American Agriculturist 5(2): 62-63 (1846)
Prepared Manures, and their effect upon Crops.
Robert L. Pell

By analysis it is known that all cereal grains, cruciferous and leguminous plants, trees, and shrubs, require in the soil the same chemical substances, but in different quantities. These are eleven, viz: potash, soda, lime, magnesia, alumina, oxide of iron, oxide of manganese, silica, sulphuric acid, phosphoric acid, and chlorine. If one be absent, the soil will not grow any cultivated plant. Hence analysis of soils is necessary for a proper and economical application of manure. In a barren soil one necessary ingredient alone might be absent. If, then, ten ingredients be added and the eleventh kept back, the soil is still barren. Hence, the reason why so much of New York will not grow wheat, and yet will grow other grain: the requisite quantity of someone or more chemical ingredients necessary for wheat is absent, but in sufficient quantity for rye, &c. When, at last, cultivated plants cease to grow, the five-finger vine appears, as it requires still less of them. In such a stage it is not rare that an expense of three dollars per acre will enable soil to produce thirty bushels of wheat. I produced 78 3/4 bushels of wheat on a piece of worn out ground, by fifty cents worth of two ingredients. Like produces like; and hence if straw of wheat be given to the ground it will produce wheat: indeed, wheat may be grown on a pane of glass, if the seed be covered with wheat straw in a decomposing state. Hence the farmer may sell the grain but not the straw. The farmer who sells straw becomes poor; he who buys it, grows rich.

I apply straw to the cattleyard; it absorbs the liquid excrement, and rots. What is long or partly unrotted I apply to hoed crops; what is fine I mix with the eleven requisites and apply as a top dressing. It may be advisable to apply the straw to the ground and plow it in when unrotted. To grow grains give the soil straw of its kind; for potatoes, their vines; grapes, their vines; to apples their branches; and so of all. The droppings of cattle are the best manure to grow grasses, as they feed on grass; those of horses fed on grain for the growth of cereals. Onions are grown year after year by only returning the tops to the ground. In Virginia, had the refuse of the tobacco plant been returned to the soil, she would not now be barren. The bad farmer is injured by the vicinity of well manured land, as manure has an affinity for oxygen, hydrogen, ammonia, &c., floating in the air, and attracts them to the provident farmer's land.

Formerly, I applied composts of various things, and had wonderful results; I dared not omit any one, as I knew not which had produced the result Now, science by analysis shows what is necessary. By these composts, I grew a squash to weigh 201 lbs., the heaviest on record; and a cabbage to weigh 44 lbs. By it I grew wheat to weigh 64 lbs., rye 60 lbs., oats 44 1/2 lbs. When Sprengel made known his analysis, showing that eleven substances are necessary to all good soils, I found that my compost by chance had them all, and twenty other enriching ingredients.

Previous to 1840, my orchards bore only every other year. Since then I make them bear every year: and this year, a bad one for fruit, found my manured trees full, and those not manured barren. The drought of this year was fatal to fruit; yet my manured trees had abundant moisture and were fruitful. I prefer the manure of decayed vegetable matter to the excrement of cattle, as the material that makes and supports the animal has been extracted, and the excrement is not so rich on that account. If the vegetable matter be rotted and its ammonia fixed by charcoal dust, all the chemical substances are present. Thus rotted vegetable matter is more beneficial than the dung of cattle, quantity and quantity alike.

A most valuable manure is the liquid remaining after the boiling of bones. It is very offensive unless disinfected. When hot it is not offensive, but becomes so when cold. It is a jelly when cold. By the application of charcoal dust to the hot liquid, the jelly when cold is not offensive. In this state it may be made into compost with other substances. In that condition it is a most valuable manure. At present large amounts of the liquid are thrown into the rivers. I prevailed upon a grinder of bones to save his liquid by charcoal, and he now sells what formerly he hired carried away. I have used it with great advantage, both on arable and meadow land.

Charcoal is one of the most valuable manures. It is the most powerful absorbent known. It takes from the atmosphere oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, ammonia, &c., and holds them while the weather is dry. During rain it absorbs 80 per cent of water, and releases the gases to descend to the earth to fertilize it. When the weather becomes dry it parts with the water, and absorbs from the air the gases again. This it continues almost perpetually, as it is nearly indestructible. When applied to the earth, the trees, plants, and grasses are found to have it adhering to their roots ready to impart gases and moisture as wanted. Trees packed in it have remained green for 80 days, while others without it have died in like circumstances. Hams and salt meats are preserved perfectly when packed in it. I preserved apples in perfect condition for one year in it. If spread over compost heaps, barn-yards, stable-floors, in privies, it absorbs the ammonia, prevents offensive smells, fixes the volatile gases, and thus makes a valuable compost.

Ashes applied to sandy soils are valuable; and on some soils leached are as good as unleached. I have known land too poor to grow 8 bushels of corn, made to produce 45 bush. by ashes alone; and they are more valuable on a sandy soil than any other manure except marly clay. They enable the sandy soil to retain its moisture, a great point. They are used to great advantage on Long Island and in New Jersey. They stimulate growth as does plaster. Sown broad cast on grass, the effect is perceptible at a great distance. The yield the first year on sandy soils in grass, will pay the expense of applying forty bushels to the acre. They give to the soil silicate of potash, which is needed to form stems.

Ashes have two actions on soils, viz., chemically by alkali they neutralize acids; and mechanically by rendering sandy soils more tenacious. Muck is made valuable by them, when mixed in compost; the acid of the muck is destroyed by the alkali, and fermentation follows.

Lime has been used by me to great advantage. I prefer oyster shell lime, as it contains no magnesia, which most stone lime does. I think oyster shell lime has a tendency to lessen in growth the stem and leaves, and increase the fruit and seeds. I put on barren or worn out land 300 bushels oyster shell lime and it grew wheat to a weight of 64 lbs. per bushel; with the wheat I sowed one bushel of cloverseed and half a bushel of timothy seed per acre, and the next year cut 2 1/2 tons, and the second year 8 tons of hay per acre. I have found it of great advantage in potato culture; the potatoes do not rot in the ground while neighboring unlimed ones all do. They are mealy and fine, and do not rot after gathering, have been free of rot in dry, wet and average seasons. I think it destroys the fungus or insect, if either be the cause of rot.

Bone dust I have used and find it most valuable, and advise its use, especially on soils long cultivated, destitute of phosphate of lime; it is the most efficacious manure that can be used on an exhausted soil, but will do better on dry calcareous soil than on such as contain alumina. It should be mixed with earth to ferment before spreading. There should be used from 12 to 20 bushels to the acre. It seems best on turnips. In compost, it is valuable, as it yields phosphates largely. It is said that in England, where on lands it had been applied 20 years before, its effect could be seen to a yard. I trust the exportation of bones from our country will soon cease.

I have used guano successfully and unsuccessfully. Mixed with earth and applied to plants in close contact it was injurious; applied in weak solution to grass land and green house plants its effect was wonderful. My experience shows that its method of use will determine its value. In composts I have found it very effective.

Night soil is one of the most valuable manures. In this country, as well as in England, great prejudice prevails against its use in agriculture or gardening. For ages it has been used in Asia and particularly in China. In France, in Belgium, Bohemia, Saxony, all the German confederacy, and Sweden its destruction or waste is prohibited by law. In England and America it is thrown into the rivers to befoul them, and the fish which devour it are eaten instead of vegetables grown by it. As manure, 6 loads of it have been found to produce 650 bushels per acre of potatoes, while, on the same ground, 120 loads of horse manure yielded only 480 bushels.

In conclusion, I have to remark that the main stay of the farmer is his barnyard manure. Yet this varies in quality, according to the material of which it is made, and the manner of making. Thus the droppings of cattle fed on straw and turnips are far less valuable than those of cattle fed on hay and oil cake; and it is economy to feed hay and oil cake rather than straw and turnips. So in manuring; that which is leached by rains and volatilized by the sun is less valuable than the unleached and unsunned. But this is too extensive a subject to take and is so well understood by good farmers, that it is unnecessary to say more on the subject.

American Agriculturist 5(5):144 (1846)

CONCLUSION of Mr. R. L. Pell's remarks at the January meeting of the American Agricultural Association, on manures and cultivation.

On cultivation, Mr. P. said:—On the 9th of October. 1844, I cleared the tops from a dug potato field—burnt them, and returned the ashes—with a view of sowing wheat. The seed was then prepared thus: soaked four hours in brine that would float an egg; then scalded with boiling hot water mixed with pearlash; 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 marl, or blue sand, brown sugar, salt, Peruvian guano, silicate of potash, nitrate of soda, and sulphate of ammonia. The sun was permitted to shine upon it for half an hour, when the particles crystallized upon the grain. In this state it was sown at the rate of two-and-a-half bushels to the acre, directly on the unplowed potato ground, and immediately plowed in to the depth of five inches, with a Scotch plow; harrowed once; a bushel of timothy seed sown to the acre, and harrowed twice. At the expiration of fifteen days the wheat was so far above ground as to be in advance of some which had been sown on the 1st of September—thirty-nine days earlier, in the usual manner, without any preparation. Near it I sowed wheat prepared, on turnip and carrot ground, the tops not having been removed, and plowed the whole in together with like success. Still adjoining I sowed three bushels to the acre in a dry state, on potato ground; plowed and harrowed first; wheat then sown and twice harrowed; the first parcel, although plowed in to the depth of five inches, was 2 1/2 inches high before the last a appeared above ground, although the whole field received the benefit of the following composition sown by hand, at an expense of two dollars per acre, viz.: 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 from walls ground, decayed grass, decayed straw, decayed weeds, fish, refuse oil, sea-weed, oxide of iron, and oxide of manganese. My object was to contribute to that growing crop every substance required for its growth. It is possible that ten or twelve of the above named substances might have produced the same effects. The wheat raised by the experiment just detailed produced flour containing 18 per cent. of gluten.

In 1843 I sowed thirty acres with prepared wheat, and top-dressed it with charcoal dust. 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 79 3/4 bushels to the acre. I cut it 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. It was allowed to remain three days in the field, when it was carried to the barn, and threshed immediately. It weighed nearly 64 lbs. to the bushel, and sold by weight for 12 1/2 cents above the market price.

A few acres were left standing, and cut three weeks after, when the farmers in the neighborhood harvested their wheat. The grain was small, shrivelled, and weighed 56 lbs. only per. bushel; the straw had lost its most nutritious substances; was much lighter than that cut earlier, and consequently less valuable. I believe that after the stem turned yellow near the ground, there being no connection between the root and tassel, the kernel wastes daily. By cutting early there is preserved in the straw all its nutritive matter, and thus it is rendered almost as valuable for fodder as hay.

In conclusion, Mr. P. said that his processes looked not only to results through science, but to economy in expenditure.