Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15: 19 (1797)


The general maxim of not burning cane-trash (which may be called the stubble of cane-lands) upon any kind of soil, is surely a great mistake; as may be evinced by observing the contrary practice of the best husbandmen in England, where burn-baiting or bastard burn-baiting, is found by experience an admirable method of fertilizing cold, stiff, or clayey lands. It must indeed be a constant practice, not only for the sake of contributing to warm and divide the soil, but as the only effectual means of destroying pernicious infects, and weeds of various kinds, such as French weed, wild pease, and wild vines.

Soon after the disuse of burning trash upon our lands in the islands, the blast made its first appearance with incredible devastation: to revive that practice therefore seems to be the most obvious means of expelling it. It may be presumed that the disuse of burning trash was founded upon the mistaken notion of burn-baiting, which is turning up a thick sod of very dry, light, and shallow soils, and burning the whole superficies or staple to ashes. This practice the writers upon husbandry condemn universally, and very justly: for though by this practice the land will produce two or three crops more plentifully than ever, yet the soil is blown away by the wind, and the substratum being generally an hungry gravel or chalk, can never be restored to fertility by the common arts of husbandry. But surely this has no resemblance to our superficial burning of the little trash we can spare from dung: and though this method of burn-baiting light and shallow soils be justly condemned, yet the best writers recommend that very practice in cold, moist, and heavy soils, as is observed above; and long, experience justifies it.