Jour. Roy. Agric. Soc. 4: 557-558 (1843)

XV.—On the Steeping of Seeds

To the Secretary.

SIR,—At the late agricultural show held here, under the patronage of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, on the 8th, 9th, and 10th ult., I exhibited specimens of oats, barley, wheat, and rye grass, raised from seed chemically prepared, which were favourably noticed in the Society's Report.

On the 11th of July I sent a communication to Sir Charles Gordon, Secretary of the Highland Society of Scotland, from which the following is an extract:— "It is now a considerable time since I began to imagine that if the ultimate principles of which the proximate constituents of most of the gramineous seeds are composed could by any means be made so to enter the substance of the seed, and at the same time not to injure its vitality, as thoroughly to imbue its texture with an excess of these principles, the end (viz. of superseding manures) would be accomplished; and it is by doing this to a certain extent that I am convinced I have succeeded."

The specimens which I exhibited were raised from seeds steeped in sulphate, nitrate, and muriate of ammonia, and nitrates of soda and potass, and combinations of these; and in all cases the results were highly satisfactory. Seeds of wheat, for example, prepared from sulphate of ammonia, and sown on the 5th of July, had by the 10th of August, the last day of the show, tillered into nine, ten, and eleven stems of great and nearly equal vigour; while seeds of the same sample, unprepared, and sown at the same time in the same soil, had not tillered into more than two, three, and four stems.

The specimens of oats, prepared from sulphate of ammonia, were magnificent both as to height and strength, being six feet high, and having stems like small canes, and consisted of an average of ten stems from each seed, and 160 grains on each stem. The oats from muriate of ammonia were vigorous, and equally prolific, but not so tall; and those from the nitrates of soda and potass were nearly equally prolific, but still less tall.

The specimens of barley consisted of an average of eleven and a half stems from each seed, and thirty-six grains on each stem, and were prepared from nitrate of ammonia. Big or bear, from the same preparation, had an average of eleven and a half stems from each seed, and seventy-two grains on each stem.

Rye-grass, prepared and unprepared, and sown both at the same time and in the same soil, presented a striking contrast, the former being much more vigorous, and of a deeper green than the latter.

I prepared the various mixtures from the carbonates of the above specified salts, which were exactly neutralized, and then added from 8 to 12 measures of water. The time of steeping varied from fifty to ninety-four hours, at a temperature of about 60° Fahrenheit. I found, however, that barley does not succeed if steeped beyond sixty hours. Rye-grass, and other gramineous seeds, not cereal, do with from six teen to twenty hours.

My experiments were all made in ground which had received no manure for eleven rears, and in which there was little organic matter of any kind.

For the purpose of instituting exact comparisons between prepared and unprepared seeds, I sowed seeds prepared in seven different ways, alongside of others in the natural state, on the 14th and 16th ult., in pure sand and gravel, and in virgin earth dug 6 feet from the surface, and spread over poor soil, on a farm which I have in Kinross-shire, at an elevation of 400 feet above the level of the sea; but having to leave the place on the 31st ult., I could not form a correct estimate of the comparative growth. I intend, however, to visit the place on the 12th of October, when I shall be able to judge correctly both of the difference of the prepared and unprepared seeds, and also to satisfy myself of the real value of the preparations on inferior soils.

I am, Sir, Your most obedient servant,
Jas. Campbell, of Crookmill
Seminaries, Dundee, 20th Sept.,