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United Kingdom decreased over one-third while the yield increased one-sixth. In the same period the acreage of France increased about one-eleventh, while the yield increased less than one-ninth. Presumably both countries made approximately the same advance in the arts, that is, in methods of production. It does not appear that there ever was a case where an advance in the arts supplanted with wheat a crop more profitable than wheat was before the advance. In increasing her acreage France had to utilize lands of lower yield, thus reducing the average yield of all, while the United Kingdom raised the average by exactly the opposite process, namely, by reducing her acreage in ceasing to sow to wheat those lands of such a low yield as to be unprofitable.
In the United States the causes and effects cannot be traced easily or clearly. We see that the greatest increase in acreage was in the eighth decade, but this acreage was located in the Mississippi and Red river valleys. It consisted of some of the most fertile land of our country, and proved to be better wheat land than any which had previously been sown in that grain. Consequently, it was but natural that the yield should rise, especially as there had been but little intensive farming. The rise in yield would doubtless have been constant since that date, had it not been for abnormal natural conditions which seem to have decreased the actual yield slightly in the ninth decade, although the potential yield has increased uninterruptedly. Since the ninth decade the increase in acreage has been comparatively rapid, doubtless largely due to great improvements in machinery, but the arts have advanced rapidly enough to more than counteract these results. The average yield from 1866 to 1886 was 12.2 bushels per acre, while that from 1886 to 1906 was 13.7. There is such a great annual variation in yield that statistics are not conclusive unless they are averages extending over at least a decade.
Columella gives 19.5 to 27 bushels as the amount of wheat that the Romans raised per acre. From 1200 to 1500 England raised 4 to 8 bushels per acre, while she raises about 30 now. The testimony of a contemporary observer shows the yield of wheat near Philadelphia in 1791 to have averaged less than 8 bushels per acre. It is now more than twice that amount. The greatest yield of wheat in the United States seems to be in the Pacific northwest. This is perhaps partly due to the ideal weather prevailing there. A long, wet winter with little frost; a cool, wet spring, gradually fading away into the warmer summer; only light rains after blossoming; abundant sunshine and rather dry air toward harvest; and dry weather for harvest seem to be the most favorable weather conditions for the maximum yield. Sixty to 70 bushels per acre were harvested, even in the sixties. A volunteer crop may give 25 to 30 bushels.
COST OF PRODUCTION.
The itemized cost of raising an acre of wheat in different localities and years is given in the table below:
The variations in these accounts suggest the difficulties incident to obtaining reliable figures. The cost of production varies at different times and on different farms. In most cases it is impossible to give a reliable average, for the statistics are wanting. According to the table, Argentina can raise an acre of wheat at the same cost as that of the Red river valley in the United States. The average cost of raising an acre of wheat in Russia is about $8.
There are also many accounts of the cost of raising wheat which are not itemized, and consequently still less reliable. In the United States cost varies greatly in different sections. In Washington it is from 20 to 35 cents a bushel. In Oregon 20 cents is recorded. It is not likely that this price can include interest on capital, in any section. In North Dakota 50 to 54 cents is the cost; $5.72 per acre is also given for this state, not including interest on land. The running expenses averaged $3.77 in South Dakota from 1894 to 1900 inclusive. The total expense in Minnesota is $6.40.1 In the early nineties the expense of raising an acre of wheat was $7.50 in Arkansas, from $6.13 to $10.32 in Nebraska, and $10.38 in experiments in Wyoming. Where wheat was the sole crop, $10 was given as a total average cost per acre in the United States on a farm of 160 acres in 1882. It is claimed that the shores of the Great Lakes could raise wheat at 15 cents per bushel before 1850, while the river counties of Illinois raised wheat for 30 cents, including hire of land and all expense.
The cost of raising a bushel of wheat in England was given as $1.76 in 1821 and $1.45 in 1885. In the black-earth region-of Russia the cost of producing wheat, including rent, was said to range from 35 to 73 cents per bushel during the last part of the nineteenth century. In the first quarter of that century the cost, exclusive of rent, was given as 97 cents. The average cost in Russia during the years 1899 to 1903 inclusive, not including expense of rent and seed, varied from 34 to 48 cents per bushel for spring wheat.2 Poggi says that the cost of a bushel of wheat in Italy is 69 cents, its production being at a loss. He criticises others who state its cost as only 44 cents, and who say that it can be profitably produced.a In Hungary 1 Indus. Com.. lO.ccxv.
2 U. S. Dept Agr., Bureau of Sta., Bui. 42 (1906), pp. 85-6.
3 Atti del Instituto Veneto. etc.. Tomo lvi, 7th s., T. ix. p. 723.
the cost is from 52 to 63 cents per bushel, or from $10.58 to $12.79 per acre, not including land rent. In Germany the cost is 95 cents per bushel. It costs 65 cents a bushel to raise wheat in India, but according to rather extensive data collected by the department of agriculture of that country the cost was exactly half this amount in 1884. The average annual cost of cultivating an acre of land in England rose from about $17.45 in 1790 to about $34.90 in 1813.1 Threshing wheat by flail in that country cost about 8 cents a bushel. By the old system of horse-power machines, it cost about 5 cents, and by steam this was reduced to 2 cents. The cost of raising wheat in the United States has not been reduced so greatly in the older wheat states as in the new states of the west, where the level and extensive farms give the greatest opportunity for the use of labor-saving machinery. For example, the combined harvester saves from 3.6 to 5.4 cents a bushel on the cost of harvesting with the header alone.
The Profit on Raising Wheat usually is not large, and it has often been denied that there is any profit at all. * Under the most favorable average conditions the bonanza farmers of the Red river valley do not make a net profit of over $3.32 per acre, or 8 per cent on the capital invested.3 In England before the plague of 1332-1333 a lord possessing feudal rights over all the land in a manor made a profit of about 18 per cent on agricultural operations. After the plague, 1350-1351, profits were very low, at the best less than 4 per cent on the capital invested in the estate. Hartlib gives the profit on an acre of wheat in the middle of the seventeenth century as about $9. In order that there may be any profit in raising wheat in Argentina it is said that the yield must exceed 10 or 12 bushels per acre.
Amount of Labor Required.—About 1775 in the United States it was 3 days' work to cut 100 bushels of wheat, to bind and "stook" it took 4 days, while threshing and cleaning required 5 days more. In all, it required about 15 days of hard manual labor to get 100 bushels through these processes.
1 Lowe Pres. State of Eng., p. 153.
2 Indus. Com., Vol. 10.
3 Ency. Brit., 10th ed.. 1:217.