Horticulture 7:53 January 11, 1908
MAINTAINING SOIL FERTILITY.
In the first lecture of the series before the Worcester County Horticultural Society, on January 2, Dr. L. A. Clinton, director of Storrs' Agricultural Experiment Station, Connecticut, said that ''the abandoned farms of New England show progress in New England agriculture. It speaks well for the New England farmer. These farms are not being abandoned because of lack of fertility of the soil, but simply because the cost of producing crops on these farms at the present time is too great and the farmers have discovered they can grow crops cheaper on other farms. When New England becomes densely populated somebody will grow crops on these fields that will surprise us.
"What is fertility? What is the measure of fertility? If we have a field that is fertile, what character does it possess that makes it fertile? If not fertile, what does it lack? What can we do to make it fertile? If we have good soil, how are we going to keep it fertile, so that it will be fertile for the next man and the next man?
"The problem of fertility and the measure of fertility is crop-producing power.
"Half of the successes in life do not come of the work you can do, but of the work you can have others do for you. Every farmer, gardener, or fruit grower has friends in the bacteria in the manure pile. As a matter of fact, not half the farmers think about these friends, the
Bacteria of the Soil,
who would like to do work for him if they would be let. Bacteria in the soil is something new. Ten years ago there was talk about bacteria in the milk, but nothing of bacteria in the soil."
Dr. Clinton then told about people who send samples of soil to experiment stations, asking them to analyze it and tell them what the soil needs. He explained that it isn't the farmer who has toiled 40 years that asks this question, but the city man who has gone to farming and who has read literature such as Harwood's "Wonders of Luther Burbank." He said a farmer would know that the experiment station can't tell them what their farm needs.
Dr. Clinton said he believes in underdraining a field if necessary and that he would take chances of a dry summer better with the field underdrained than not underdrained.
"The soil does not lose its fertility because of the plant soil which is removed with the crop we take from the soil," said Dr. Clinton. "All actual plant food could be returned at the expense of a few dollars in fertilizer." Dr. Clinton told the farmers, so far as possible to keep every foot of the farm covered with growing plants, all the time.
"When you take your corn off," said he, "have something else put right on there so it will be a growing plant and a covering on the ground all winter, beside the snow, to keep the soluble plant food and prevent its being drained off by the winter rain." He explained the great damage done by leaving a field exposed to winter rains when a covering of rye or any growing plant, even weeds, would protect it, and can be ploughed under and improve the soil.
Continuing, he said: "Now we all know the value of clover. Some people think clover can be grown in any field to bring it back, but that is not so. Clover grows well on fields that have good soil, and if clover grows in a field, you can be sure that that field is in good condition." Dr. Clinton explained that one of the best field coverings is rye.
"Suppose we find out that we have done all we can, and still something is needed. Then I say use fertilizers, but use them intelligently. In buying plant food I buy three things, nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash, and mix it in any quantity 1 want it. I don't let somebody mix it for me. In fertilizing my fields I bear in mind the crop I intend to grow."
Regarding the use of lime. Dr. Clinton said: "It is good under three conditions: First, if the field is deficient in lime, which isn't so often, as not one field in 10,000 is deficient in the lime necessary; secondly, if the ground is acid, an application of lime would change that; third, if the soil is clayey, then lime will remedy that."