American Agriculturist 4(2): 74-76. (1845)
EXPERIMENTS ON MR. PELL'S FARM
A B Allen

In a short and imperfect account which appeared in our last volume of the farm of Mr. Pell, in Ulster County, our readers will recollect we intimated, that we hoped at a future day to be able to give some of his valuable experiments to the public. We now commence, and shall continue them from month to month, trusting his example may be followed by other of our friends, and that from them also we may be allowed to record an account of the same in our pages.

CULTURE OF WHEAT.

First Experiment.— On the 1st of September, 1843, a field containing 20 acres was prepared for wheat. The seed used was the white flint, weighing 60 lbs. per bushel. It was prepared for sowing by soaking it in strong brine four hours, then drained through a sieve, and spread upon the barn floor, and a dry composition, highly fertilizing, sifted upon it, at the rate of one bushel of composition to ten of the seed wheat, which adhered to the seed as it dried. It was then sown at the rate of three bushels per acre, and 300 bushels of oyster-shell lime spread over the field, and the whole harrowed in together. Two men followed the harrow, one sowing clover seed, at the rate of a bushel per acre, and the other, on the same land, at the rate of half a bushel of timothy seed per acre. After that the ground was twice harrowed and rolled The wheat and grass grew luxuriantly during the following season, and presented throughout a perfectly healthy and deep green appearance. Adjoining this another field, containing 10 acres, was sown with the same kind of wheat, in a dry state. This land was not limed. The wheat grew well the next season until it blossomed, after which it appeared sickly. About this time the grain was formed, insects attacked it, and the crop was totally destroyed. The straw was covered with rust, and unfit for any purpose except manure. The wheat on the 20 acre lot was cut in the milk, commencing on Monday morning; on the Saturday following it was ground into flour. The grain weighed 64 1/2 lbs. per bushel, and was awarded a premium by the American Institute, as the best of forty-three parcels exhibited.

It was supposed by many farmers, that so large a quantity of lime as 300 bushels per acre would have injured the land, it being a sandy loam. The grass seed grew finely, and has yielded since three tons of hay per acre.

Second Experiment.— In September, 1843, a field of 30 acres was sown with prepared wheat, and top-dressed with charcoal dust, at the rate of 52 bushels per acre. It grew rapidly, was not attacked by rust, mildew or blight, when fields near it were almost destroyed. A small portion of the lot, which had received by accident a large supply of charcoal dust, produced at the rate of 781 bushels of wheat per acre. The grain was cut when the straw presented a yellow appearance four inches above the ground. At that stage of its growth, a milky substance could be expressed readily from the kernels, by gentle pressure of the forefinger and thumb. It was allowed to remain three days on the field, when it was carried to the barn and threshed out immediately. It weighed 64 lbs. per bushel, and sold for 12 1/2 cents above the market price by weight. A few acres were left standing, and cut three weeks after, when others in the neighborhood harvested their wheat. This proved small, shrivelled, and weighed 56 lbs. per bushel. The straw had lost its most nutritious substances, was much lighter than that cut earlier, and was consequently less valuable. Mr. Pell thinks that after the stem turns yellow near the ground (there being no connection between the root and the tassel), the kernel wastes daily. By early cutting, nearly all the saccharine matter is preserved in the straw, and it is thus rendered almost as valuable for fodder as hay. If the straw could be returned immediately to the field and plowed under, it would doubtless prove a more valuable manure than if concocted into excrement by passing through the animal, for this reason: by the analysis of Sprengel, it contains potash, soda, lime, magnesia, alumina with a trace of iron, silica, sulphuric acid, and chlorine. In passing through the animal it assists to form the whole animal economy; and as manure is devoid of a large portion of all the substances mentioned, the grain contains precisely the same substances, in different quantities. To prove this, Mr. Pell sowed some wheat on a pane of glass, and covered it with straw, not allowing any earth to come in contact with it. This grew as well as if it had been sown in earth, but unfortunately was destroyed by accident before it came to maturity. In France the same experiment was tried, and fully succeeded.

Third Experiment.— On the 9th of October, 1844, the tops from a potato field were gathered into a heap and burnt, and the ashes returned with a view of sowing wheat. The seed was then prepared thus: soaked four hours in brine that would buoy up an egg; then scalded with boiling, hot salt water mixed with pearl-ash passed through a sieve; distributed thinly over the barn floor, and a dry composition sifted on it, composed of the following substances. Oyster-shell lime; charcoal dust; oleaginous charcoal dust; ashes; Jersey blue sand; brown sugar; salt; Peruvian guano; silicate of potash; nitrate of soda; and sulphate of ammonia. After sprinkling this composition on the wheat, the sun was permitted to shine upon it half an hour, when the particles became as it were crystallized upon the grain. In this state it was sown at the rate of 2 1/2 bushels per acre, directly on the potato ground, from which the tops only had been removed, and plowed in to the depth of five inches; harrowed once; a bushel of timothy seed then sown to the acre, and harrowed twice. At the expiration of 15 days the wheat was so far above ground, as to be pronounced by a neighbor in advance of his which had been sown on the 1st of September, in the usual manner, without any preparation. Contiguous to this, prepared wheat was sown on carrot and turnip ground, the tops not having been removed, and plowed in together with like success. Another field adjoining, 3 bushels of wheat were sown per acre, in a dry state, on potato ground first plowed and harrowed, and after sowing, twice harrowed. The first parcel, although plowed in to the depth of 5 inches, was 2 1/2 inches high before the last appeared above ground.

The following composition of Mr. Pell's own compounding was then spread by hand broad cast over the whole field, at an expense of $3 per acre: stable manure; dry charcoal dust; hickory wood soot; bone dust; oleaginous charcoal dust; oyster-shell lime; decayed leaves; leached ashes; unleached ashes; guano; sal soda; nitrate of potash; fine salt; poudrette; horn shavings; refuse sugar; ammoniacal liquor; blood; sulphuric acid; magnesia; plaster of Paris; plaster from walls ground; decayed grass; decayed straw; decayed weeds; fish; refuse oil; sea weed; oxide of iron; and oxide of manganese. The object being to furnish food for the growing crop, every substance required for its sustenance was sought for in this composition. By Sprengelís analysis, all cereal grain, peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, turnips, clovers, and grasses, contain chlorine, potash, phosphoric acid, soda, sulphuric acid, lime, silica, magnesia, oxide of manganese, alumina, and oxide of iron, with the exception of wheat, which has no oxide of manganese, and but a small portion of iron.

Fourth Experiment.— On the 29th of October, 1844, eight bushels of wheat were sown to the acre on sod ground, and then plowed in beam deep and harrowed four times. The result of this will be given next fall.

If the two last above experiments should result favorably, the farmer will be enabled to use his corn, potato, and other root ground—which is always left in the best possible tilth by these crops—for wheat or rye, instead of allowing it to remain idle, as is the present custom, until the ensuing spring.

SOILING.

Treatment of Milch Cows.— During the summer, Mr. Pell's cows are kept in the barn yard and soiled. They are fed three times per day, at stated hours, and in addition to their ordinary food, receive at 12 o'clock each day eight quarts of wheat bran, wet with water The general feeding is dry hay, green grass, green corn stalks, occasionally a few potatoes, and salt whenever the cows feel a disposition for it. Water they have free access to at all times of the day and night, and should never be without it. An experiment was tried of giving the cows water only three times each day, immediately after eating their food, and they seemed satisfied. They were then constantly supplied, and drank freely nine times in one day, taking apparently as much at each draft as when allowed water only three times; so that, in reality, when permitted to drink only three times a day, they must have suffered much from thirst in the interims.

When the weather is very hot or rainy, the cows have sheds made partially under ground, into which they can retire and ruminate undisturbed. With this treatment they constantly take on fat, and secrete twice the quantity of milk that they would if allowed to run at large. During the past summer the cows gave an average of 16 quarts of milk daily, and in the fall were fit for the butcher. In winter they are kept in stalls in a warm barn, littered freely, as occasion requires, and daily curried and rubbed. When the weather is fine, they are turned into the barn-yard for exercise in the middle of the day. Twice a day they are fed cut oat and wheat straw, with a small quantity of bran sprinkled over it, for the sake of which they eat their allowance entirely up, and once a day cut hay; they are salted four times a week, and have roots, such as beets, carrots, potatoes, or turnips once a week. By cutting the straw and hay, cattle are enabled to eat their meal in 25 minutes; whereas, if uncut, they are engaged in masticating their food half the night, the labor and fatigue of which deprives them of the necessary lime required for their rest.

Advantages of thus Soiling Stock.— Mr. Pell carted from his barn-yard 230 loads of manure on the 10th of May, which was made in the preceding six months. On the 10th of November, from the same yard, he carted 236 loads more, averaging 30 bushels per load, made within the six months following the 10th of May. Five cows only were kept, which thus made 466 loads of good manure in one year. During the summer, leaves, straw, &c., were constantly thrown into the yard, and occasionally covered with charcoal dust. Each cow voided in six months 6,000 lbs. of urine, which was absorbed by the refuse, and its strength retained by the charcoal dust, gypsum, &c.; the manure, therefore, was intrinsically worth the New York city price, viz., $1 the wagon load, or $466.

In addition to making this great quantity of manure, the other advantages of soiling are: 1. No cross fences are required on the farm. 2. The cows give twice as much milk as when running at large. 3. They are fit for the shambles in the fall, being fat. 4. They are always ready to be milked. 5. They are never worried by being driven to and from the pasture. 6. They eat all the refuse grass, which would otherwise be lost. 7. Eight acres will keep them longer and better than 40 would depastured. 8. The fields are always in order, not being poached by their feet in wet weather. 9. The person is not much longer in cutting their food and giving it to them, than he would be in driving them to and from their pasture. 10. Manure enough is saved to pay the interest on a large farm. Numerous other good reasons might be given if the above are not considered sufficient.

The above experiment of Mr. Pell, showing the superiority of the soiling system, is strongly corroborated by others made in Europe, though probably unknown to Mr. P. when he commenced his. We quote from a speech recently made before a meeting of the Larne Farming Society, in Ireland, by Mr. Donaghy, Superintendent of the Agricultural Department of the Larne National School.

"Mr. Smith, of Deanston, a gentleman, whose scientific and practical knowledge, as an agriculturist, has placed him in the first rank of the improvers of the soil, is no mean authority in support of the soiling system. In the summer of 1841, he made an experiment on a dairy of twenty cows, pasturing the one-half and house-feeding the other. He selected them as equally as possible, in point of carcase, condition, and milking quality. The result of his experiment was, that the cows house-fed gave their milk more uniformly, and more plentifully, and continued throughout in excellent health, and improved in condition from 30s. to 40s. per head over those at pasture. The cows house-fed were kept on three-quarters of a statute acre each, whilst those that were pastured required one and a quarter acre of pasture, and a quarter acre of cut grass and vetches, making one acre and a-half for each; so that, upon the whole, about the one-half of the extent of ground necessary for the keep of cows at pasture, was sufficient for those kept in the house. I could adduce abundance of other proof, from equally respectable gentlemen, in support of the superiority of this system to that in general practice; but I shall content myself with merely saying, that if, according to Mr. Blacker, a gentleman who deserves the best thanks of the agricultural community, three cows could be kept on the same extent of ground as is at present required to keep one—and I have not the slightest doubt but that, by proper management, they could—the benefit thus resulting to the farming interest would be immense. But the increase of milk and butter consequent on its adoption, would not be the only resulting advantage—the increase of the manure heap would be equally advantageous. No farmer, I care not how good his practice in other respects may be, can farm profitably, without a plentiness of manure. Now, it has been calculated, on an average, that cows are not kept in the house, at present, more than eight hours each day, throughout the year. If such be the case, and I have no reason to question the correctness of the calculation, would not a cow, which is house-fed summer and winter, produce three times as much available manure as one pastured? If, then, according to Mr. Smith's opinion, two cows could be kept in the place of one, six times as much manure could be made—if Mr. Blacker's views be correct, nine times as much manure could be realized. I contend, therefore, that the general adoption of this system would do away with a great deal of the poverty, privations, and misery, with which the small farmers are at present beset. And how? By increasing the means of subsistence. If we look at Belgium, with a population of 321 to the square mile (and an inferior soil to ours), and compare the condition of its inhabitants with that of the inhabitants of our own country, in which the population does not exceed 263 to the square mile, the contrast, on our part, is melancholy. But the Belgians pursue a regular rotation of cropping, house-feed their cattle, keep urine tanks, &c.; and, by superior management, are in the enjoyment of a degree of comfort and happiness to which the lower classes of Irishmen are utter strangers."