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The usual tabulations of estimates are preceded by more comprehen. sive statements concerning the principal crops of the country.
WHEAT. A disposition to increase the breadth of wheat-planting was evident early in the season, and in all parts of the country. New England felt the impulse slightly in the spring sowing, though the eastern crop scarcely affects the grand aggregate. The increase was mainly in winter wheat, except in Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. Texas failed to attain the acreage of the previous year, and Kentucky and Wisconsin scarcely equalled their area in 1868.
The early reports of condition were generally favorable, and noted by the absence of winter-killing, except to a very limited extent, princi. pally in Kentucky and Tennessee. Rust was prevalent only in small areas, and to a slight extent; and was more frequently reported in the States between Maryland and Georgia, and in Kentucky, than elsewhere.
In June the prospect was unusually cheering, promising a better yield than in any season since 1863, and with a larger acreage than ever before, rendering probable an aggregate production of nearly a bushel per capita more than the supply of the previous year. The excessive heat in the latter part of June and the month of July, which served to perfect the grain in deep, well drained soils, wrought decided injury in checking the full growth of the stalk and shriveling the ripening kernels, in loose prairie soils, and in undrained, surface-scratched fields, so numerous in the defective cultivation of the present day. There was little complaint of insect attacks, and quite as little loss from blight and rust, or casualties of any kind, yet the loss to production by this unsuitableness of temperature to soil and cultivation was probably not less than twenty millions of bushels.
The estimated increase over the previous crop (of 212,000,000) was about 18,000,000, the aggregate production of 1868 being estimated in round numbers at 230,000,000 buskels. This increase was obtained west of the Mississippi, the older States failing to furnish the quantity per capita produced in 1867—failing to advance with increase of population.
Progress of wheat-growing uestward.—The progress of wheat-growing westward is a significant feature of our agriculture. In nine years, since 1859, it has been out of all proportion to the increase of population in the same section. West of the Mississippi, in 1859, the quantity harvested was about 25,000,000 bushels; in 1867 it had increased to 65,000,000 bushels; and in 1868 the product was 70,000,000 bushels. Nine years ago the proportion produced was but fourteen per cent.; now it is thirty per cent. of the total product. At this rate of increase more than half of the wheat of the country, ere many years shall elapse, will be grown west of the Mississippi-probably before this western section shall have half the population of the area east of it.
A comparison of the movement of wheat production in some of the principal wheat-growing States will illustrate this state of facts:
17,328 14,487, 351 6, 214, 458 9,414,575
2, 186, 993 10, 449, 403
5, 9:28, 470 15, 119. 047 16,848, 267 23, 837, 123
14,500,000 20, 300,000 21, 000, 000 17,550,000 17, 366, 000 29, 560, 000
The wheat production of the three States first named, as shown above, is mainly the growth of the past twenty years; that of Illinois, so rapidly progressive between 1819 and 1859, has made a slow advance since, while the product of Ohio and Indiana, as compared with the advance of population, is an actual reduction, notwithstanding the fact that there are millions of acres in the former State yet in original forest, and in the latter a still larger area, both in forest and prairie, not yet subdued by the plow.
The following statement, furnished by J. M. Shaffer, secretary of the Iowa Agricultural Society, shows the rapidly increasing quantity of surplus wheat shipped (by rail only) from Iowa :
The reason for this tendency is obvious. The pioneer upon the prai. ries is a wheat-grower, because wheat is a cash crop, and demands a small outlay of labor; he depends upon its proceeds, not only for a living, but for farm improvements, the purchase of stock and farm implements, and for the erection of a farm-house in place of the log shanty, and for barns and shelters instead of straw-covered sheds and straw stacks. He knows there is danger of reducing the productive value of his land, but its original cost was an insignificant fraction of its intrinsic value, which is more than repaid by the net proceeds of a single crop. He cares little for a small diminution of productive capacity, while he can fence and stock his farm, and place money in bank, from the sale of successive crops of wheat, and then sell the naked land for tenfold its original cost. Immediate returns, with the least labor and capital. are the object of the pioneer. As an expedient, for a poor man, the present practice may be tolerated; as a regular system of farm management, it is reprehensible and ruinous. It will doubtless continue in vogue till our virgin wheat lands are run over by pioneers, who will ultimately be succeeded by scientific farmers who will practice rotation, draining. irrigation, in certain sections, and fertilization from home resources. when the yield will be greatly increased and crops will be surer.
The relative area of wheat must therefore continue its decrease eastward, and its increase westward, till our agriculture changes from its chrysalis state to its development as a complete system. At present our agriculture suffers from want of balance between exhaustive and restorative crops; from an undue preponderance of bread crops, cotton, tobacco, and other products consumed away from the farm and never in any of their elements returned to the soil. Root crops and hay, fed upon the farm, tend to increase the producing capacity and market value of land, and may properly be regarded as restorative crops. Corn, when fed to hogs and cattle on the farm, may perhaps be placed in that category, but a large proportion of the crops sent to domestic or foreign mar. kets, whether for human food or feed for horses or other animals, is utterly lost as a fertilizing agency upon the farm.
The careful observer will find, upon a survey of the statistics of production in different countries, that wherever the balance is in favor of restorative crops, the yield per acre is highest, and rice rersa. He will almost be inclined to regard the yield as necessarily in proportion to the percentage of area in such crops. The following tabulation presents a fair view of the relative percentage of area in restorative and exhaust
ive crops in the countries named, and also the average yield of wheat per acre in each of those countries:
The English colonies on the Pacific, where land is cheap, follow the exhaustive practice of the United States, rather than the restorative system of the mother country, and the result is shown in a yield of cereals not exceeding our own rate of production.
The influence of the Department of Agriculture has been strongly directed to the conservation and recuperation of all the elements of fertility in our soils, and to the encouragement of restorative processes and systems of cropping. If wheat plantations may still predominate beyond the Mississippi and Missouri, there is no excuse for failing to inaugurate a complete system of American agriculture in Illinois and more eastern States, which shall be self-sustaining and tending constantly to increase of production and profit. :
The evil tendency of slip-shod culture and neglect has often been shown in the rapid decrease of yield and reduction in quality. It is not winter wheat alone that is decreasing in value. The deterioration of spring wheat is shown conspicuously by the inspection returns of Milwaukee, from which it appears that four-tenths of the receipts of the past four years have been marked “Number 2;" in 1866 but one-tenth was “Number 1,” and more than a fourth “Number 3;" und less than one-half in the four years has been accepted as “Number 1.” The statement is as follows:
The fault is not inherent either in soil or climate. It is fully accounted for by deficient preparation of the seed bed, rank growth of grass or weeds, and neglect of that systematic variety in cropping necessary for the preservation of a proper equilibrium in the elements entering into the production of wheat.
Quantity required for consumption.—The consumption of wheat is increasing in this country. Formerly, somewhat less than a barrel of flour yearly per capita would supply the bread consumption. “Rye and Indian” or “brown bread” in the east, and corn bread in the south, were far more generally used than at present, and constituted the real “statt of life.” A barrel of flour at Christmas was the entire wheat supply of the year for a large class of southern white families, while of course the negroes had no four bread, except a casual crumb from the planter's kitchen. Railroads have had a wonderful influence in equalizing consumption. While, in 1860, the west produced nine and three-fourths
bushels to each inhabitant, New England yielded but eleven quarts to each individual; and yet the traditional brown bread has nearly disappeared from eastern tables, and no difficulty is experienced in obtaining full supplies of flour, since the building of the network of railways connecting nearly every village. Even the larger cities, crowded with tens of thousands of laboring poor, show little if any diminution in consumption of four during the past three years of high prices. There is another reason for increased consumption in the enlarged facilities for production, by means of machinery, which has superseded at least half of the manual labor formerly required in cultivating, harvesting, and cleaning.
In 1839 the crop was 84,823,272 bushels, or 4.76 to each inhabitant; in 1849, 100,485,944, or 4.33 to each individual; in 1859, 173,104,924 bushels, or 5.50 per capita; in 1868, by estimates of this department, 230,000,000 bushels, including Oregon and the territories, which are not found in the tables. As the increase of population was thirty-five per cent. from 1840 to 1850, and also from 1850 to 1860, a similar pro rata increase from 1860 to 1868 would make our population 39,000,000. If the same ratio of increase could be expected through this decade, viz., thirty-five per cent. in population, and twenty-five per cent. in the wheat yield in proportion to population, the crop of 1869 would be 292,000,000 bushels, and that of 1867 should have been more than 260,000,000 bushels. Though far better than the two preceding crops—a fair yield upon a broad area-it probably did not exceed our estimate, 224,036,600 bushels, exclusive of that produced by Oregon and the Territories. Of course there is no expectation of permanency in the rate of increase of the last decade; yet with the prodigality and wastefulness of food for which our people are noted, there is no reason to doubt that we shall attain a consumption at least as large per capita as that of Great Britain, viz., six bushels, in addition to the corn which must always constituté an item in our subsistence. The rapid dissemination of reapers and threshers, and the increasing facilities for a general distribution of wheat, are circumstances favoring a lower price and a further advance of the individual rate of consumption. The present increase of wheatgrowing in the south is the commencement of a movement which will add materially to the aggregate of future crops; a confident expectation of a home supply of mat section is held, but it is neither probable nor desirable that exportation of southern wheat should ever be a promihent interest, other crops, of less bulk and greater value, promising far greater returns. With all this stimulus to enlarged production—the food requirements of a prosperous people, the larger use of flour by the poorer classes, extended facilities for its distribution through districts yielding wheat very sparingly, the greater economy of production by the employment of farm machinery, and the more general growth of this cereal in the distant west, the south, and on the Pacific coast, it would be a short wheat crop in 1869 that should not aggregate 270,000,000 bushels.
CORN. A disposition was manifested to obtain a large planting of corn in the spring of 1867. The South was anxious to be independent in feed for farm stock and supplies of bread, and put in more of the staple grain than usual. Prices were high in the West, a large meat production was wanted, and farmers were therefore desirous of extending their fields of maize, but their labors encountered many impediments, the principal being a spring so wet as to retard the operations of the plow, and a scarcity of farm laborers.
The cold rains also caused slow growth and an unpromising appearance until the summer was somewhat advanced, when a serious drought set in, which continued until the season of ripening, resulting in a loss of one-third of the expected crop in the principal corn-growing section of the Union—the Ohio valley. The aggregate yield of the year was less by 250,000,000 bushels than should have been reasonably expected as a good crop; the revised estimates showing but 768,000,000 bushels, against 838,000,000 in 1859, when 1,000,000,000 are required for consumption, export, and a reserved stock.
In 1868, the necessity for a determined effort to make good the deficiency of corn was apparent to all. Returns of estimates of acreage showed an increase of more than two millions of acres, or about seven per cent. A large proportion of this advance was in the southern States, indicative of an apparent intention to make that section self-supporting, and its cotton strictly a surplus product. The following is a statement of the estimated increase or decrease of acreage in the several States:
The high temperature of July was favorable to the growth of corn, which is generally grown upon deep, rich bottoms; and the prospect was good for a thousand million bushels until August, when unseasonably cool, and, in some localities, wet weather set in, followed by early frosts. The result was a sudden and an injurious check at the critical period of earing, resulting in late ripening, smut, and other evidences of abnormal conditions.
While the early summer was excessively warm, few localities suffered from drought; showers were sufficiently frequent, as a rule, and the heated term was not of long continuance. In August the rain-fall became injurious, and much damage to corn was reported in southern Indi