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I've plucked the berry from the bush, the brown nut from the tree,
AFTER THE RAIN.
The cock is crowing.
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter,
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing.
Blue sky prevailing;
—William Wordsworth. PART II. THE APPLICATION OF SCIENCE TO AGRICULTURE.
THE MYSTERIES OF MOTHER EARTH.
It has ever been a mystery how seed go down into the darkness of the earth and come back again in the form of new life. Ages ago this mysterious underworld, with its strange and inexplicable processes, excited the profoundest awe and reverence in the inhabitants of the world. "The earth is the mother of all, and the stones are her bones," said the ancients.
Families, tribes, and nations moved about on the surface of the earth and engaged in fierce struggles for the necessities of life, which came from this underworld of the soil. Yet in the soil and subsoil, about which man knows so little even to-day, there is always going on a struggle equally as fierce. This world of darkness is, and ever has been, teeming with life. Roots and rootlets, the great laborers of the plant world, go creeping about through the soil and on down into the subsoil, contending with one another in a perpetual struggle for existence, silent but inexorable. Ever working in and through the very texture of the earth's surface, millions of living things, always busy and always keeping the particles in motion, furnish life for the things that grow above.
The problem with which the world has been struggling for ages is to establish a harmony between the things that live on the surface and the things that live beneath the surface of mother earth. Man has learned much of the habits of people and the principles of government, and of the value of the plant world and the dependence of man upon plants, but little has been learned of this strange world beneath our feet, from which growing plants spring and from which they derive a great part of their sustenance. We do know to-day. however, that there are certain fundamental laws that control the habits of this life of the darkness.
The world has suffered untold miseries because of its ignorance of the soil. Famine, pestilence, and even destructive wars and slavery have been some of the results, direct or indirect, of this ignorance, during the long centuries through which the race has come. But from age to age, these dire calamities have made their visits to man and have punished him sorely because of his ignorance and blindness.
—Selected from Brooks' " Story of Cotton."
THE ORIGIN OF FOOD PLANTS.
Nearly all our vegetable foods have been developed from five original plants. One of these was a kind of grass, another bore its weeds in pods, the richness of the third was in its roots, the fourth surrounded its seeds with a fleshy or pulpy growth, and the fifth had spreading leaves.
The seeds of the grass were developed by cultivation till they became what we now call grain. This process gave us wheat, barley, Indian corn, rye, rice, millet, and buckwheat. The same grass plant was cultivated in.another way, so as to make its stalks luscious and juicy, with the result that there finally evolved timothy, blue-grasses, and other forage crops. So it is that both man and man's animals are fed by descendants of the same original plant.
But grass was cultivated in still a third way, to make its stalks stiff and woodlike, and this gave us bamboo.
From the plants which bore their seeds in pods, the farmers have developed clover, alfalfa, lentils, beans, peas, and other legumes.
The root plant gave us the onion, the beet, the turnip, carrot, parsnip, and sweet potato. The white potato is not a root, but a thickening of the plant's underground stem, which is called a tuber. The peanut is neither a root nor a tuber, but a seed, which the plant ripens underground instead of in the sunshine.
The plant which surrounded its seeds with a fleshy covering was the first parent of all the hundreds of fruits and berries which we now enjoy; while the leafy plant gave us cabbage, celery, lettuce, asparagus, spinach, chicory, and tea.
THE FARMER'S VICTORY.
In the agriculture of the future the preventive medical treatment of plants will be an important factor. The country suffers a loss from insect' pests amounting to a billion dollars a year. These puny invaders are costing this country more every year than the total expenses of the United States Government, including the Army, the Navy, the post office, and Federal pensions. In the South there are the boll weevil consuming the cotton crops, and the cattle tick giving the live stock a fever from which they die; in the West there is the Hessian fly attacking the wheat; in New England the browntail moth and the gypsy moth are ruining trees without number; and everywhere there are the San Jose scale and the codling moth, whose unconsidered ravages in our fruit orchards entail a greater loss annually than that which was suffered by the loss of the splendid Titanic with all her cargo.
Steadily and surely the Government is overcoming these marauders upon our prosperity. It is now possible to grow cotton that is weevil proof; fruit trees can be saved by a wash discovered by the scientists of the Department of Agriculture; the southern cattle infected with the tick and the New England timber to which cling the brown-tail and the gypsy moth alike are quarantined from other parts of the country. So the war goes on, with victory sure to rest with mankind at last.
EFFECT OF INVENTION ON AGRICULTURE.
It is to improve farm tools that manufacture may thank agriculture for the present large number of workers which she has borrowed from her older sister. In the beginning man's plow was only a forked stick; he sowed by hand, harrowed by dragging a piece of brush over his field, weeded, when he weeded at all, with a shell, or perhaps with no tools at all, using only his bare hands. At the beginning of historic times, the Egyptians were using a bent piece of heavy timber drawn by oxen. Later the point of this plowshare was shod with iron. The Romans further improved the plow by joining two pieces of timber at the ends to form an acute angle, and they covered the angle with the iron. This was the first real plow; and it was the only plow known to Europe for almost 2,000 years.
Finally, the Dutch made another advance, when they curved the moldboard, the part of the plow which turns over the furrow, so as to make the furrow wider. The Dutch also made the beam by which the plow is drawn and added the two handles by which the plowman guides his implement. Modern farming began at that time, about 1725.
To-day, the great western farmers use a machine driven by a 100horsepower engine, which plows, sows, and harrows at the same time a strip 30 feet wide at the rate of 3 or 4 miles an hour, covering more than 100 acres a day, and doing the work of 50 men with teams. This great mechanism would have been impossible without the earlier discoveries of the humble Dutch peasants.
Since the invention of the modern plow, the most important machine yet devised for the liberation of the farmer from hand toil is the reaper. This machine is as important to us as the cotton gin, for while the latter has made cotton planting profitable and has also given us cheap clothes, the reaper has insured us against famine and at the same time has made the farmer's labor so much more effective that agriculture can spare us enough help to man our mills.
With all the improvements in plows and in mechanical seeders, their efficiency was limited by the fact that the crops had to be reaped by hand, and that, too, within a space of 10 to 15 days. Hence the hand labor necessary to one part of harvesting was limiting the amount of work which man's mechanical helpers could do for him in all the other parts of the cropping process. Inventors put their minds to work; British devices were improved by Americans, till today we have the harvester, which reaps the grain, thrashes it, and binds it into sheaves, doing all its work automatically. The amount of labor saved by this machine is enormous.
If we had to harvest our wheat by hand, it would take half the men of the nation for that crop alone. Five men, with this reaper, can now do as much as 100 men with scythes. The reaper enables us to raise more wheat than Russia, whose population is larger than ours; and at the same time we can maintain a larger proportion of people in the cities than Russia can. It is the harvester which has made the difference.
So, with the improved plow, the harvester, and the other modern agricultural machinery, the amount of labor required to raise a bushel of wheat has been shortened from 3 hours to 10 minutes. The men no longer needed on the farms are employed in our factories and mines, making us as great a nation commercially as we are agriculturally. And so it is that improved farm machinery is one very important cause of our industrial supremacy.
WHAT AMERICAN INVENTORS HAVE DONE FOR THE FARMER.
In the days when all work about the farm was performed by hand labor and hand tools, 90 per cent of the people had to live on the soil, for not more than 1 man out of 10 could be spared from the work of raising food. Nowadays, six men, with enough land and all modern appliances, can raise enough food to maintain a thousand people. It is the glory of America that nearly all the modern appliances making this result possible were the inventions of Americans.
First of all, an American preserved for the world an entire staple crop, together with the industry dependent upon it. This inventor was Eli Whitney (1765-1825), who produced the gin by which cotton is cleaned of its seeds. At the time Whitney perfected this machine cotton planting was dying out, owing to the fact that it had to be cleaned by hand, and as one man could pick the seeds from only about a pound a day, the labor made its cost prohibitive.