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familiarity with the work of the Illinois College of Agriculture, the Illinois Farmers' Institute, and the constant reading of Wallace's Farmer and other good agricultural papers, awakened and brought me to a realization of some of the facts or truths regarding soil fertility. One of my first attempts at reform was with a tenant to whom I had rented a farm, for cash rent, for fifteen years, with full license to manage and farm as he pleased. On the occasion of the renewal of the lease after my awakening, I suggested that I have a part in directing how the land should be farmed, with a view of making a start toward a better conservation of the soil. One of the first things I mentioned was that the straw be put back upon the land and not burned as had been the practice. I was very emphatically informed by the tenant that he would not scatter straw on the land for any man, and so far as I know he kept his word. He is no longer my tenant, for having once been converted to the reform soil conservation movement I had no idea of turning back. From my own experience in farming and from a longer experience in renting lands and in watching the methods of many farmers and the results they obtained, I have formed some very positive opinions in regard to the subject of soil treatment. The maintenance and increase of the fertility of the soil is paramount to all other industrial problems, and upon our ability to solve this problem and the extent to which corrections can be made in the present ruinous and destructive methods of soil management, depend the future prosperity and welfare of the Nation. * No country in the world has been so favored in those natural conditions and resources which are necessary for the maintenance of an independent and prosperous people. This wonderful heritage has been bequeathed to us, not to dissipate and destroy, but to use and enjoy and transmit unimpaired to our successors. We are tenants in possession of this vast estate, but the obligation to maintain to the end of our tenancy in as good condition as when entered upon has been given little or no consideration, but has been recklessly disregarded. We view with alarm the advent of the time when what remains of the forests, the coal, the iron and other valuable minerals and utilities shall become exhausted or come into the possession of purely selfish interests.
THE FUTURE AND ITS NEEDS.
We are solicitous not only regarding our own present wants, but are beginning to think of the future and of the results that will accrue to coming generations.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the conservation of our natural resources has aroused a deep and widespread interest, but the great and most important and far-reaching of all our resources, namely, the fer
tility of the soil, is the last to receive recognition. While the situation regarding this most important resource, the very foundation upon which is based our national prosperity, is most alarming and fraught with great danger and disastrous results, it is not a new development, but is as old as the hills. It is the culmination of the customs and practices handed down to us from the earliest settlement of the country.
The attempt of a few men to monopolize and profit by the undeveloped resources of the country is an unimportant and trifling matter compared with the wanton depredations of thousands and tens of thousands of soil robbers in every part of the broad domain who are madly striving to mine and forever remove from the soil those natural deposits without which our once rich and fertile lands must become a barren WaSte.
We are now reaping the legitimate harvest of blindly and persistently following the traditional methods handed down from father to son. Traditions and practices based upon no scientific knowledge, but founded upon the belief that all of agriculture, all of the necessary knowledge and wisdom for its successful practice, is vouchsafed only to him who drives the team and follows the plow.
The fertility of the soil, the most important and valuable asset of this or any other country, is being dissipated, squandered, stolen and carried away to an extent that calls for serious and thoughtful consideration.
It is not an easy matter to discover or to frame an excuse for the dissipation of the thing that is now, and ever has been, the foundation of all our prosperity and upon which we are absolutely dependent for food and clothing as well as the comforts and luxuries of life. Perhaps the most charitable view of the situation is to attribute it to ignorance, to a lack of scientific agricultural knowledge, or to the fact that those who have classed themselves as farmers have been attempting to do business with little or no fundamental knowledge of the business in which they are engaged, and may be denominated only as “near farmers.”
Surely it never was contemplated in the great plan of the universe that the provisions for the support and maintenance of millions of inhabitants should be gradually diminished until starvation and destitution are the ultimate end.
THE WASTE OF RAW M.ATERIAL. *
Science has come to the rescue and demonstrates that the enormous waste and destruction of raw material, of the elements which go to make up what we denominate soil fertility and which should continue unimpaired for the benefit of future generations, is not only unnecessary but fundamentally and perniciously wrong. Who are the conspirators in this wholesale robbery, which sooner or later must result in national calamity? Contrary to every business principle and to every known law of compensation, and almost without exception, every land owner, whether he be a farmer, a banker, a professional or business man, all have been imbued with the idea that the soil is an inexhaustible asset from which they can continue to draw indefinitely and without replenishment. The banker is accustomed to look upon the ownership of land as a safe investment, and if he can rent it and make a fair per cent on his original investment he is content and takes no thought of any encroachment that may be made by the tenant farmer upon his principle, upon that which constitutes the real value of his land. The same is true of most business and professional men who own farms. They do not appreciate or understand that every crop requires that certain essential elements must be in the soil for its growth and development, and that the removal of each crop takes away a certain amount of those elements, and the future productive capacity of their farms are thereby lessened. As a rule these men do not profess to have very much knowledge either of the art or science of agriculture, but they are guided in the management of their farms by the methods and customs of those who claim to be farmers and make farming their business. They are led to do this on the presumption that the farmers know and understand the business of farming just as thoroughly and completely as the business man knows his specialty. They have overlooked the fact of the old prevailing idea that education, preparation, and even very much ability, is not only unnecessary, but a positive detriment to the business of farming. The renting of land has, by long usage and practice, been construed as a license to rob and pillage without fear or hindrance. The problem at this time is to combat the customs of long standing and introduce sane and scientific methods of farm management and soil treatment. The real offenders in this great wholesale scheme of soil robbery and dissipation are the farmers themselves. The men who are supposed to possess a thorough knowledge and understanding of the business of farming and who, above everything else, should most scrupulously guard, preserve and protect the thing that denominates and is the unquestioned and absolute measure of their success. When we judge of their qualifications as farmers by showing they have made in permitting the farms intrusted to them to deteriorate in productive power, the true situation reveals itself. There is no use in sugar-coating the situation. These men are not farmers, but soil robbers. I speak as a farmer or I would not dare to make such a statement. We have mined and shipped away the valuable constituents of the soil until its productive capacity has been, in a comparatively few years, reduced far below that of many European countries that have been farmed for a thousand years.
THE BU’SINESS OF FARMING.
What further proof is wanted that there is urgent need of reformation in farm management? We cannot disguise the fact that many me" have adopted the vocation of farming, and have thereby undertaken the
conduct of a business which requires not only intelligence of the first rank, but more fundamental, scientific knowledge, better judgment and greater ability than any other industrial calling in the world, with few cr none of the necessary qualifications for the business. To be more
explicit, in the great majority of cases, the man has not made good in his calling.
The business now demands a higher order of qualifications and more knowledge than is possessed by the majority of our farmers. I do not mean by this that the farmers of this country are incapable of better things or that they have not the ability, when properly directed, to do intelligent and scientific farming, but quite the contrary.
The farmers of this country need and must have more education and scientific knowledge along the line of their special business. They most *rn what the farmers of the older countries learned through force of circumstances many years ago.
We have heard from this platform during this Congress that the average yield of crops in some European countries is more than double the yield in this country, although their lands were originally not so rich and fertile as ours and they have been cultivated and cropped for a thousand years.
There is one fact in connection with this statement that must not be overlooked. Mark it well. Those countries that are now excelling us in crop yields and are being referred to as proof of the assertion that all soils are inexhaustible and contain the necessary plant food for all time to come, have imported from this country millions and millions of tons of phosphate and applied to their lands to take the place of the phosphorus removed by the growing of crops and to supply in sufficient quantities the food necessary for plant growth, the plant food that has enabled them to double and even treble our yields.
This importation and use of plant food has not been confined to the phosphate imported from this country, but they have procured and used whatever elements of plant food their experience has taught them was necessary for maximum plant growth. They have fed and not starved their growing crops. They have replenished what they have removed from the soil and made it richer instead of poorer.
The importation by these countries of millions of tons of those elements which enrich their soil should cause us “to sit up and take notice” and then explain why they have been permitted to invade our shores and carry away such enormous quantities of phosphate when every pound is needed in this country and is just as valuable to us as to them. The intelligent use of this element, which has been allowed to get away from us, would have doubled the yield of our crops and proved the greatest investment on record. How shall these facts and the requisite knowledge be brought home to the farmer?
The great majority of the men who own and farm their own land fail to “play even” in the matter of soil fertility and must therefore be classed as soil robbers.
The retired farmer who has moved to town and rents his farm, as a rule, is a soil robber of a still higher degree. The renter who meets the exactions of the landlord and can make a living for his family has got to be an expert and accomplished soil robber. If our soil is to be conserved and not wasted as at present, there must be a universal or nation-wide campaign of education that will enlighten and bring home to the people, including the land owner as well as the tenant, the real facts of the situation.
The work of our colleges of agriculture, experiment stations, farmers' institutes and various agricultural organizations are doing a great work, but this work as yet is only effective in a small degree when we take the whole country and all of the farmers into consideration.
The plan proposed by the National Soil Fertility League and others, and to which reference was made by President Taft in his address from this platform, of placing a man with scientific agricultural knowledge in every agricultural county in the United States, to advise, direct and carry on experiments in every community with the aid and coöperation of the farmers themselves, and where they can see and know every step and every process and then note the results, is a most admirable one and one that will hasten and finally solve the problems of soil conservation.
As an illustration of what may be accomplished by actually doing things in a community where all other educational methods have proven ineffectual, I desire, briefly, to call attention to my experience in growing alfalfa in Illinois. It was undertaken twenty years ago, and at first without marked success. Later, when inoculation was found to be necessary and dirt was brought from Kansas to sow upon Illinois land, the climax of folly in the eyes of neighboring farmers was reached. The idea of sending to Kansas for anything to put on Illinois soil was ridiculous in the extreme, and the sanity of the perpetrator of such an act was called in question. Nevertheless, the study of alfalfa growing and its adaptation to Illinois conditions went on until this season I have harvested better than five tons per acre, in three cuttings, from a twenty-five-acre field, in less than one year from seeding. And the end is not yet, for it is still growing, and fear has been expressed that I may have to hay all winter. I want to serve notice upon Mr. Coburn, chairman of the meeting, that Kansas must look well to her laurels as an alfalfa state, for Illinois is going to grow alfalfa and lots of it. When I was preparing this ground for alfalfa and was applying manure, lime, phosphorus and inoculated soil, and when I was plowing