigations were made at different depths of soil: in the first place an upper layer of six inches, then the next six inches below that, then six inches below that. Eighteen inches of soil were carefully collected and analyzed by Professor Voelcker with great care. Now, I know of no better or more economical way of obtaining and supplying nitrogen to the soil than that. It seems to me important that farmers should realize that clover is not only a very important crop of itself to raise, but that it vastly improves their land. Bear in mind that this nitrogen, when it is left by your crop one season, is changed into , nitrates, – nitrate of ammonia, nitrate of potash, and other forms of nitrate, – which are available immediately, when spring opens, for the use of your crops. You may apply a fertilizer in the spring, and, if the rains come on, very well; but, supposing you have a drought, what are you going to do then 2 A dry spring is very hard upon special fertilizers. But the nitrogen left in the soil by a clover-crop is changed, during the decay of the roots of the clover and the organic matter of the decaying leaves, into the form of nitrate, which is just the form available for the use of your plants. Allow me to say a word in regard to the alsike, or Swedish clover. I had great hopes, when the alsike was introduced, some ten or fifteen years ago, that it was to be a very great acquisition. I took pains to experiment with it, and sowed it with red clover and with mixtures of grass-seeds, on different soils, and continued to study it with considerable care. The seed was higher than red clover at that time; and it discouraged a great many farmers from using it; but it is lower now. A pound of alsike clover contains a vastly greater number of seeds than a pound of red clover; and that ought
to reconcile us to paying more for the seed than we pay for