General View of the Agriculture of Derbyshire. 2:115-118 (1815)
John Farey, Sen.

Steeping Wheat

Steeping.—The practice of steeping or pickling Seed Wheat, is almost general in this County.—Mr.William Greaves of Bakewell, steeps his Seed Wheat in stale Urine, and dries it in quick Lime, previous to sowing. Mr. Joseph Butler of Killamarsh, dissolves two pounds of blue Copperas, in as much Chamber Lye as will wet twelve bushels of Wheat, and, after soaking, dries the Wheat in quick Lime. Newly-dunged lands are, according to Mr. Buller, much more subject to smutty crops than limed lands; especially if the dung was not thrown up and fermented, but carted from the yard.

Mr. George Clay of Arleston, brines his Seed Wheat, each morning of sowing: the Wheat is sifted into a Brine of Salt, that will bear an Egg, half a bushel of the day's sowing being added at a time, stirring and skimming between each; after the Wheat has been an hour in the Brine, the same is drawn off, and as much quick Lime stirred into the Wheat, as will make it part for sowing: pursuing this plan, Mr. Clay has never had smutty Wheat, but twice, in 40 years, and then only from small quantities of Seed that were sown without steeping, in order to make up the Seed wanted. The like thing has more than once happened to Mr. Thomas Jowett, senior, of Draycot in Sawley, on omitting to brine a small part of his Seed Wheat.

Mr. Samuel Rowland of Mickleover, instead of Salt Brine, which is expensive, uses Soapers' Waste, obtained from the Soap-boilers in Derby, in Casks, at a cheap rate, which he dilutes with Water, till it will just bear an Egg, and after soaking his Seed Wheat therein, dries it with quick Lime.

Mr. Francis Blaikie, Bailiff to the Earl of Chesterfield, in a very able paper on this subject, printed in Sir John Sinclair's "Enquiries respecting the Cause of the Rust and the Mildew in Wheat," and in the "Farmer's Magazine," Vol. IX. p. 403, states the use of Brine of Salt, strong enough to bear an Egg, for soaking Seed Wheat during two hours, after the same has been previously washed, in clear water, three times changed, and then drying the Seed with quick Lime, to be certainly efficacious in preventing Smut, even if the Seed Corn were previously Smutty; and by the most satisfactory experiments, this Gentleman shows, that clean Seed Wheat will be thoroughly infected, and produce a Smutty Crop, by being put up in Sacks that have held Smutty Wheat, or laid on a Barn-Floor on which Smutty Wheat has been thrashed! such is the contagious nature of this pestilential disease of Wheat. To all such as still doubt the infectious nature of Smut, and the utility of pickling Seed for preventing its propagation, I wish to recommend the perusal of Mr. Blaikie's Paper, and a careful repetition of his interesting experiments on this subject, the results of which, are so exactly consonant with the long experience of Messrs. Clay and Jowett, above-mentioned.

When I was at Waldley, I was shown a Field, on Red Marl, which lays rather low in the Valley, in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Archer, which has been excessively tilled and cropped, for many years past, and has been so infested by Smut, that one-fifth of the Ears of Wheat have sometimes been smutted, and which is, by his Neighbours, attributed to its excessive cropping. At Woodhouse Farm in Dovcridge, Mr. John Massey Frost had a Field of thirteen acres on Red Marl, on the hill, very much mildewed.Farey

Mr. Edward Brown of Ingleby related to me the following Experiment, made in 1807 and 1808, on very light sandy Gravel, on his Cucko-Park Farm. On the 5th of October, he sowed a first parcel of Autumn Wheat, which had been steeped in old Netting or Chamber-lye and dried in quick Lime: on the 6th sowed a second parcel of the same Wheat dry, without any preparation; and a third parcel, washed repeatedly in clear spring Water, and dried with Lime: on the 16th sowed a fourth parcel of the same Wheat, which had been steeped a quarter of an hour in a solution (or mixture rather, since a complete solution did not take place) of one pound of Arsenic in thirty gallons of spring Water, frequently stirred, and dried with Lime: and on the 19th sowed a fifth parcel of the same Seed, steeped a quarter of an hour in Salt Brine, strong enough to bear an Egg, and dried with Lime. The whole was sown broadcast in the same field, and reaped on the same day: the second parcel, sown dry, and the fourth prepared with Arsenic, proved very nearly free of Smut, and was not objected to by the Miller when sold: the first or netted parcel, the third washed, and the fifth salted, all proved badly smutted: out of twelve quarters, nearly two quarters of Smut-balls were collected. From the above, Mr. Brown has been induced to consider Autumn Wheat, as subject to Smut on his soil, and to cultivate only Spring Wheat ever since; and which very nearly escapes Smut.