The Domestic Encyclopaedia: or, A Dictionary of Facts and Useful Knowledge (1803)
 By Anthony Florian Madinger Willich, James Mease

Burning of Land, or Burn-baiting, a practice long employed in agriculture, but now nearly abandoned. It is performed by cutting off the turf of the ground, piling it in heaps to dry, and afterwards burning it to ashes, which are spread over the bare surface and ploughed in. Many consider it as a very profitable method of dressing, for it need only be used on the poorest, and worst kind of lands, or barren, rushy, and heathy grounds, that have long been untilled. By this useful practice, an excellent crop may be obtained from the most impoverished soil; though the effect does not continue longer than three years, when the ground becomes as poor as it was before.

Land may be so much exhausted, by repeated crops after burn-baiting, as not to receive benefit from any thing, till recruited by ten or twelve years fallow: hence the farmer should, after the first crop, prepare for the second, by the addition of any common manure.

A correspondent in the "Museum Rusticum," ascribes the neglect of this system to the following causes: 1. The poverty of many small farmers, who, holding their estates at a rack-rent, will not venture to lay out such a considerable sum on lands, which they may probably quit before their money will be returned. 2. Landlords, observing the parsimonious conduct of farmers, in working out the land, and thinking of no improvement beyond the present crop, are, in general, averse to this expedient, and will not grant permission to their tenants to adopt it.

Bastard burn-baiting.This practice consists of burning the refuse product of the land, such as stubble, haulm, &c. upon the ground which produced them; or whatever else is laid on it, for that purpose. It may be considered under four heads: 1. The burning of sedge on wet lands; a very old and successful practice. 2. Burning the stubble upon corn-fields; which is also an ancient and common method; and though the ashes thus produced are light, and not abundant, yet the heat imparted to the ground, makes such a dressing better than four times the quantity of ashes of another kind. 3. The burning of any waste product on heaths and commons; the benefit of which is not sufficiently known: this is performed by stubbing up the broom, or other waste matter, piling it in heaps, and covering them with the earth that had been raised in digging to the roots; then burning the whole, and spreading the ashes on the ground, to be ploughed in. 4. The bringing of certain substances to impoverished land, and burning them there; such as sticks, stubble, haulm, or other waste matters of any kind. The principal advantage of this last method does not so much consist in the quantity of ashes produced, as in the enlivening warmth communicated to the ground, by such a number of small fires, which greatly contribute to promote its fertility.