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Generally speaking alfalfa has all the good qualities of a forage plant and but few bad ones. It is not a perfect food because it is lacking in the carbonaceous material. It is when used with corn that it has its greatest usefulness. Director Jordan of the New York Experiment Station says: “Probably no species of forage plants are known that are more economical sources of high class cattle food than alfalfa and corn and if in the realm of stock raising corn is king alfalfa is queen.” As reported by the same station, alfalfa yields more than either corn, red clover or timothy and by comparing the digestible dry matter we find that alfalfa possesses about one and threefifths times as much as red clover, and two and one-fourth times as much as timothy. Comparing that most valuable of feeding elements, protein,' we find that alfalfa contains almost twice as much as red clover and nearly four times as much as timothy. Alfalfa is considered an excellent fodder, being palatable and very nutritious. The Colorado Experiment Station has shown that a ton of alfalfa leaves is equivalent to twenty-four hundred pounds of wheat bran and taking the entire plant, the hay is worth about 86 per cent. as much as wheat bran. In other words if wheat bran is worth twenty dollars per ton alfalfa leaves are worth twenty-four dollars per ton and taking the entire plant the hay is worth seventeen dollars and twenty cents per ton. George L. Clothier, of the Kansas Experiment Station, in his investigations, in 1899, found that farmers using alfalfa hay considered that they could save from one-fourth to one-half in the amount of grain fed and that when it was used in the fattening of cattle there was a direct saving of from twenty to fifty per cent. Is there any good reason why we should not give this plant a trial? Although of great value to all classes of stockmen and farmers its greatest benefit is to the dairymen and shepherds. The fact that alfalfa can be grown very successfully in Argentina has made that country a very formidable rival with the United States in the sheep industry. Since the introduction of alfalfa into that country they are able to keep ten animals where but one could be kept before. Other things being equal meat and milk cannot be produced more cheaply than in those regions possessing a high adaptation for the growing of alfalfa.
Except for the damage to itself from trampling, alfalfa makes an excellent pasturage for horses and swine, but for ruminants it is not as safe as red clover until the animals become accustomed to its use. The danger from bloating or hoven is greatest when the stock is first turned into the meadow, when the plants are wet with dew, or when they are frosted.
If this plant was not possessed of all these good feeding qualities it would be a very valuable plant to grow because of its value as a soil renovator. Here we have a plant that not only produces a large amount of excellent and nutritious feed, but a plant that leaves the soil better off for having grown in it. The symbiotic relation existing between this plant and certain forms of bacteria makes it a very valuable plant to raise because these bacteria gather the free nitrogen from the air and in their life processes transform it into a form available to the plant. The method of growth improves the physical condition of the soil by opening up and aerating the lower layers of the soil. The deeply penetrating roots bring from the deeper layers of soil a large amount of plant food and upon their decay leave it in a very available form in the surface layers.
By raising alfalfa the farmer not only is providing an excellent quality as well as a large quantity of forage for his domestic animals, but is at the same time enriching his fields and doing it with a fertilizer which if purchased in the market would cost a great deal of money. Are we still to continue to buy these high priced fertilizers when it may be possible to have this inexpensive way for the trying? Let us stop and think of the possibilities that may lie just within our reach and are ours for the asking, and then determine that we will attempt the growing of alfalfa and if successful we will leave an everlasting monument to ourselves and a bounteous legacy to posterity.
THE INFLUENCE OF CULTURAL METHODS ON TOBACCO.
BY HARRY RICH, GERMANTOWN, 01110.
[Read at the Farmers' Institute held at Centerville, Montgomery County,
February 1 and 2, 1905.]
The object of this paper is to examine and discuss certain practices pursued in the culture of tobacco and point out the results that are obtained under various conditions and methods of growing the crop. The tobacci plant, to a greater extent than most cultivated plants, varies according to the conditions under which it is grown. In a large measure this is so because the plant's most variable organ, the leaf, is the commercial product desired. This tendency to vary in yield and quality according to the soil, climate and treatment can be made use of by the grower to direct the growth of the crop towards certain definite ends which he may desire. For the farmer in his cultural operations regulates rather than animates the active fertility of nature. But in order to regulate nature's forces to start them in the proper direction ne must have a correct knowledge of nature's laws; a knowledge that certain results are produced under certain conditions, a knowledge of general principles, to guide him in his various operations, and this knowledge is power.
The tobacco plant may be compared to a complicated and sensitive machine depending largely on its ability to make a perfect growth on four factors, namely, heat, light, food and moisture. If these are furnished in just the right amounts and at the right time there is harmony in its development and the best possible growth may be expected; if some of these factors are deficient or excessive then the perfect growth of the plant is hindered and its ability to make the proper development is impaired. Certain diseases may appear, the crop may fire, the leaf may be too thin or too short and the yield too small. While the grower cannot control the type or variety he produces, this being determined by the seed and climatic conditions, he does determine by the way he grows the crop the grade of the variety and thus his success or failure is largely left in his own hands. He controls the grade, among other practices, according to the fertilizers or manure he uses, the distance at which he plants, his method of cultivating, the manner in which he tops and the degree to which he allows the crop to ripen.
What kind of fertilizers should he use? This is a broad question and some fundamental ideas only can be given. To feed the tobacco, as well as other crops, intelligently, one ought to know the composition of the plant or what kind of food it takes from the soil and the physical and chemical nature of the soil. Local tobaccos contain four per cent. of nitrogen or ammonia, four per cent. of lime, four and three-fourths per cent. of potash and one per cent of phosphates. In other words one thousand pounds of leaf tobacco would take from the soil forty pounds of nitrogen, forty pounds of lime, about 50 pounds of potash and ten pounds of phosphates. It will thus be seen that the crop makes the heaviest demand on potash, then on nitrogen and lime in about equal amounts and only to a small extent on phosphates. It ought to be remembered by every grower that nitrogen or ammonia goes to make the growth, the leafiness, the thinness of the leaf, in a tobacco crop and on a soil which fails to produce these qualities as much as is desired nitrogen can be applied with a benficial result. On the other hand potash and lime go particularly to thicken the leaf and give it quality and where these qualities are desired, potash and lime can be used with profit. Phosphates, however, go to produce seed, which is not desired in tobacco culture and as they are taken from the soil by the crop to the amount of only twenty pounds per acre their application for tobacco is not necessary. They are often applied in large amounts because they are cheaper than nitrogen and potash, but it is a wasteful practicu because they cannot take the place of nitrogen or potash in crop production. These facts can be used as follows: A soil, like the uplands, which tends to grow a short, thick heavy leaf and on which the crop grows too slowly and the yield is too small, usually needs more available nitrogen; while a soil, like the bottom lands and black lands, which tends to produce a rapid growth making too large and thin a leaf, can be made to produce a smaller, heavier leaf, by applying potash and lime.
It seems to be proven that as a general rule there is no advantage either in yield or quality in planting the crop in rows more than three feet apart. Seedleaf is excepted, for with it provision must be made to perform the operations of topping and suckering. Therefore the question is, What distance should be given the plants in the row? In deciding this question the yield and quality, the length and thickness of the leaf ought to be taken into consideration. The more plants to the acre the greater the yield within certain limits. For instance, compare a planting made by the planter with four knockers with that of five knockers. The five-knocker planting would give one-fifth more plants to the acre and consequently require extra expense in planting, topping, suckering, harvesting and stripping, for one-fifth more plants per acre would be handled in all these operations. While the five-knocker planting would produce more leaves the larger size of the leaves of the four-knocker planting would result in as large a yield, especially, if the growing season was a dry one. A good rule is to set the plants several inches' farther apart than the length of the leaf required by the trade. The buyers now want Zimmer Spanish, for instance, to run mostly to long grades, from fourteen inches to sixteen inches after fermentation. The leaf, however, shrinks several inches in the curing and fermentation and the distance to plant this variety would be from eighteen inches to twenty-two inches. The closer the plants are set in the row the thinner and shorter the leaf and the greater the proportion of fillers and smokers, the farther apart they are set the heavier and longer the leaf and the greater the proportion of thick top leaves.
With local varieties heavy top leaves are more desirable than fillers or sand leaves and a crop too thick is better than a crop too thin in the leaf. For this reason it is better to plant too far apart, rather than too close. The richer the soil, and the less likely it is to suffer from a drought, the closer the planting, for such a soil can naturally support more plants per acre than a light poor one.
With tobacco as with other crops the object in cultivating is to destroy weeds and other foreign growth and to conserve the soil moisture. How many times the crop ought to be worked and in what manner cannot be definitely stated. However, on account of the heavy nature of the soil in this locality, and the limited time that can be devoted in this latitude in the spring of the year to the breaking and plowing of the ground, the soil generally is more or less imperfectly prepared for the reception of the plants. Some of this work of loosening, pulverizing and aerating the soil to promote the production of available food has to be done in the cultivation after the plants are set. For this reason the soil cannot be stirred too often. The more thoroughly the soil has been prepared the less cultivation will the growing crop need. The more often and the later in the season the crop is cultivated the longer is active growth continued and the greater the yield. It does not injure the quality to work the crop until the flower buds on the majority of the plants in the row have appeared. After this stage it does. In the first two cultivations the cultivator should be set to run as deep and as close to the plants as possible, especially if the soil is packed. After the soil has been loosened and well pulverized to conserve the moisture a light stirring of the surface leaving a soil mulch of two or three inches is sufficient. This mulch should be maintained at all times. As the crop approaches maturity keep farther away from the row of plants. A safe rule is to keep at least as far away as the leaves extend out from the row. If the leaves extend out from the stalk six inches keep six inches away, for the roots of the plants extend at least as far out as the leaves, there being a natural balance in which the leaves shade the roots. In laying by the crop the practice of leaving the plants on a rather high wide bed is very good. It brings a greater amount of the most fertile part of the soil in contact with the roots. At this period in its development the plant is most active in gathering nourishment. Protected by the heavy foliage which provides a dense shade the plant sends out numerous delicate feeding roots near the surface of the soil, its most fertile part.
The time and manner in which the crop is topped has a marked influence on the yield and quality. One that is topped early, or budded, produces a dark, heavy coarse leaf and while the yield may be increased it is at the expense of quality. The best time to top is when the bud has shot upward on the majority of the plants in the row, but before the individual flowers in the cluster have opened. Other things being equal the best quality of tobacco is then obtained. Besides this the suckers do not develop as rapidly as when the plants are budded. All the leaves at this period also have been unfolded and for this reason it is not as difficult to judge as to how many leaves can be left and the work can be done with an economy of time. Whether to top low or high and how many leaves to leave on a plant depends on different circumstances. The finer the leaves on the plants the less expense in suckering and stripping, yet by topping to low the yield is often decreased and it is poor policy to throw away half developed leaves which in ripening would increase to a desirable size. Perhaps in no tobacco district of the country do the leaves increase in size and weight as they do in the Miami Valley. In many instances the growth of the plant almost doubles itself. This is due to the rich character of the soil and the barnyard manures used which remain more or less latent until this period in mid-summer when they reach their highest in point of efficiency. The richer the soil the higher the topping hecause the greater the number of leaves that can be developed. The next consideration is the vigor and thriftiness of each plant. The more healthy and stocky the plant the higher the topping. In the expansion of the leaf after topping much depends on the amount of moisture available. The greater the amount of moisture the greater the number of leaves that can be developed.
The time of harvesting is very important. At the time the plant sends forth the bloom all leaf growth has apparently ceased. Its energies are turned to the production of seed. This is prevented by topping, and topping causes the plant to send out suckers from the axil of the leaves. If the leaves are to increase in size and weight these suckers must be plucked off, for they do as much harm if left on as if the plant had been left to go to seed.
The plant continues to accumulate material which necessarily remains in the leaf. The leaf consequently expands and thickens. This continues as a rule for twenty-one days in this climate, the leaf becoming of a darker green color, more gummy and oily. Soon the period of decline sets in. The leaf becomes brittle and begins to turn yellow, giving it a mottled appearance. These are signs that the plant is ripe and the grower harvests before the leaf deteriorates. Tobacco harvested green not only weighs less, but is also poorer in quality than that harvested when ripe. Much of the tobacco raised in the Miami Valley is harvested too green, partly because of danger of frost, partly because of the demand for dark colored tobacco.
[Read at the Farmers' Institute held at Donnelsville, Clark County, January
30 and 31, 1905.]
I want to occupy as little time as shall be practicable and leave most of the time for a long discussion on this subject. Why are there not more silos in Ohio? There is only one answer to this question and that is: The farmers in Ohio do not know the value of a silo.
It is a known fact that forty per cent. of the value of our corn crop is in the stalk, and when we know that why do we throw it away? By means of the silo we can feed our cattle as cheaply in the month of January as we can pasture them in the month of June. Ten years' experience has proven to me that that is a fact. In the use of the silo we do not destroy the value of the blade, we do not destroy the value of the husk, neither do we destroy the value of the ear in the least, but we do preserve forty per cent, or two-fifths of the value of our corn crop that is in the stalk and make as good feed of it as we can possibly make of any other part of the corn.
We have found no better feed for stock sheep; we have found no better food for brood mares and colts, than good silage. This last may be a surprising statement, but upon my own farm I can show you brood mares in fine condition and colts in a good, thriving condition that have not had anything to eat all winter but silage and clover hay or cut fodder.
The point I wish to make is the great necessity of all farmers producing their salable products as cheaply as possible. When we learn to produce fourcent pork with fifty-cent corn we can make profit on hogs; when we learn to produce four-cent beef with fifty-cent corn we can make a profit on cattle. The same rule holds good in producing milk. It was my great pleasure to hear Mr. John D. Nichols, president of the Ohio Dairy Association, at the State Farmers' Institute at Columbus, about three weeks ago, and that is the point he emphasized most.
Now as to the question of building silos, I will say, farmers, build a silo by all means, and if you want to be economical about it, build it yourself. When I say this, I mean, build it as you would a wagon shed. When we want to build a wagon shed we do not send to Michigan or Nebraska and have