« AnteriorContinuar »
Practically all threshing in the United States is now done by steam. The musical hum of the machines, which could be heard for miles, and which possessed a peculiar fascination that always charmed the threshermen, accompanied the sweep powers with gearing and tumbling rods to their oblivion. The side gear driving the cylinder of the separator made most of the noise. When this gear was cut off to give place to the belt pulley, the noise was reduced to a minimum, although the hum of the cylinder is still maintained. A few farmers own their own machines, but generally the threshing is done for a stated price per bushel by the itinerant outfit. In some sections the farmers still exchange work in the threshing, while in others the whole crew travels with the outfit. The farmer then simply takes care of the grain. On the smaller farms, 500 to 1000 bushels are threshed per day.
On the large farms, whether the grain is bound or headed, the last day of harvesting is the first day of threshing. If bound, the grain is not stacked, as it generally is on the smaller farms, but is threshed from the field. It is usually considered fit to thresh after it has cured in the shock for about ten days. When wheat is stacked, it begins to "sweat" about three days after stacking, and the process is over in about three or four weeks. It has been claimed that this is beneficial to the wheat in that it is fed from the straw, and that the berries thus become plumper and heavier and also acquire a better color. English writers seem to say nothing concerning this process of sweating. The northwestern wheat growers of the United States claimed that the wheat would sweat in the bin if this process had not taken place in the stack before threshing. When it is dried by seasonable cutting and threshing, however, it is very questionable if it can sweat or heat in the bin.1 The Modern Threshing Machine has a self-feeder, a bandcutter, and an automatic straw-stacker. There are also automatic weighing attachments. The grain is pitched upon the self-feeder, and the machine performs all the other operations. There are two forms of automatic stackers, the swinging stacker with rake to elevate the straw, and the wind stacker, in which the straw is forced through a long air-tight chute by a blast
1 U. S Dept. Agr., Spec. Rept. No. 40, p. 30; Hunt, Cereals in America (1904), p.107.
from a fan within the machine. But even with "blowers," as the latter are called, the straw pile often becomes awkwardly high, and the machine is moved from it. Sometimes the straw is also dragged away by horses hitched to a large rack, an operation which is called "bucking the straw." The cleaned grain is delivered from the machine through a spout. On the bonanza farms it is run into grain tanks holding about 150 bushels, which are hauled to the elevators or railroads, by four-horse teams. About 30 men are employed with each machine, and they thresh and haul away from 2,000 to 3,000 bushels per day; 1,300 acres is the minimum capacity of one machine. Ordinarily it will thresh 2,400 acres, 2,500 acres require two machines, and 6,500 acres require three. Straw is usually burned in the engine. During the season of 1903 one of the
largest threshers in Kansas turned out 3,500 bushels of wheat in 9 hours and 45 minutes. This seems to be the usual maximum. Only 4 men are required to operate this machine. It takes 18 men and 10 two-horse wagons to bring the shocked wheat to the thresher. The largest amount of wheat which the writer has found recorded as being threshed in one day is 6,183 bushels in 1879. The work was done under the most favorable circumstances by a steam thresher having a 48-inch cylinder. 1
A complete threshing outfit consists of a traction engine (which also hauls the whole outfit from place to place), a separator, a straw or coal wagon, a water wagon, a "cookshack," and a sleeping tent. The cook-shack, a product of the west, is a small house on wheels which serves as a kitchen 1 10th U. S. Census. 3:457.
and dining room. In the early fall before it is too cold, the men often sleep upon the straw in the open air.
Distribution and Manufacture of Machinery.—The figures of the following table pertain to the United States only. A summary of patents on machinery which does not include machines used exclusively in industries other than that of wheat is not available. Over 2,000 patents were on wheat harvesters and over 3,000 on wheat threshers. The figures on the sales are to a certain extent approximations.
Little attention has been given to the export trade of the combined harvester, principally because the capacity of the manufacturers has been taxed to the utmost to fill home orders. Machines have been shipped, however, to Australia, Argentina and Spain, and though they work fairly well, the people do not take kindly to them. They lack the proper amount of intelligence to operate the machines with the best results, a difficulty not experienced to any great degree in the United States. Argentina, Paraguay anJ Uruguay have taken most of the machines that have been exported to South America, about one-fourth of the total exports. Another one-fourth has gone to the colonies of Australia and New Zealand, and the others have gone mainly to European countries. Many also go to Canada; 718,113 binders were sent there during the 9 months ending March 31, 1903. Over two-thirds of the exports are mowers and reapers. As many as 9,000 tons of machines have been shipped abroad in a single steamer.
1 Census Bui. 200, 1902, p. 17. 3 Letters by competent observers.
Factors Increasing Yield.—As farming methods are improved, the yield of wheat per acre is being increased. Some of the main factors causing the increase are: (1) The use of drills in seeding results in greater immunity against drought and winterkilling, especially if press drills are used; (2) crop rotation; (3) improved methods in plowing and cultivation; (4) improvement of seed by natural and artificial selection, and by hybridization; (5) fertilizing; (6) irrigation; and (7) tile drainage.
Factors Decreasing Yield.—Nearly all of the factors just mentioned are inoperative in a new country, for their product gives intensive cultivation, while extensive cultivation is always characteristic of a new country under ordinary conditions. The yield is always low under extensive methods of farming. Such methods lower the fertility of the soil and a further decrease in yield results. The rapid improvement in farm machinery has favored extensive cultivation. It has also cheapened the cost of production, so that comparatively poor grades of land which it was previously unprofitable to work can now be farmed at a fair rate of profit. The operation of these factors is perhaps best shown by the wheat statistics of Australia.
From 1873 to 1898 the acreage of all the provinces of Australia except that of Tasmania increased, in some very greatly, while in every province (except Tasmania, where there was a decrease in acreage until the last eight years of the period), the yield decreased, in some cases over one-third. During the ninth decade in New South Wales the increase in acreage was slight and the decrease in yield insignificant, but in the next eight years the acreage increased nearly fourfold, while the yield fell off about one-third. The apparent lack of correlation between increase in acreage and decrease in yield in one or two of the provinces is doubtless due to some other factors.
The yield of wheat per acre in different countries is shown in the following table.1 Figures in parentheses show limits to which acreage had increased or decreased by end of decade, in round thousands. The bushel is the unit in this table. 1
France is a good example of an older country where the yield is being increased by intensive cultivation. In 1840 the yield was 14.6 bushels per acre, and in 1850, 15.6. The constant and regular rise in the yield per acre for nearly three quarters of a century in France is remarkable. The acreage rose gradually from about 12,500,000 acres in 1831 to about 17,500,000 acres in 1898. If poorer wheat land was brought under cultivation, the advance in methods of culture more than counterbalanced its effect. It is very interesting to compare the United Kingdom with France. The data cover the years from 1871 to 1898 inclusive. In this period the acreage of the
1 Data taken from Yearbook U. S. Dept. Agr., 1902, 1905. Mo. Summary of Commerce and Finance, Jan., 1900, pp. 2039-2065. U. S. Dept. Agr., Bu. of Sta., Bui. 42, 1906, p. 26.
* All dates for Australia begin in 1873 and end In 1898.