Guardian, Volume 23 p. 245 (Aug 29, 1893)
THE CULTIVATION, HARVESTING, AND MARKETING OF BARLEY
W. J. Malden, Agricultural Superintendent, Royal Dublin Society
Change of Seed.—All plants grown on the farm are in an unnaturally developed state, and they are always endeavouring to hark back to their natural and more weed-like form. It is only by generous treatment and careful selection that the quality of the produce is maintained. There is one important direction in which deterioration should be prevented, and that is in not growing a particular lot too frequently on the same ground. The effect of want of change of soil for seed is very similar to that of inbreeding amongst animals. The growth becomes smaller; the plants are feeble and more liable to attacks of disease, and there is an uncertainty as to development. Barley grown without change of soil in course of time becomes very erratic in its growth; it germinates unevenly; the several seeds have very varying vigour; the ears on the same plants do not ripen at the same time; the kernels in many instances do not lose the red colour in their skin; they ripen so varyingly that the sample is not uniform; and no maltster can possibly make good malt from such. A change of soil and climate are both desirable; but a change of seed, even if it be but from a short distance, is very useful, and helps to maintain vigour.
There appear to be no very definite rules to guide us in our choice of locality and soil from which to obtain seed; but generally it is found advantageous to get the seed from a colder climate than that in which it is to be grown, though there are districts for which it is in the greater number of instances more beneficial to obtain seed from warmer localities. Scotch seed usually makes a good change to Ireland or England. Barley from gravel soils, as a rule, does well on soils rich in lime, and vice versa. Barley from peaty or fen soils often does not do well when grown on gravel soils in the first year, but does remarkably well in the next. It is frequently found that the first year’s growth is not satisfactory, but that the growths of the subsequent year or two are highly remunerative : this is chiefly so when the soil and climate differ most. As a rule it may be taken that a change from a considerable distance, with only a moderately different class of soil, is likely to produce the best immediate results; while, when changing but little in climate, it is advisable to get seed from soil which differs as much as possible. The quantity of lime in the soils must always be regarded; for if barley is grown for a lengthened period on peat or gravel soils in which there is little lime, the untrueness in the sample is most marked, for the plants are deficient of vitality.
The most economical way of obtaining a change of seed for the farm is to buy a small quantity from a reliable firm and to grow it separately, so that sufficient may be obtained for the acreage to be grown next year. I can speak of the benefit obtained thus, for I have long practised it.
Barley from a selected district may prove a favourable change in a particular locality, but not so in one near, although apparently being similar. Farmers in the habit of importing seed could do much good to their neighbours if they were to acquaint them with the benefit of their experience as to the most advantageous localities from which to purchase change seed to suit their particular district. The provincial Press would doubtless give their assistance in so good a cause.
It is a great mistake to sow seed which is in every way bad; the sample need not necessarily be so plump as for malting purposes, but it should be of good strain, and have been carefully selected. Farmers sometimes get good results from very thin grain from a sample of good strain, and argue from this that any thin corn is good enough for seed. They omit to see that the chief factor was the stock or strain, and that this, with the change of soil, &c., gave vigour which overcame the thinness of the kernel. A fairly bold kernel throws the strongest shoot.
It ought not to be necessary to say that the seed corn should be absolutely free from seeds of weeds; but there are instances where so many weeds are grown that the additional ones in the seed corn are lightly regarded. Corn which has heated should not be sown, as, if the heat had been great, it will germinate feebly and unevenly or not at all.