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ways, is clearly profitable to the farmers, better for the people in general, and in all probability will prove in the end better for the railways themselves. For after all, railroad prosperity must depend on national prosperity.
It may be said that the Texas system has been tried out on a small and a state scale only. On a state scale, truly, but not on a small Scale by any means. From El Paso to Texarkana the distance is almost exactly that from New York to Chicago, and from Brownsville to Texline is as far as from Kansas City to Winnipeg. Moreover, Texas has most of the problems which confront the Nation itself in working out a national system of rate-making—a coast well settled and old in development with all the wealth and power that the conditions imply— a hinterland ranging in conditions from fine farming land like that of Iowa, through semi-arid to desert. The Texas rate system may not be the last word in rate making, and probably is not; but it seems to work well, and is certainly worth study. As will be seen at a glance, it is a modification of the systems of tapering rates suggested above—in which rates taper to a point where a maximum is reached, and then cease to increase at all. It is also a modification of the zone system in effect on certain foreign railways, under which within certain territorial limits railway rates are flat, like postage. The economic basis for such rates lies in considerations of national welfare, coupled with the well-known transportation principle that the terminal charge which makes up so large a portion of most shipments, is the same for a long haul as a short one.
THIE DECLIN E OF NEW ENGLAND AGRICU LTU Re.
For purposes relating to the fostering of such interests as seemed necessary to the welfare of New England and New England's tonnage, the railroads have themselves put in effect with reference to that section a system of rates which in some ways resembles the zone system of Europe, or the maximum distance tariff of Texas. Cut off by the tariff on imports from her natural hinterland, Canada, the decline of New England's agriculture under the competition of the prairie lands would have brought to her a permanent industrial decline, had she not turned her attention to manufacturing. And even as to that, she was placed at a disadvantage as soon as the development of the Middle States and Middle West brought that great region to the manufacturing stage. For New England's manufactures had to go to market through New York, and most of her raw materials had to be imported from the West and the South. The railways used their powers of rulership in the interests of this whole group of states, as they are constantly doing in the case of cities—they decreed prosperity to New England's manufacturers through a rate system. They made of New England a flat-rate zone for raw materials, with the same rate to all points, and practically the same as the rate to New York. This applies to all raw materials coming from west of a line drawn from Buffalo to Pittsburg through Wheeling. For out-going shipments, they gave all New England points a flat uniform rate to all points west of a line drawn from Cleveland to the Ohio river. That the wage earners of New England might be favored in cost of living—a feature reflected in low wages—the food products from the West are given a rate practically the same as that to New York —and thus the ruin of the old New England agriculture, already probable, was made certain. Had it not been for these imperial measures, New England's headship in manufacturing would have been lost, first to the Middle States, and then, perhaps, to the Middle West. The expedient differs from the Texas system in the fact that it is applied partially and in the interests of manufactures, with New York as a center, while the Texas system is applied for the purpose of decentralizing business by making every shipping point the center of its own flat-rate zone.
But the most striking illustration of the power of the railroads to foster or to blight industry, lies perhaps after all in the field of agriculture. And it so happens that it is also the instance of the application on the broadest scale of the zone principle in which all rates are the same to all points within certain territorial limits. I refer to the rate structure which has been built up for the transportation of the citrus and other fruits and vegetables of the Pacific coast and the Pacific Northwest to the markets of the eastern half of the continent. While the principle is applied with more or less completeness to shipments of deciduous fruits and truck, it is best studied in its relation to citrus fruits. Oranges and lemons go to all points east of Denver at a flat rate. From Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Eastport, Maine, the rate on citrus fruit is the same. The effect has been most beneficial to the agriculture of the Western quarter of the United States, to the people at large, and to the railways. Whether or not the rates are just, the principle upon which they are made is conducive to the development of agriculture and is, perhaps, essential to such development, when the industry is hampered by land carriage over great distances. And nothing need be said in addition to citing these instances of the determinative effects of our railway rates on the course of prosperity, in spite of the averages which seem to show the economic unimportance of rates.
Thus far, I have discussed the influence of railroad policies upon the farmer as a man engaged in one of the many industries which make up the sum of industrial activities. But there are certain respects in which the farmer represents the everlasting welfare of the race, and certain demands which he may legitimately make on the transportation agencies of the land which are based on every man's heritage in the soil, and interest in its continued fertility. The depletion of the soil by cropping is largely accomplished through transportation, and its restoration to fertility must be accomplished, where such restoration is necessary, in large measure, through the same agencies.
The soil is a reservoir of plant food. Most of the dozen or so elements used by plants in building themselves up from the soil are found in it in such great abundance that we need take little care for their conservation. Only three—or possibly four—are so scarce as to call for anxiety. These three are nitrogen, potash and phosphorus.
Potash is ordinarily found in soils in such quantities as to render its application unnecessary; and yet there exist localities in almost every state where a marked poverty exists in this element. Peaty soils are always deficient in potash, and as the swamps of the Nation are drained the potash problem will grow in importance. Commercial potash is mostly imported from Germany, where the government's conservation measures have already brought its export into the field of somewhat vexing diplomacy. The German supply would seem adequate for the world's demands for many centuries. The deposit underlies more than a million acres, and in the Strass furt district, where it was discovered some fifty years ago, the total thickness of the potassium-bearing strata amounts to the astonishing depth of 5,000 feet. It is estimated that this wonderful supply at the present rate of mining will last 190,000 years. It should be remembered, however, that reclamation activities are likely more and more to be directed to swamps as the arid regions are brought under irrigation, and that the drain on the German potash deposits is likely to increase in a geometrical ratio. Our Government does well, therefore, to push diligently the search for potash deposits at home, which it is doing with some prospects of success. In any case, we are not dependent on the German deposits as an ultimate fact; for the waters of the sea are the source from which these great deposits originally came, and there seems no reason to doubt the ultimate feasibility of obtaining potash for all future time from that inexhaustible source, if the geological deposits fail or are denied us. But the matter of getting potash to the land, from whatever source it comes, is a railroad problem in most cases.
Since the guano deposits of the Pacific islands, and the nitrate deposits of Chili were opened to the agriculture of the world, the carriage of nitrogen to the soil has been a great transportation feature. For nitrogen is often the limiting element in the soil. It exists in the earth in small quantities only, and though all cultivated plants are bathed in a limitless sea of it in the atmosphere, they have not the power of using any except that which is fixed in the soil. They starve for nitrogen, while blown about by winds filled with it. Not all plants, however, are so helpless in the matter of taking nitrogen from the air. The plants grown as crops are utterly unable to help themselves to the plentiful atmospheric supply, but certain minute plants called bacteria have the power denied to those of higher organization, and it is certain that almost all of the fixed nitrogen in the earth's crust, in the guano beds, in the nitrate deposits of Chili and elsewhere, has been taken from the air by these bacteria, aided perhaps by certain fungi which grow about the roots of plants like the oak, and by the negligible fixation of nitrogen by lightning. These bacteria are coöperators with certain plants of the bean family—clovers, alfalfa, vetches, sweet clover, beans, peas, velvet beans, cowpeas and the like. The microscopic plants grow on the roots of these legumes—and to some extent free, or associated with non-leguminous plants—on the basis of mutual aid. The bacteria reach out into the soil and fix nitrogen for the legumes, and the legumes furnish a host on which the bacteria live, just as we furnish a host for the bacteria of disease. And when a crop of any legume is plowed down into the soil, it is found to have added to the land nitrates to the value, sometimes, of more than twenty-five dollars per acre. Thus by setting in motion the forces of nature, the farmer may draw nitrogen from the very heavens above his farm, without money and without price. This is perhaps the most vital agricultural discovery of the ages.
But how, you may say, is the nitrogen supply a matter of concern to the railroads, if nitrates may be drawn from the air? Unfortunately, there is work for them to do in assisting the farmer to adapt conditions in his soil to the needs of these bacteria. For some reasons, the bacteria of the clovers and their leguminous cousins will not do well in a soil that is acid; and soils tend to become acid through cultivation. Acidity is the bane of the older farms of the United States. When acid phosphates are applied for the purpose of furnishing phosphorus to the crops, the very process of fertilization tends to produce acidity. Most of the prairie soils were originally alkaline, and finely adapted to the growth of the favoring bacteria of the legumes, but plants that thrive on acid soils—especially the sorrel—are appearing in the prairie states of the Mississippi Valley, and wherever they appear, clovers cease to thrive.
THE VALUE OF LIME.
Nature's remedy for acidity in the soil is lime. The basis of the great alfalfa industry in the West and Southwest is the high percentage of lime in the arid soils, which have retained this precious element through that very dryness which, until irrigation redeemed it, made Some of it a desert. Now lime is needed over a great part of the United States east of the Mississippi. Even where the soil is of limestone origin, it may have become acid by the dissolving of the lime out of the surface soil. In Wisconsin a great area of otherwise good land has been found to be acid, though a stratum of limestone lies only a few feet below the grass roots. The abandoned farms of New England need lime. The old farms of New York and Pennsylvania, and all the South, need lime. Wherever the legumes fail to arrive, lime is a prime need. Carbonate of lime is the basis of legume culture, and successful agriculture everywhere—in China, in Japan, in India, in the highly cultivated nations of Europe—is based on leguminous crops. The supply of nitrogen to these states of ours in which agriculture has languished must be restored through lime in the soil and rotations in which legumes shall have large part. And the supply of lime is essentially a transportation question.
Lime is one of the most plentiful of the elements necessary to agriculture. Its application to the land has in some periods achieved such bad repute that there is a maxim among farmers that lime makes the children rich but the grand-children poor. The evils referred to, however, arise, I believe, from the application of caustic lime, and are not necessary to the use of lime. It has now been determined, I believe it is safe to say, that raw ground limestone is the best form of lime in which it can be given to the soil. It may be applied in any amount without injury. If raw ground limestone could be spread an inch deep over the farms east of the Mississippi (and in many localities west of it) it would bring about a condition which would soon swamp the railroads with tonnage; and while there are some favored soils to which it would do no good, it would nowhere do any harm. It would put the East on a parity with the alfalfa lands of the West in the matter of the production of legumes, and would bring hope to the discouraged farmers who strive against the obscure evils of increasing soil acidity.
Limestone occurs along the lines of every railway. It is almost as common and cheap as gravel. It can be ground cheaply, and cheaply shipped. It should be furnished to the farms at gravel prices. Burned lime is sold at almost prohibitive prices, and thousands of farmers who know their needs are deterred from satisfying them because of poverty. This is a problem which enlightened statesmanship should solve in the interests of the Nation, and one to the solution of which a railroad system operated in the interests of the national welfare would surely address itself.
Phosphorus is the element which is perhaps most commonly lacking when a soil is infertile. A good soil should contain not less than 2,000 pounds of it in the top foot of ground. Many so-called exhausted soils are reduced to less than a sixth of this amount. A crop of corn of a hundred bushels to the acre takes from the soil of each acre twenty-three pounds of phosphorus: a fifty-bushel wheat crop takes sixteen pounds, a two-bale cotton crop takes thirty pounds, and other crops in like manner subtract from the phosphorus supply. Only about one per cent of the supply is available to the crop of any one year—that is, in their hunt