« AnteriorContinuar »
13. Tares or Vetches. During May, 1895, sowings were made of a large number of species and varieties of tares, including spring, winter, golden, and Scotch tares (Vicia satira); kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria); hairey vetches (Vicia villora and V. hirsuta); and Algerian vetch (Vicia calcarata). None of these have so far proved suitable forage plants for this district, the growth being slow and stunted. V. hirsuta gave the best results, but would not compare with tangier-pea, chick-pea, and many other pulses for yield of forage or seed. The winter was evidently much too dry for them, and as soon as the hot dry weather set in they rapidly burned off.
14. Wagner's Flat Pea (Lathyrus sylvestris, Linn.) In consequence of the large amount of attention given by the press to this plant during the past few years, it was decided to give it a special trial. Sowings were made both in spring and autumn, and weeds were carefully kept down, but all to no purpose. The plant was a failure. Instead of the large crops of forage expected from it, only a poor, weak straggling plant appeared, which suffered badly from heat and drought in summer, and was cut down by frosts in winter. Although this crop has been carefully tended to for the last eighteen months it has not yet produced half a ton of forage to the acre, whilst close beside it a crop of Early Amber cane sorghum produced 25 tons of forage per acre in six months.
Flax Farming on the Continent of Europe.
In view of the attention which is being directed both in this country and
128,000 Belgium ...
93,993 France ...
72,998 Flax culture has long been a characteristic of Russian agriculture. As early as the sixteenth century there was a considerable export trade in raw flax from the Baltic ports, and at the end of the eighteenth century Russia esported annually about 36,000,000 lb. of flax. The bulk of the crop is grown in the northern division of the empire, where it is cultivated both for seed and fibre, while in the black soil provinces of the south a curly variety of flax is grown which produces a large quantity of seed, but very little fibre. The average yield of fibre per acre varies from 2 cwt. in the northern districts to 1) cwt. and less in the south.
The processes in vogue among Russian growers for the preparation of the fibre are for the most part of a primitive nature. Dew-retting is still the most popular method of manipulating the raw material, although the practice of maceration or "water-retting" is increasing in several provinces. Renouard says* that in the vicinity of Riga the peasants do the retting in the branches of the Duna, without employing crates, holding the flax as best they can ; while in the vicinity of St. Petersburgh the retting of flax in running water is entirely prohibited, and the operation is carried out in stagnant water, or the process of dew-retting is employed. • The breaking of the flax is usually performed by means of hand breakers ; for scutching, the ordinary appliances in use are a wooden knife and a scutching board.
Little or no attention is paid by the Russian flax farmer to the grading of his produce, he sells it indiscriminately to the small dealers or middlemen, who again dispose of it to the merchants or exporters, by whom it is assorted. It seems that more than a hundred different marks or varieties of flax are
* Etudes sur la Culture du Lin. A. Renouard, fils. Paris : Eugène Lacroix, 112,
Boulevard de Vaugirard.
recognised in the Russian trade, although only a few exhibit any remarkable difference of quality, as it frequently happens that the mark merely indicates the locality where the fibre was grown.
Large quantities of Russian flas are grown for seed, but in general the importance of the flax seed is only 35 to 40 per cent. of that of the fibre. It has been estimated that the annual average production of flax fibre in Russia is about 5,625,000 cwt. The exports of flax seed, flax fibre, and of tlar tow or codilla from Russian ports since 1890 are shown below:
Flemish flax, which is grown in western Belgium, has the reputation of being the finest flax produced in Europe. Its superiority is generally attributed to the peculiar properties it acquires by being retted in the waters of the rirer Lys, which flows through the town of Courtrai, the chief centre of the Belgian flax industry. Flax is also cultivated in other parts of Belgium, considerable quantities of a blue variety being grown in Brabant. Belgian flar.growers pay great attention to the selection of the seed. The usual practice is to import fresh seed annually from Russia or Holland. In some districts, however, imported seed is planted in the first year, and the seed obtained from this crop is planted the second year, while for the third year fresh imported seed is again used. The system of cropping on the flax farms raries in different districts, a common rotation appears to be clover, oats, rye, wheat, but the Belgian rotation is frequently given as flax following wheat or oats after potatoes, mangold, or beet. An interval of eight years is generally allowed between two crops of flax on the same soil. In order to obtain a fiue tough fibre, the flax is pulled before it is fully ripe. The average yield of fibre per acre in Japan is about 4 cwt.
In the Courtrai district, the retting is done in crates anchored in the running waters of the Lys. Dew-retting is practised in Brabant, while in eastern Belgium pit-retting is largely employed. The latter process consists in steeping the bundles of flax in tanks or pits filled with water for a period ranging from five to ten days, according to circumstances. When the crates containing the bundles have been removed from the water, the flax is spread out on the fields to dry previous to being broken and scutched. Sometimes branches of alder are placed in the retting-pits to impart colour to the flax.
The operation of retting in the river Lys, or as it is sometimes called, the “Golden Lys," has been described as follows:-*• On both sides of the narrow stream, reminding one more of a canal than a river, though there was no tow-path, back for 50 rods or more, and as far into the distance as the eye could reach, one saw only flax. There were immense stacks containing tons, and thatched as carefully as the roofs of the peasant cottages. There were acres of hedges,' as the cord-wood' piles are called, and long lines of the big bundles made up ready for immersion, while farther back in
• "Flix Calture for Fibre," by C. R. Dodge. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1892.
the fields were the opened bundles or beets, tied at the top and spread apart at the bottom in circular form, like bell-tents, the plan always adopted for drying the flax that has been immersed. This is the manner of packing the bundles for immersion : Crates or frames of wood are used, having solid floors of boards, the sides being open. These measure about 12 feet square, and perhaps a metre in height, or a little over a yard. First, a strip of jute burlap is carried round the four sides, on the inside, coming well to the top rail of the crate. This is to strain the water, or to keep out floating particles or dirt, which would injure the flax by contact with it. The bundles, which measure 8 to 10 inches through, are composed of beets laid alternately end for end, so that the bundle is of uniform size throughout. They are stood on end, and packed so tightly into place that they cannot move, each crate holding out 2,000 to 3,000 lb. of straw. When a crate is filled, the entire top is covered with clean rye-straw, and launched and floated into position in the stream. It is then weighted with large paving blocks, or other stones, until it has sunk to the top rail, when it is left for the forces of Nature to do the remainder. The time of immersion is from four to fifteen days, lependent upon the temperature of the water and of the air, the quality of flax, and other influences. There are several delicate tests which indicate when the flax should come out, although the near approach of the time is made known by the self-raising of the crate out of the water (often a foot or more), caused by the gases of decomposition.”
It is usual to repeat the retting process, and the better kinds of flax are sometimes steeped three times. The breaking and scutching of the flax are now performed for the most part in factories.
The cultivation of flax in Flanders has been decreasing for several years past, owing to the fall in the price of fibre. It is expected, however, that with an improvement in prices the crop will be restored to the important position it formerly held in the two Flemish provinces.
Flax-farming in France is practised chiefly in the provinces of Normandy and Picardy and in the Department du Nord. The rotations commonly adopted are those whereby the flax follows oats after roots abundantly manured. Flax after clover is also considered an excellent rotation, and sometimes it is sown after hemp. An interval of seven years is generally allowed between two crops of flax. The average yield of fibre per acre in France is officially estimated at nearly 51 cwt.
Retting in running 'water is practised in some districts of France, particularly in the neighbourhood of the River Deule, but pit-retting is the process most in vogue. Dew-retting is, however, still followed in some localities of the Department du Nord and elsewhere. The methods of breaking and scutching are similar to those adopted in Belgium, and these operations are now, for the most part, carried out in scutching mills. Both in France and in Belgium it is becoming more and more the practice for the flax merchants to purchase the pulled straw from the farmers, buying the crop as it stands, and to undertake all the subsequent process of manipulation. France imports large quantities of flax from Russia.
In Austria flax-farming is carried on mainly in the provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. The system of rotation followed is similar to that in use in Belgium and France, though in some parts of Bohemia flax follows potatoes. The rotation recommended by the Flax School at Trautenau is potatoes (manured), oats, clover, clover (manured), rye, mixed fodders, flax manured with kainit, phosphates and nitrate of soda, and rye. Dew-retting is customary on Bohemian flax farms, but pit-retting is practised elsewhere,
The area under flax in Austria has decreased by about 10 per cent. since 1890, when it was 223,700 acres. The average yield of fibre per acre is officially estimated at about 3} cwt. Austria imports annually about 340,000 cwt. of flax fibre.
Flax-farming in Italy has remained more or less stationary for the past five years. This is attributed partly to the low prices obtained for fibre and partly to the effects of municipal regulations, which impose restrictions on the processes of retting, in order to prevent contamination of streams and running waters. The average produce of fibre per acre on Italian flax-farms is about 21 cwt.
The demand for flax in Italy has been in recent years practically met by the home production, leaving in some years an insignificant balance in favour of the exports.
The acreage of flax in the United Kingdom in 1894 was 102,622 acres, this being the largest area under the crop returned since 1889, when 116,192 acres were grown. The bulk of the crop is grown in Ireland, only 1,760 acres having been cultivated in Great Britain last year, all of which, with the exception of 10 acres, was returned for English counties, and mainly from Somersetshire and Yorkshire. Twenty years ago about 12,000 acres of flax were cultivated in England, but the area has steadily declined since the early seventies.
The imports of flax fibre and tow into the United Kingdom in the five years 1890-94 are shown below, distinguishing the countries contributing to the supply of each year :
The average annual import of flax seed during the past five years has amounted to nearly 2,000,000 quarters.