Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

close as it can be made to what would probably be the cost of the best work, on average ground, at the present high prices of labor and material. Five years ago the same work could have been done for from $40 to $45 per acre, and it will be again cheaper when wages fall, and when a greater demand for draining tiles shall have caused more competition in their manufacture. With a large general demand, such as has existed in England for the last 20 years, they would now be sold for one-half of their present price here, and the manufacture would be more profi. table. There are many light lands on retentive subsoils, which could be drained, at present prices, for $50 or less per acre, and there are others, which are very hard to dig, on which thorough-draining could not now be done for $60.

The cost and the promise of the operation in each instance, must guide the land owner in deciding whether or not to undertake the improvement.

In doubtful cases, there is one compromise which may be safely made,-that is, to omit each alternate drain, and defer its construction until labor is cheaper.

This is doing half the work,+a very different thing from half-doing the work. In such cases, the lines should be laid out as though they were to be all done at once, and, finally, when the omitted drains are made, it should be in pursuance of the original plan. Probably the drains which are laid will produce more than one-half of the benefit that would result if they were all laid, but they will rarely be satisfactory, except as a temporary expedient, and the saving will be less than would at first seem likely, for when the second drains are laid; the cultivation of the land must be again interrupted; the draining force must be again brought together; the levels of the new lines must be taken, and connected with those of the old ones; and great care must be taken, selecting the dryest weather for the work,+to admit very little, if any, muddy water into the old mains. This practice of draining by installments is not recommended; it is only suggested as an allowable expedient, when the cost of the complete work could not be borne without inconvenience. If any staid and economical farmer is disposed to be alarmed at the cost of draining, he is respectfully reminded of the miles of expensive stone walls and other fences, in New England and many other parts of the country, which often are a real detriment to the farms, occupying, with their accompanying bramble bushes and head lands, acres of valuable land, and causing great waste of time in turning at the ends of short furrows in plowing;-while they produce no benefit at all adequate to their cost and annoyance. It shquld also be considered that, just as the cost of fences is scarcely felt by the farmer, being made when his teams and hands could not be profitably employed in ordinary farming operations, so the cost of draining will be reduced in proportion to the amount of the work which he can “do within himself.”—without hiring men expressly for it. The estimate herein given is based on the supposition that men are hired for the work, at wages equal to $1.50 per day, while draining would often furnish a great advantage to the farmer in giving employ. ment to farm hands who are paid and subsisted by the year.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Starting with the basis of $60, as the cost of draining an acre of ordinary farm land;—what is the prospect that the work will prove remunerative? In all of the older States, farmers are glad to lend their surplus funds, on bond and mortgage on their neighbors’ farms, with interest at the rate of 7, and often 6 per cent. In view of the fact that a little attention must be given each year to the outlets, and, to the silt-basins, as well, for the first few years, it will be just to charge for the use of the capital 8% per cent. This will make a yearly charge on the land, for the benefits resulting from such a system of draining as has been described, of FIVE DOLLARS PER ACRE. 'ill it Pay?—Will the benefits accruing, year after year;-in wet seasons and in dry, with root crops and with grain,_with hay and with fruit, in rotations of crops and in pasture, be worth $5 an acre? On this question depends the value of tile-draining as a practical improvement, for if there is a self-evident proposition in agriculture, it is that what is not profitable, one year with another, is not practical. To counterbalance the charge of $5, as the yearly cost of the draining, each acre must produce, in addition to what it would have yielded without the improvement:

[ocr errors]

Surely this is not a large increase, not in a single case, —and the prices are generally less than may be expected for years to come.

The United States Census Report places the average crop of Indian Corn, in Indiana and Illinois, at 33 bushels per acre. In New York it was but 27 bushels, and in Pennsylvania but 20 bushels. It would certainly be accounted extremely liberal to fix the average yield of such soils as need draining, at 30 bushels per acre. It is extremely unlikely that they would yield this, in the average of seasons, with the constantly recurring injury from backward springs, summer droughts, and early autumn frosts.

Heavy, retentive soils, which are cold and late in the spring,subject to hard baking in midsummer, and to become cold and wet in the early fall, are the very ones which are best suited, when drained, to the growth of Indian Corn. They are “strong” and fertile, and should be able to absorb, and to prepare for the use of plants, the manure which is applied to them, and the fertilizing matters which |are brought to them by each storm;-but they cannot properly exercise the functions of fertile soils, for the reason that they are strangled with water, chilled by evaporation, or baked to almost brick-like hardness, during nearly the whole period of the growth and ripening of the crop.

The manure which has been added to them, as well as their own chemical constituents, are prevented from undergoing those changes which are necessary to prepare them for the uses of vegetation. The water of rains, finding the spaces in the soil already occupied by the water of previous rains, cannot enter to deposit the gases which it contains,—or, if the soil has been dried by evaporation under the influence of sun and wind, the surface is almost hermetically sealed, and the water is only slowly soaked up, much of it running off over the surface, or lying to be removed by the slow and chilling process of evaporation. In wet times and in dry, the air, with its heat, its oxygen, and its carbonic acid, (its universal solvent,) is forbidden to enter and do its beneficent work. The benefit resulting from cultivating the surface of the ground is counteracted by the first unfavorable change of the weather; a single heavy rain, by saturating the soil, returning it to nearly its original condition of clammy compactness. In favorable . seasons, these difficulties are lessened, but man has no control over the seasons, and to-morrow may be as foul as to-day has been fair. A crop of corn on undrained, retentive ground, is subject to injury from disastrous changes of the weather, from planting until harvest. Even supposing that, in the most favorable seasons, it would yield as largely as though the ground were drained, it would lose enough in unfavorable seasons to reduce the average more than ten (10) bushels per acre. The average crop, on such land, has been assumed to be 30 bushels per acre; it would be an estimate as moderate as this one is generous, to say that, with the same cultivation and the same manure, the average crop, after draining, would be 50 bushels, or an increase equal to twice as much as is needed to pay the draining charge. If the method of cultivation is improved, by deep plowing, ample manuring, and thorough working, all of which may be more profitably applied to drained than to undrained

« AnteriorContinuar »