The Scots Magazine 5: 141-141 (March 1743)
Paring and Burning
Mr. Yelverton

To the author of the Scots Magazine.

I have seen an account of the husbandry by which Mr Yelverton got a vast crop, and a premium of 10l. for raising it, from ground that was rested 30 years, and rich, loose and mellow in its nature; but of so thin a staple, that, when he had pared and burnt it, the plough brought up sand.

He took a good way indeed to obtain the premium. For the cineral salts being spread upon the rich, loose and mellow earth, that was left, could not fail to ferment therewith, and reduce it into an almost infinite number of parts; and minute particles are the chief food of plants. Besides, the sand, hot in its nature, and made hotter by the burning of the earth above it, would as certainly co-operate with the ashes, when mixed with them, to make the fermentation the greater, and the particles the more minute; and by the repeated plowing, the last still the deepest, the fermentation would be as often renewed and heightened, and so the parts would be more and more divided. But such an account should be published with a proper caution.

Paring and burning of earth, so rich, and of so shallow a staple, immediately above sand, is a pernicious practice: for the staple is not only diminished by burning of the upper part, which is the richest, especially of long-rested grounds; but the remainder is exhausted to so great a degree, feeding the plants which grow luxuriantly upon earth so highly fermented and finely pulverized, that thin fields are destroyed, and, after a few crops of grain, rendered scarce worth the name of an inheritance.

The value of some land, I shall allow, may be got by means of the ashes that will arise from paring and burning the surface of it: but is rich, loose, mellow ground, of so thin a staple that the plough raises the sand, to be converted into cash, and possibly squandered away? Or is the intrinsick value of the kingdom to be lessened by burning, by which it is possible at last to make it all barren and unfruitful? No: we ought to use our mother Earth tenderly, that she may feed and cherish us in return; and to this end it is prudent, and more commendable husbandry, to disregard a more immediate profit, and to superinduce proper earth from parts of a deep, to parts of a shallow staple, than, by paring and burning, to waste thin fields in such a manner that they can never thereafter equal the same sort of unburnt land, if both are managed the same way.

I own, nevertheless, that, where the stratum under the staple is of a better quality than than the staple itself, or where the staple is so deep that it can well bear a dimunition of some part of it, the practice of paring and burning is in either of these cases most approvable, and should be encouraged: for what can equal the benefit of ashes, by causing ground yield so much corn in so short time? And if ground be once brought into good heart, the judicious husbandman may keep it so, if a sufficient quantity of earth be left to work upon.

From these observations it seems plain, that paring and burning is good or bad husbandry, as it is prudently or imprudently practiced. I am, &c.