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Group Title: Bulletin ;, 174
Title: The problem of impoverished lands
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE PAGE TEXT
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00071913/00001
 Material Information
Title: The problem of impoverished lands being suggestions for investigation and experiment
Series Title: Bulletin
Physical Description: p. 91-122 : ill. ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Bailey, L. H ( Liberty Hyde ), 1858-1954
Publisher: Cornell University
Place of Publication: Ithaca N.Y
Publication Date: 1899
 Subjects
Subject: Soil exhaustion   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: compiled by L.H. Bailey.
Funding: Bulletin (Cornell University. Agricultural Experiment Station) ;
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00071913
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 06856071

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page 87
        Page 88
    Table of Contents
        Page 89
        Page 90
    Part I: How to understand the problem
        Page 91
        Some reasons why lands become impoverished
            Page 91
            Page 92
            Page 93
        How to reclaim depleted lands
            Page 94
    Part II: A crusade with the farmers
        Page 95
        Reading-lessons: Nos. 1 and 2
            Page 96
            Lesson no. 1: The soil - What is is.
                Page 96
                Page 97
                Page 98
                Page 99
                Page 100
                Page 101
                Page 102
            Lesson no. 2: Tillage and under-drainage - Reasons why
                Page 103
                Page 104
                Page 105
                Page 106
                Page 107
                Page 108
        Answers to questions on the five reading-lessons
            Page 109
            Lesson no. 1: The soil - What it is
                Page 109
                Page 110
                Page 111
            Lesson no. 2: Tillage and under-drainage - Reasons why
                Page 112
                Page 113
            Lesson no. 3: Fertility of the land - What it is
                Page 114
                Page 115
                Page 116
            Lesson no. 4: How the plant gets its food from the soil
                Page 117
                Page 118
                Page 119
            Lesson no. 5: How the plant gets its food from the air
                Page 120
                Page 121
                Page 122
Full Text






Bulletin 174.


November, 1899.


Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.
ITHACA, N. Y.


THE PROBLEM OF


Impoverished Lands.

Being Suggestions for Investigation
and Experiment.


COMPILED BY

L. H. BAILEY.





PUBLISHED BY THE UNIVERSITY,
ITHACA, N. Y.
1899.












ORGANIZATION.


BOARD OF CONTROL:

THE TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY.



THE AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE AND STATION COUNCIL.

JACOB GOULD SCHURMAN, President of the University.
FRANKLIN C. CORNELL, Trustee of the University.
ISAAC. P. ROBERTS, Director of the College and Experiment Station.
EMMONS L. WILLIAMS, Treasurer of the University.
LIBERTY H. BAILEY, Professor of Horticulture.
JOHN H. COMSTOCK, Professor of Entomology.




STATION AND UNIVERSITY EXTENSION STAFF.

I. P. ROBERTS, Agriculture.
G. C. CALDWELL, Chemistry.
JAMES LAW, Veterinary Science.
J. H. COMSTOCK, Entomology.
L. H. BAILEY, Horticulture.
H. H. WING, Dairy Husbandry.
G. F. ATKINSON, Botany.
M. V. SLINGERLAND, Entomology.
G. W. CAVANAUGH, Chemistry.
L. A. CLINTON, Agriculture.
B. M. DUGGAR, Botany.
J. W. SPENCER, Extension Work.
J. L. STONE, Sugar Beet Investigation.
MRS. MARY ROGERS MILLER, Nature-Study.
A. L. KNISELY, Chemistry.
C. E. HUNN, Gardening.
W. W. HALL, Dairy Husbandry.
A. R. WARD, Dairy Bacteriology.
L. ANDERSON, Dairy Husbandry.
W. E. GRIFFITH, Dairy Husbandry.
MRS. A. B. COMSTOCK, Nature-Study.
ALICE G. McCLOSKEY, Nature-Study.




OFFICERS OF THE STATION.
I. P. ROBERTS, Director.
E. L. WILLIAMS, Treasurer.
EDWARD A. BUTLER, Clerk.
Office of the Director, 20 Morrill Hall.


















CORNELL UNIVERSITY, ITHACA, N. Y., NOV. I, 1899.
HONORABLE COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE, ALBANY.
Sir: The one perennial inquiry at an Experiment Station is
how to restore land to its original producing power. We
have made many experiments and investigations to determine
the problems at issue. A popular summary of these studies
is given herewith. The chemical part of the subject has been
prepared by G W Cavanaugh, under the supervision of Pro-
fessor Caldwell. Full reports of three years' experimenting
with fertilizers are now being compiled for publication in bulletin
form.
This bulletin comprises the following subjects:
Part I. How to Understand the Problem.
A. Some reasons why lands become impoverished.
B. How to reclaim depleted lands.
Part II. A Crusade with the Farmers.
A. Reading-Lessons Nos. I and 2.
No. I. The Soil: What it is.
No. 2. Tillage and under-drainage: Reasons why.
B. Answers to the Questions on Five Reading-Lessons.
No. i. The Soil: What it is.
No. 2. Tillage and under-drainage: Reasons why.
No. 3. Fertility of the land: What it is.
No. 4. How the plant gets its food from the Soil.
No. 5. How the plant gets its food from the Air.
I. P. ROBERTS, Director.










Plan of a set of plats upon which the farmer may ask the soil and the plant
what fertilizers are needed (See p. 95) :

I S plat.


2 K plat. 20 lbs. muriate of potash.


3 N plat. 20 lbs. nitrate of soda, or 40 lbs. tankage or dried blood.

SK N plat. 20 lbs muriate of potash. r 20 lbs. muriate of potash.
4 N plt 20 lbs. nitrate of soda. or 40 lbs. tankage, etc.

5 0 plat. No fertilizer.

6 P plat. J 40 lbs. plain superphosphate with
S15% phosphoric acid.

7 K P plat. 20 lbs. muriate of potash.
S40 lbs. superphosphate.
20 lbs. nitrate of soda, (40 lbs. tankage, etc.
8 N K Pplat. 20 lbs. muriate of potash, or 20 lbs. muriate of potash.
4o lbs. superphosphate. 40 lbs. superphosphate.
SN P plat. 20 lbs. nitrate of soda, f 40 lbs. tankage, etc.
9 P 40 lbs. superphosphate. o 40 lbs. superphosphate.
Size of plats I-io acre. Upon each plat the same crop is to be grown, care
being taken that the seed is pure and that each plat receives exactly the same
amount of seed.
S, means stable manure; K, potash; N, nitrogen; P, phosphoric acid ;
O. no fertilizer.
The best arrangement is to have plats as narrow as they can
be and still carry a reasonable number of rows of the crop, and,
unless the field is too large, extending from one side to the
other, and across all unlike strips. Such an arrangement would
reduce the labor of planting and tillage to a minimum, besides
securing the probable advantage of greater evenness in results.
A set of plats seventeen and one-half feet wide would carry
five rows of corn or potatoes, with three and one-half feet
between the rows; there would then be three rows to harvest for
the measurement of the crop, the two outside rows being rejected.
For cereals, as wheat, rye, barley and oats, plats as wide as could
be sown with the drill, with two or three feet vacant spaces
between the plats, would answer. For small fruits, plats carry-
ing three rows should be taken, the fruit of the inner row only
being harvested for the measurement of the crop.















THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


Part I. HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM.

Some of my land will not produce a crop, although my
father raised good crops on it. What shall I do to make it pro-
ductive ?"
This is a common type of question. It is easily asked, but
very difficult to answer. The first thing to do is to find out why
the land is unproductive. The remedy then follows as a natural
consequence. The disease must be diagnosed, as the physicians
say, before it can be cured.
If the cause of the unproductiveness is to be discovered, the
land itself must be studied carefully, and the history of the field
should be known. The man who is on the spot-the farmer
himself-has the best opportunity to determine the cause of the
trouble. One value of an education and of experiment station
teachings is to help the farmer to work out his problems for
himself. He can not only solve many of his problems better
than the experimenters can, but he derives pleasure from
the quest, and great comfort in being able to master his diffi-
culties.
The farmer who hasworn-out land must study and experiment
for himself. It is the object of this bulletin to suggest how this
may be done. We will specify some of the leading causes of
unproductiveness, and then suggest inquiries

A. Some Reasons Why Iands Become Impoverished.

i. They may lack tillage and good care. It is significant that
impoverished lands are usually those which have been neglected.
From insufficient or improper tillage, lands become cloddy, hard,
unresponsive and foul. In such cases, it may be necessary to
resort to summer fallow to correct the errors,-to bring the land















THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


Part I. HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM.

Some of my land will not produce a crop, although my
father raised good crops on it. What shall I do to make it pro-
ductive ?"
This is a common type of question. It is easily asked, but
very difficult to answer. The first thing to do is to find out why
the land is unproductive. The remedy then follows as a natural
consequence. The disease must be diagnosed, as the physicians
say, before it can be cured.
If the cause of the unproductiveness is to be discovered, the
land itself must be studied carefully, and the history of the field
should be known. The man who is on the spot-the farmer
himself-has the best opportunity to determine the cause of the
trouble. One value of an education and of experiment station
teachings is to help the farmer to work out his problems for
himself. He can not only solve many of his problems better
than the experimenters can, but he derives pleasure from
the quest, and great comfort in being able to master his diffi-
culties.
The farmer who hasworn-out land must study and experiment
for himself. It is the object of this bulletin to suggest how this
may be done. We will specify some of the leading causes of
unproductiveness, and then suggest inquiries

A. Some Reasons Why Iands Become Impoverished.

i. They may lack tillage and good care. It is significant that
impoverished lands are usually those which have been neglected.
From insufficient or improper tillage, lands become cloddy, hard,
unresponsive and foul. In such cases, it may be necessary to
resort to summer fallow to correct the errors,-to bring the land









BULLETIN 174.


back into prime condition ; but it is rare that well farmed fields
need fallowing. See part II, paragraphs 7, 8, 9, 14, 16, 25.
2. They may lack humus or vegetable mold-When in native
conditions, in regions of sufficient rainfall, lands are covered
with vegetation. As this vegetation dies it becomes incorporated
with the soil as humus, making the soil mellow, dark-colored
and rich. It enables the soil to hold moisture, lessens extremes
of temperature, hastens chemical activities, and itself supplies
plant-food. When vegetable matter is withheld from the soil,
the humus is not replenished, and it is gradually used up. The
soil then becomes hard, "dead," very dry in dry weather and
very muddy in wet weather, and is subject to great extremes of
temperature. If the original basis of the soil is clay, the land
bakes and becomes lumpy when plowed; if sand, it becomes
loose and leachy. See Part II,, paragraphs 5, 6.
One great value of stable manure is to supply humus. Green
cropping is also exceedingly useful. A rotation of crops in
which sod is one factor tends to maintain the supply of humus.
Catch-crops (sown between other crops) may be used to replenish
the humus; also cover-crops (those sown in fall for a winter
cover). Long continued cropping with one or with similar crops
tends to deprive the soil of humus. When the farmer does not
properly care for the land, nature tries to force him into another
rotation. This is well illustrated in pastures and meadows, in
which daisies and wild carrot force out the poor stand of grass.
Most of the depleted lands in New York are suffering more for
humus than for plant-food.
To determine by experiment whether a soil has sufficient
humus is difficult because the forms of available humus-produc-
ing materials also contain plant-food. Humus may be supplied
by muck, stable manure, leaves or green-crops. All these con-
tain the different plant-food, and also a large amount of vege-
table matter. To test whether a soil needs humus, apply these
materials to several plats of ground, leaving one or more without
them for checks. Stable-manure might be applied to one plat,
muck to another, a green-crop of clover, barley, buckwheat, etc.,
turned under on another. Nature uses leaves for making humus
in the woods.









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


3. They may need draining.-Under-draining lowers the water-
table (or the zone of standing water), causing the soil to become
deeper and mellower. Well-drained soil is drier in wet weather
and moister in dry weather than soil which is underlaid with
a high and hard subsoil. Most of the cold, wet and so-called
" sour" lands need draining to make them productive. Even
though they are not too wet for tillage, they may need the drain-
age for the purpose of deepening the soil and causing it to hold
more air and moisture. Deep-rooting plants, as clover, tend to
make soils deeper. Subsoiling has a similar tendency, but its
effect usually is not permanent. Consult Part II., paragraphs 9,
page 99.
4. The soil may become acid.-There are some cases in which
the soil becomes sour to a degree that is injurious to many plants.
This is true of some sandy uplands and sometimes is indicated
by growths of sorrel, daisies and golden rod. The acid in soil
can be detected by its reddening blue litmus paper (to be had at
drug stores or at this Station). This over-acid condition often
acccompanies a lack of humus, and sometimes may be corrected
by adding humus. It is also relieved by the use of ashes or
lime, which have the power of neutralizing or sweetening acids.
The ashes or lime should not be plowed in, but harrowed in after
plowing, as lime tends to work downward. When experimenting
with humus (see next page,) an application of ashes on an
adjoining plat may help solve the problem.
5. The soil may lack in useful plant-food.-Some of the leading
plant-food elements may be nearly or quite exhausted ; or, as is
more usually the case, they may be in an unavailable condition or
locked up. The chemist can tell if the soil which he analyzes
lacks plant-food ; but another sample of soil from the same field
may be very different in composition. There is very little
uniform soil in New York, for nearly all of it is mixed glacial
soil. But the chemist cannot tell how much of the plant-food is
available to plants. Food which is nearly unavailable when he
analyzes it, may be made available by a change in conditions or by
better tillage; and that which is clearly available may become
unavailable the same season. In certain very pronounced cases of
depleted lands, the chemist may render much direct aid; but in









BULLETIN 174.


general he can only suggest and advise, not prescribe. The only
sure way to find out whether more plant-food is needed is to
experiment on the land in question.

B. How to Reclaim Depleted Lands.
I. Ifyou think that they lack humus, apply stable manure or
turn under agreen-crop. The best general green-crop isred clover,
but it does not catch well on very sandy, and very hard soils.
Then begin with any crop which will grow-rye, buckwheat, corn,
beans, anything to get a start. If the land produces weeds when
left to itself, it is good enough to produce something else. Turn
the weeds under, sow something, turn it under, sow again; in
two or three years the results will be seen.
2. Till frequently and wisely.-Many depleted lands need
tillage more than humus or plant-food. Usually, they need both.
Prepare the land thoroughly for the green-crop. Plow when
the land is most fit. In very hard clays, try fall-plowing.
3. If the land is so poor that it is wholly bare, determine whether it
is very acid. Ifit is, apply lime or ashes.-'Apply some fertilizer to
enable you to get a start. of plants. The start once made, the
future is yours. Plow under herbage; add plant-food as your
experiments suggest.
We have lands which are now so completely run out that the
sand drifts and no plants can obtain a foothold. It is probable
that they can be reclaimed, although it is a question if the
reclamation will always pay. Analyses have been made of
samples of some of these lands, and it is found that they con-
tain liberal supplies of potash and phosphoric acid, but almost
no nitrogen. They are also almost wholly lacking in humus.
The soils are so leachy that an application of nitrate of soda or
other very soluble materials would probably be of little avail.
Probably the best means of recuperating these lands is to make
applications of stable manure and then to sow rye or some other
cover-crop for the purpose of making a body of humus in the
soil. If stable manure cannot be had, tankage will be found to
be a good substitute since it contains nitrogen in a more or less
insoluble form. We advise persons who have such lands to
experiment with a small piece and when the experiments










THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


prove successful to extend them to a larger area. In the Old
World, spurry is used to begin the reclamation of such lands.
Seed can be had of the leading seedsmen.
4. Experiment with the land to determine what plant-food
it needs.-To test the need of fertilizers, a trial of five plats may
be helpful :
On the first, apply nitrate of soda at the rate of 200 lbs.
per acre.
On the second, 200 lbs. superphosphate.
On the third, apply nothing.
On the fourth, 200 lbs. muriate of potash.
On the fifth, iooo lbs. lime.
The results will in sone measure indicate which of the
elements of plant-food is needed.
For a more complete and conclusive method of testing fertil-
izers, the reader is referred to Bulletin 129. The plan of
experiment, as outlined by that publication, is reprinted at the
beginning of this bulletin.

Part II. A CRUSADE WITH THE FARMERS.
In the winter of 1898-9 this Station discussed a seriesof soil
and fertility questions with the members of the Reading-
Course (8605 persons). Five Reading-Lessons were issued, two
of which pertained directly to soil problems; and these two
Lessons are reprinted here. With each Lesson there was issued a
series of questions designed to bring out the points in the Lesson.
The replies which were received to these questions afford an
excellent index to the state of the popular mind on subjects
connected with the fertility of the land. The questions were
designed to elucidate underlying truths or principles, and correct
answers to them will do much towards spreading sound ideas
of maintaining and increasing the productive power of the land.
We therefore reprint the questions and give answers to them.
These questions and answers cover all the five Lessons: The
Soil: What it is;" "Tillage and Under-Drainage: Reasons
Why;" Fertility of the Soil: What it Is ; How the Plant
Gets its Food from the Soil; How the Plant Gets its Food
from the Air." These answers are written by H. P. Gould,
but have been approved by specialists in the various subjects.









BULLETIN 174.


A. Reading-Iessons Nos. i and a.
LESSON NO. i. THE SOIL : WHAT IT IS.
I. The basis of soil ir fragments of rock.-As the earth cooled,
the surface solidified into rock. The processes of nature have
been constantly at work breaking up this rock and making it
into soil.
2. Weathering is the great agency in making rocks into soil.-
Rain, snow, ice, frost have worn away the mountains and
deposited the fragments as soil. Probably as much material
has been worn away from the Alps as still remains and this
material now forms much of the soil of Italy, Germany, France,
Holland. Our own mountains and hills have worn away in like
manner.
3. Weathering is still active.-All exposed rocks are wearing
away. Stones are growing smaller. The soil is pulverized by
fall plowing.
4. The particles of soil are worn and transported by water.-
Every stream carries away great quantities of soil and deposits
it in the shallows and the bays. After every rain, the streams
and ponds are muddy and roily. Observe the sediment or fine
mud which remains when a "mud puddle" dries up. The
rivulet may carry away tons of earth every year ; and this
earth is deposited somewhere, and sometimes it may perhaps,
come into use again for the growing of plants. Many of our
best and richest farm lands are the deposits of former streams
and lakes. Such lands are fine and silk-like. Most lowlands
belong to this category; and even some of our higher lands are
formed from deposits from water. The mixed and varied charac-
ter of soils is largely due to the fact that they are the results of
transportation from different places.
Observe the flat lands about lakes. These flats are formed by
the deposition of material from the surrounding highlands ; but
they are often exposed before their natural time by the lowering
of the water level in the lakes. All lakes and ponds are filling up.
Nearly every stream makes a delta at its mouth ; but if the stream
into which it empties is swift, the delta may be carried away.









BULLETIN 174.


A. Reading-Iessons Nos. i and a.
LESSON NO. i. THE SOIL : WHAT IT IS.
I. The basis of soil ir fragments of rock.-As the earth cooled,
the surface solidified into rock. The processes of nature have
been constantly at work breaking up this rock and making it
into soil.
2. Weathering is the great agency in making rocks into soil.-
Rain, snow, ice, frost have worn away the mountains and
deposited the fragments as soil. Probably as much material
has been worn away from the Alps as still remains and this
material now forms much of the soil of Italy, Germany, France,
Holland. Our own mountains and hills have worn away in like
manner.
3. Weathering is still active.-All exposed rocks are wearing
away. Stones are growing smaller. The soil is pulverized by
fall plowing.
4. The particles of soil are worn and transported by water.-
Every stream carries away great quantities of soil and deposits
it in the shallows and the bays. After every rain, the streams
and ponds are muddy and roily. Observe the sediment or fine
mud which remains when a "mud puddle" dries up. The
rivulet may carry away tons of earth every year ; and this
earth is deposited somewhere, and sometimes it may perhaps,
come into use again for the growing of plants. Many of our
best and richest farm lands are the deposits of former streams
and lakes. Such lands are fine and silk-like. Most lowlands
belong to this category; and even some of our higher lands are
formed from deposits from water. The mixed and varied charac-
ter of soils is largely due to the fact that they are the results of
transportation from different places.
Observe the flat lands about lakes. These flats are formed by
the deposition of material from the surrounding highlands ; but
they are often exposed before their natural time by the lowering
of the water level in the lakes. All lakes and ponds are filling up.
Nearly every stream makes a delta at its mouth ; but if the stream
into which it empties is swift, the delta may be carried away.










THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


Observe, also, the broad rounded hillocks and knolls in valleys
and ravines. Many of them have attained their present form
from the action of moving water.
Every farmer knows that overflowed lands are rich. He has
heard of the wonderful fertility of the Nile. He should explain
these facts.
5. All productive soils also contain organic matter.-Most
organic matter is the remains of plants and animals. As found
in soils in a decaying condition, it is called humus. It is the
humus which gives the soil its dark or '' rich look. It also tends
to make soils loose warm and mellow. It holds moisture. The
addition of humus makes soils loamy. A sandy loam may be
defined as a soil of which the original mineral matter is sand, and a
clayey loam is one of which the basis is clay. Soils which have
no humus are hard, dead and unproductive.
6. Humus is supplied by means of roots and stubble, green-crops
and barn manures.-[f the farmer practices a rotation of which
meadow and pasture are a part, the supply of humus will be
maintained. In such cases, green-manuring is unnecessary
except now and then upon lands which are very hard or poor.
The roots and stubble, with the droppings of the animals on the
pasture, and manure applied with one of the crops in the rota-
tion, keep the land well supplied with vegetable matter. When-
ever possible, it is better to feed the crop to stock and return the
manure to the land, than to plow the crop under ; for one will
get back the greater part of the fertilizing value of the crops and
maintain the animal at the same time. In western New York,
there are hundreds of acres of refuse cabbage lands, and at this day
there are thousands of tons of herbage on the ground, and no
stock to eat it. It is wasteful.
Many soils which are said to be worn out are robbed of their
humus rather thanof their plant-food ; others have been injured
in their texture by careless or faulty management. In supplying
humus, it is better to add small quantities often. Lands which are
under constant tillage, in corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, may be
supplied with humus if catch-crops are sown with the crop, now
and then, late in the season. Rye, Canada peas, crimson clover,
and the like may be used for this purpose. Plow them under as









98 BULLETIN 174.

soon as the land is ready in the spring, even if the plants are
not large.
Observe how the forest supplies its humus. Year by year the
leaves add to the soil cover, which slowly passes into vegetable mold
or humus. The trunks finally decay and pass into the soil.
The work is effectively done, but it consumes time ; and man is in
a hurry. When the forest is removed, the landis usually produc-
tive. It is called "virgin soil," notwithstanding the fact
that an enormous crop of trees has just been taken from
it, and that it may have grown hundreds of such crops.
The real virgin soil is the barren soil. But however rich this
forest soil may be when the timber is first removed, it generally
soon loses its exuberant fertility. The pigmy crops of the
farmer seem to be harder on the soil than the gigantic crops of
Nature. Some of this loss of productivity is due to the loss of
humus.
A rotation diminishes the exhaustion of plant-food, supplies
nitrogen in leguminous crops, one crop leaves the land in better
condition for another, the roots and stubble improve the texture
of the soil, it keeps weeds in check, provides for continuous
labor because stock is kept.
The rotation should differ with the kind of soil and general
style of farming. The Cornell rotation is:
Wheat,
Clover and timothy, I year,
Maize (corn),
Oats.
A good rotation for weed-infested land is :
Sod, I year,
Maize,
Potatoes, or some other tilled crop,
Oats or barley.
On fruit farms, rotations are not so practicable as on grain
farms; but the fields which are not in fruit can often be worked
in rotation to great advantage. The general tendency of fruit-
farmers is to keep too little stock. If stock cannot be kept, the
humus can be maintained by catch-crops and cover crops.
7. The fertility of the land is its power to produce crops. It is









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


determinedby three things the texture of the soil, its richness in plant-
food, and its available moisture.-The texture of the soil is its phys-
ical condition,-as to whether it is mellow, loose, leachy, cloddy,
hard, and the like. A rock or a board will not raise corn,and yet
it may contain an abundance of plant-food. The plant cannot get a
foothold : and it would do no good to apply fertilizers.
Spreading potash on a lump of clay is not farming: it is the
wasting of potash. A cow will not appreciate the fanciest ration
if she is uncomfortable; neither will a plant. It is only on land
which is in good tilth that fertilizers pay. The better the farm-
ing, the more it will pay, as a rule, to buy plant-food : but poor
farming cannot make it pay.
8. Nature secures good texture in soil by growing plants in it.-
Roots make the soil finer, and plants supply it with humus.
Plants break down the soil by sending their roots into the
crevices of the particles, and the root acids dissolve some of it.
Observe Nature working at this problem. First the moss or
lichen attacks the rock ; the weather cracks it and wears it away ;
a little soil is gathered here and there in the hollows ; a fern or
some other lowly plant gains a foothold ; year by year, and cen-
tury by century, the pocket of soil grows deeper and larger;
and finally, the rock is worn away and crumbled, and is ready to
support potatoes and smart-weed. Or, the rock may be hard and
bare, and you cannot see any such process going on. Yet, even
then, every rain washes something away from it, and the soil
beneath it is constantly receiving additions. Some soils may be
said to be completed: the rock is all broken down and fined.
Other soils are still in process of manufacture : they are full of
stones and pebbles which are slowly disintegrating and adding
their substance to the soil. Did you ever see a rotten stone"?
The longer plants are grown on any soil, and returned to it,
the richer the soil becomes. But Nature has centuries at her
disposal; man has but a few short years and must work rapidly,
and he cannot afford to make mistakes.
9. The texture of the soil may be improved (I) by underdrain-
ing, (2) by tilling, (3) by adding vegetable matter, (4) by adding cer-
tain materials, as lime, which tend to change the size of the soil parti-
cles.-The reader will say that Nature does not practice tile-drain-










BULLETIN 174.


ing. Perhaps not; but then, she has more kinds of crops to
grow than the farmer has, and if she cannot raise oaks on a cer-
tain piece of land she can put in water-lilies. We have an
entire lesson devoted to drainage and tillage, and also one to
manures and fertilizers. It is enough for the present to say that
the roots which are left in the ground after the crop is harvested
are very valuable in improving the soil. This is particularly
true if they are tap-roots,-if they run deep into the soil.
Clover bores holes into the soil, letting in air, draining it, warm-
ing it and bringing up itsplant-food. Roberts reports (" Fertil-
ity of the Land," p. 345) that a second growth of clover, two
years from seeding, gave a yield of air-dried tops of 5,417 lbs.
per acre, and of air-dried roots 2,368 lbs. in the first eight inches
of soil. Add to this latter figure the weight of roots below
eight inches and the stubble and waste, and it is seen that the
amount of herbage left on the clover field is not greatly less than
that taken off. In this instance, the roots contained a greater
percentage of nitrogen and phosphoric acid than the tops, and
about the same percentage of potash.
Make an estimateof what proportion of the plant growth you
raise is actually taken off the field. Figure up, as accurately as
you can, the part left in roots, stubble, leaves and refuse.
Even of maize, you do not remove all from the field. This cal-
culation will bring up the whole question of the kind of root-
system which each sort of plant has. Have you ever made a
close examination of the roots of potatoes, maize, wheat, clover,
cabbages, buckwheat, strawberries, Canada thistles, or other
crops ? From what part of the soil do these plants secure their
nourishment ? What power have they of going deep for water ?
What proportion of them is root ? Because the roots are hidden,
we have neglected to examine them.
o1. The soil is plant-food ; but this food becomes usable or avail-
able slowly.-Roberts has compiled the analyses of 49 represen-
tative soils, made by American chemists, and the following isthe
result: The tables reveal the fact that even the poorer soils
have an abundance of plant-food for several crops; while the
richer soils in some cases have sufficient for two hundred to three
hundred crops of wheat or maize. The average of 34 analyses


I00










THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


gives to each acre of land, eight inches deep, 3,217 pounds of
nitrogen, 3,936 pounds of phosphoric acid, and 17,597 pounds of
potash, and this does not include that which is contained in the
stones, gravel and sand of the soil which will not pass through
meshes of one-fiftieth of an inch, which, by weathering and
tillage, slowly give up their valuable constituents. "-Roberts,
" Fertility of the Land," p. 16.
Fortunately, this great store of plant-food is largely locked up,
else it would have leached from the soil or have been used up
long ago. By careful husbandry, a little of it is made usable year
by year; and the better the management of the land the more of
this food is available to the plant. When the farmer has done
his best to get out of the land all that it will give him, then he
may add fertilizers for bigger results.
Plant-food is available when it is in such condition that the
plant can use it. It must be both soluble and in such chemical
form that the plant likes it. Plant-food which is not soluble in
rain water, may still be soluble in soil water (which contains
acids derived from the humus) ; and the acid excretions from the
roots may render it soluble. But solubility is not necessarily
availability, for, as we have said, the materials must be in such
combination that the plant will take them. Thus, nitrate of
soda (Na N 03) is available because it is both soluble and in the
form in which the plant wants it. But nitrite of soda (Na NO,)
is not available although it is soluble,-the plant does not like
nitrites.
ii. Nitrogen must probably be in the form of nitrates before itcan
be usedby most plants.-Nitrogen is abundant. It is approximately
four-fifths of the atmosphere, and it is an important content of
every plant and animal. Yet, it is the element which is most
difficult to secure and to keep, and the most expensive to buy.
This is because the greater part of it is not in a form to be avail-
able, and because, when it is available, it tends to leach from the
soil. It is available when it is in the form of a nitrate-one part
of nitrogen, three parts of oxygen, united with one part of some
other element (Na NO,, nitrate of soda; K NO,, nitrate of
potash or saltpetre; H NO,, nitric acid, etc). The process of
changing nitrogen into nitrates is called nitrification. This pro-










BULLETIN 174.


cess is the work of germs or microbes in the soil: and these
germs work most efficiently when the soil is not water-logged,
and when it is well tilled. The farmer should make his available
nitrogen supply as he goes along ; and he makes it with tile
drains, plows, harrows and cultivators.
But there are some plants which have the power of using the
nitrogen which is in the air in the soil. These are legu-
minous plants,-clovers, peas, beans, vetch, alfalfa. If, there-
fore, the farmer cannot secure sufficient nitrogen by other means,
he may use these plants as green-manures. If his system of
farming will not allow him to use these plants, or if he does not
secure sufficient nitrogen when he does use them, then he can go
to the warehouse and buy nitrogen.
12. The soil is not a mere inert mass : it is a scene of life and
activity.-This is the new and the true teaching. Soil which is
wholly inactive is unproductive. Movements of air and water,
actions of heat and evaporation, life-rounds of countless micro-
scopic organisms, decay and disintegration of plants and soil
particles,-these are some of the activities of the fertile soil. If
our ears were delicate enough, we could hear the shuffle of the
workers, the beating of the hammers, and the roll of the tiny
machinery. All things begin with the soil and at last all
things come back to it. The soil is the cemetery of all the ages,
and the resurrection of all life. If the soil is not idle, neither
should the farmer be.


I02
















LESSON NO. 2. TILLAGE AND UNDER-DRAINAGE:
REASONS WHY.

By Jo/n 11'. Spencer.

13. The difference between black and white.-Two farmers are
neighbors. Mr. White has made a study of potato culture for a
number of years, and, as a result, now has an average yield, one
year with another, of about 200 bushels per acre from a field of
three to five acres. Mr. Black is considered a fairly good farmer.
as farmers go, but has given potato culture no special study. He
manages his crop as his neighbors do. His methods are those
which have been a tradition for several generations, and they had
their origin when the country was new and high cultivation was
impossible on account of the stumps and lack of tools, and also
because the virgin soil made it unnecessary. His annual yield is
not far from 60 bushels per acre. In other words, Mr. Black has
to plow, harrow, furnish seed, plant and cultivate about ten acres
to secure as many potatoes as Mr. White does from three acres.
Both men sell their product to the same dealer, and we will
assume that they receive the same price per bushel. The cost
of producing a bushel of potatoes must be very much more
with Mr. Black than it is with Mr. White. No manufacturer
or merchant could withstand the keen competition in trade if
handicapped as Mr. Black is. When the respective farms were
reclaimed from the forest, they were considered to be alike in
character of soil, and the rain falls impartially on each.
Why the difference in cost of production between Black and
White? There are many points of difference in their methods,
but we are free to say that one of the essential differences is in
tillage.
14. The plant needs water.-When Mr. White contemplates a
crop of potatoes, he proceeds to make an estimate of what the
crop will require and how he can provide for that demand.
Perhaps the greatest of all needs is water. By turning to Cor-









BULLETIN 174.


nell Experiment Station Bulletin 120, page 419, it will be seen
that in a dry season a bushel of potatoes requires about three
tons of water for its production. If Mr. White expects 200
bushels of potatoes per acre, he must somehow manage to pro-
vide 600 tons of water for each acre. He has no facilities for
irrigation, and his only resource is to make the soil a reservoir.
He must store the supply left by winter snows and spring rains,
and also the irregular rainfall that cones during the season's
growth. Speaking in broad averages, in soils most commonly
met with, this storage possibility amounts to about 300 tons of
water per acre in the first eight inches of the soil. It must be
understood that this amount is not in the form of standing water,
for water standing in the soil for any length of time injures both
soil and plant.
15. The most useful form of waterfor plants is film moisture.-
Water is capable of assuming many forms,such as steam, vapor,
ice, or free-moving liquid. The condition most valuable in the
soil is none of these, but is in the form of film moisture. This
film moisture can be shown by dipping a marble into water and
observing the film of water surrounding it on all sides. When
each soil-grain is covered with film moisture, as the marble is,
the ideal conditions of soil moisture exist. This form of water
is largely i!mle, ndent of gravitation and travels readily in all
directions, at (. be seen by dipping a cube of sugar into a spoon-
ful of coffee. It is capable of transporting plant-food to the
roots of plants from remote corners, where the roots do not reach.
It will be observed that film moisture is held only on the sur-
face of soil-grains. The more the soil is pulverized, the more
soil-grains there will be, and therefore the greater amount of sur-
face to hold film moisture.
The difference in the capacity of lumpy and fine soils to hold
film moisture is surprising to one who has not given the question
study. George W. Cavanaugh, assistant chemist at the Cornell
Experiment Station, has very graphically shown this by the fol-
lowing experiment : He put small marbles in a tumbler, as
shown by Fig. 22, and the total amount of film moisture that the
marbles would carry is represented in the tube placed beside the









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


tumbler. The soil in the other tumbler (Fig. 23) is of the same
weight as the marbles in Fig. 22, and it represents the
marbles reduced to the fineness of common sand. Its
capacity for holding film moisture is represented by the
water in the standing tube (Fig. 23). The weight of
'i material is the same in each tumbler, and thereason why
one holds three times more film moisture than the other
Sis due to the increase of surface that comes by dividing
a coarse lump into fine particles.
The marbles represent the careless tillage of Mr.
SBlack, and the finer particles the thorough tillage of
Mr. White. Mr. White plows about one-third deeper
than Mr. Black, and thereby makes another addition to
the capacity of his reservoir.
The coarse -il, as represented by the marbles, will lose
its film moisture by evapora Lion much more readily than
the soil represented by Fig. 23, particularly if the surface
of the latter is covered by fine particles representing
San l ,rth-mulch.
16. Tillage makes plant-food available.--Another differ-
ence in the culture given by !l .ck and White is that the
better tillage enables the plant to realize more food than
all fertilizers which may be '.- 'd. There is also a
benefit in maklv. Lvail-
able some of th: plant-
food thatnature has put I
in the soil. Broadly
stated, the native plant- I,;:li'"-.
food amounts toas
much as can be bought i.
in $2,ooo worth of com-
Sniercial fertilizers.
Shd by The finer soil has anoth- Fro. 23- Water held by
F coarse soil. er advantage in afford- a fine soil.
ing a greater area for root
pasturage. It is not uncommon for farmers to think of plant-food
in the soil as in the condition of salt or sugar which is capable of
being immediately dissolved by water and at once appropriated by









Io6 BULLETIN 174.

the plant, or like potash in ashes that can be soaked out. Plant-
food exists in this form only to a limited extent. A man might
famish if locked in a granary filled with wheat; yet a
chemist would say that there was enough food near him to feed
a hundred men. This illustrates how nature has stored much of
the plant-food in the soil. It has to go through many changes
before it can be appropriated by the plant. The soil is a factory
in which the work of preparation is carried on.
17. The soil is a laboratory.-Some of the agents employed in
this factory are film moisture, air and heat; and if these are not
furnished in the proper extent and condition, the factory runs in
a sluggish way, if it does not stop altogether. Good tillage does
much to hasten the activities of this factory by allowing free
ingress to the soil of film moisture, air and heat. Air is neces-
sary for a supply of oxygen, and heat to facilitate fermenta-
tion and other vital processes.
The importance of air and heat in the soil brings us to the
question of drainage. Air cannot enter a soil freely which is
filled with standing water, and growth of micro-organisms is
hindered.
18. Wet soils are cold.-Standing water is a great absorbent of
heat. If no provision is made to drain it away, it must be evapo-
rated away. Thereby heat is lost. The soil is cold. A great
many barrels of water can be standing on an acre of groundand
not attract much attention.
To appreciate the amount of heat necessary to evaporate water,
one has only to chop, split and burn beneath a caldron kettle
enough wood to evaporate a barrel of water. Every barrel that
is evaporated from the soil by the sun absorbs as much heat as
is expended by the wood used under the kettle. The soil and
plants are perhaps chilled for want of that heat. This is the
reason that a wet soil is said to be cold.
19 Drained soils resist drought.-Some farmers have the notion
that well drained soil will not withstand a drought as well as
an undrained soil. The contrary is true. Everyone who has
tilled the soil is familiar with places that are wettest in a wet
time and driest in a dry time. When these places dry at all, they
dry like a brick. A wet soil can never be tilled so as to present










THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


the greatest amount of surface for film moisture and give it a
mellow texture to receive a gentle saturation of air ; and stand-
ing water robs it of much heat required by the soil and plants.
20. Drainage makes a soil reservoir.-There is a place in every
soil at which the free water stands. This place is called the
water-table. It may be three inches down, or a hundred feet.
It is the bottom of the soil reservoir, the bottom of our dish-pan.
This dish-pan, or the upper and tillable soil, is the reservoir. Itis
the part in which the water is held as films on the soil particles.
These films travel from particle to particle, the general tendency
being upward because the moisture is passing off near the top of
the soil by means of evaporation and appropriation by plants.
Moisture is constantly supplied from the water-table below. We
speak of this movement as capillary attraction.
Under-drainage lowers the watei-table. It lowers the bottom
of the dish-pan ; and thereby there is a deeper reservoir above it
for the holding of film moisture and the distribution of roots.
But, the reader says, if the water-table supplies moisture to
the upper soil, then it must be useful and necessary. Certainly ;
but it must not be too high, for roots of farm plants do not thrive
in standing water. If the upper soil is well tilled, capillary
attraction will bring the moisture up.
21. Do not let the moisture getaway.-We want this film moist-
ure in the upper soil in order that roots may use it. The plants
do not use it, to any extent, after it has passed off into the
atmosphere. Therefore, stop this water before it reaches the
atmosphere.
How ? Put a layer of loose dry earth between the moist soil
and the atmosphere. This layer will stop the upward capillary
flow. This layer is the earth-mulch. It conserves, or saves,
moisture.
22. Dry and hard soils way be benefitted by under-drainage.-
The water-table is lowered. Air is admitted. The soil does not
puddle. It becomes fine. Under-drainage makes wet soils dry
by removing the free water ; it tends to make dry soils moist by
deepening the reservoir and fining the particles of soil.
23. What tillage tools are for.-Some tools, as plows, are to
mellow up the soil and to deepen the moisture reservoir.









io8 BULLETIN 174.

Others, as cultivators, are to tear up and to pulverize the soil to
greater or less depths. Cultivators lift and turn the soil. The
spring-tooth harrow is really a cultivator. Other tools, as har-
rows, prepare the surface of the soil. They make the seed-bed
and put on the earth-mulch. The true harrows stir the soil, but
do not lift or invert it.
24. Weeds do not resist in well-tilled lands.-The first and
greatest value of tillage is to put the soil in such condition that
plants can grow, and then to keep it so. Incidentally, it prevents
those plants from growing which we do not want,-the weeds.
Usually, the process is reversed : weeds make us till, and we get
the other benefits without knowing it. The best tillage pre-
vents weeds rather than kills them.
25. Summer-fallowing is a means of cleaning land and of cor-
recting mistakes.-It may be necessary to fallow the land in order
to clear it of stones, stumps and brush. But after the land is
once thoroughly subdued, summer-fallowing is very rarely neces-
sary if the land has been well handled. If the land has been
plowed when too wet and thereby has become lumpy, if it has
been allowed to become foul with weeds, or if it has lost heart by
too continuous cropping with one kind of crop, summer-fallow-
ing is a good means of bringing it back into condition. The
better the farming, the less the necessity of summer-fallowing.
In the old days, the poor tillage tools rendered fallowing more
necessary than it is to-day.
Fallowing is tillage; and tillage liberates plant-food. Some of
this plant-food may leach away and be lost, although the small
rainfall of the summer months,-during which time fallowing is
practiced,-makes this loss slight.
26, The kind of tillage should vary with the soil, the time of
year, the kind ofcrop.-Too many farmers seem to think that til-
lage is tillage, no matter how it is performed. The same tool is
used for clay or sand or muck, and for fitting the land for wheat
or corn or apple trees. A harrow that is best for one field may
be worst for the adjoining field. A man would not think of
using a buggy for carrying grain to market, but he will use one
tool for many kinds of work. The work is not only poorly done,
but it is not economical. It costs too much. Persons who will









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


economize to the smallest degree in expenditures of money may
be very wasteful in expenditures of labor and muscle.
Persons are always asking if deep plowing is best. The ques-
tion cannot be answered on general principles. Deep plowing
may be best for one field and one crop, and shallow plowing best
for another field and another crop. The same remarks will
apply to fall-plowing and spring plowing. One must first learn
principles, or the why; then the practice, or the how, will come
easy.

NOTE. The reader should have other sources of information than this
Lesson. He may read our Bulletins 119, Texture of the Soil ;" 120, "The
Moisture in the Sol ;" 72, The Cultivation of Orchards ;" and the three
bulletins on potato culture (Nos. 130, 140, 156). His library should also
have King'p Soil and Robert's "Fertility of the Land."



B. Answers to the Questions on the Five Iessons.
NO. i. THE SOIL: WHAT IT IS.

Many of the questions in this lesson are intended merely to
call attention to certain fundamental facts and to promote thought
and discussion.
I. Have you ever observed the influence of weather upon soft
slaty rock jutting out on embankments and in railroad cuts ?
2. Have you ever taken a glass of muddy water from a flowing
stream and allowed it to stand until the sediment had settled?
What is this sediment
These questions are intended merely to call attention to this
process of soil formation and transformation.
3. Imagine a branch of this stream bringing rotted slate rock
and another bringingfine sand. When mixed in the main stream
and deposited on some bar or overflowed field, what kind of soil
would the mixture make?
A sandy or clayey soil, the exact nature of which would be gov-
erned by the relative proportion of the different ingredients.
Such a mixture might also contain much decaying vegetable or
organic matter, and this would make the physical condition of
the soil such that it would be very fertile.









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


economize to the smallest degree in expenditures of money may
be very wasteful in expenditures of labor and muscle.
Persons are always asking if deep plowing is best. The ques-
tion cannot be answered on general principles. Deep plowing
may be best for one field and one crop, and shallow plowing best
for another field and another crop. The same remarks will
apply to fall-plowing and spring plowing. One must first learn
principles, or the why; then the practice, or the how, will come
easy.

NOTE. The reader should have other sources of information than this
Lesson. He may read our Bulletins 119, Texture of the Soil ;" 120, "The
Moisture in the Sol ;" 72, The Cultivation of Orchards ;" and the three
bulletins on potato culture (Nos. 130, 140, 156). His library should also
have King'p Soil and Robert's "Fertility of the Land."



B. Answers to the Questions on the Five Iessons.
NO. i. THE SOIL: WHAT IT IS.

Many of the questions in this lesson are intended merely to
call attention to certain fundamental facts and to promote thought
and discussion.
I. Have you ever observed the influence of weather upon soft
slaty rock jutting out on embankments and in railroad cuts ?
2. Have you ever taken a glass of muddy water from a flowing
stream and allowed it to stand until the sediment had settled?
What is this sediment
These questions are intended merely to call attention to this
process of soil formation and transformation.
3. Imagine a branch of this stream bringing rotted slate rock
and another bringingfine sand. When mixed in the main stream
and deposited on some bar or overflowed field, what kind of soil
would the mixture make?
A sandy or clayey soil, the exact nature of which would be gov-
erned by the relative proportion of the different ingredients.
Such a mixture might also contain much decaying vegetable or
organic matter, and this would make the physical condition of
the soil such that it would be very fertile.










BULLETIN 174.


4. What is inorganic matter ?
All matter which is not a part or product of a living organism
is inorganic or mineral matter, as a stone or a piece of iron.
The bulk of the soil is made up of finely pulverized stone and
is therefore inorganic matter.
5. What is organic matter?
Matter which has life or has been produced by living organisms.
An animal or a tree, either living or dead, is organic matter.
The humus of the soil is decaying organic matter.
6. Why are soils from which a thrifty forest growth has been
removed capable at once of producing good farm crops ?
Largely because of their good physical condition, due chiefly
to the presence of large quantities of humus.
7. Have you ever observed lichen (sometimes called. moss")
growing on bare rock or on a tombstone ?
This question is intended to call attention to the fact that
low forms of plant life are important in the early stages of
soil formation.
8. If any great amount of lichen should become mixed with the
disintegrated rock, would it be humus and form a weak soil that
might produce an order of plants a little larger and stronger
than lichen ?
This mixing of the moss with the pulverized rock would be
the first step toward making a soil of good physical qualities.
9. As the higher orders of plants come in and die down and mix
with the soil, would the process increase the productive power of
the soil ?
Yes, within certain limits. The more decaying vegetable
matter the soil contains, generally the more productive it is.
o1. In instances in which soil has been removed by grading,
could a new soil be well made by adding commercial fertilizer
alone? What would you apply first to such land?
The addition of humus would be of first importance. Com-
mercial fertilizers would do little good applied to a soil in
which there is no decaying vegetable matter. This would
probably be the condition in the case assumed in the question.
I If humus in soil under cultivation is perishable, ought it not
to be the farmer's first care to keep good the quantity first found in
the virgin soil?









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


Yes; and this can be done only by adding humus from time
to time in the shape of barn-yard manure and other forms of
organic matter.
12. In addition to the humus returned to the soil in manure,
from forage fed to stock, and by plowing under stubble and roots,
do you think it a good plan to sow some cover-crop in corn rows
at last cultivation, and on oat and wheat stubble as soon as the
crop is off, for plowing under the following spring?
Usually a cover-crop is desirable, and especially so if the soil is
lacking in humus.
13. What are good crops for this purpose ?
Crimson clover, vetch, peas, rye, rape, barley, oats.
14. Which of these are leguminous plants? Name all the
kinds of leguminous plants you know ?
The first three named. All the clovers, alfalfa, vetch, peas,
beans, lupines.
15. Why is it advised to plow under the green-crops as soon as
the land can be worked in the spring ?
These crops, if allowed to grow, would give off into the air
much moisture needed by the permanent crop; and besides this,
if left until they had made a large growth, there might not be
enough moisture in the soil to cause them to decay.
16. Do you think a rotation of crops helps the soil to bear the
strain of successive cropping ? If so, why ?
Yes: this practice admits of supplying humus by means of
cover-crops; it admits of tillage which sets free plant-food ; and
as different kinds of plants require different proportions of
the various plant-foods a rotation prevents an unequal
depletion of plant-food, as might be the case if one kind of
crop was grown continuously for a long time.
17. Are you aware that plant-food exists in the soil in both avail-
able and unavailable forms, and that when plants have used up
most of the available portion we call the soil worn out?
Most soils, even though unproductive, contain plant-food in
large quantities, but it is in such condition or chemical form that
plants cannot get it.
18. Is it true that your soil is capable of being made an
active laboratory in which changes will take place and some of this
unavailable plant-food be made usable?


III









BULLETIN 174.


It is only when the soil is in such condition that certain
changes can take place, that the unavailable plant-food becomes
available to the plant.
19. Are you aware that when the texture of your soil is poor, or
in other words, your laboratory is out of order, the best commercial
fertilizers or stable manures will not give the best results?
The texture or physical condition of the soil is of first import-
ance. A stone contains plant-food, but it will not grow crops
because of its physical and chemical condition.
20. Do you know that heat and air are important agencies in
the changes going on in the soil, as they also are in the changes in a
barrel of cider or in yeast in a pan of dough ?
Chemical changes in'the soil cannot take place to the best
advantage when the air is excluded, or when certain definite
temperature cannot be maintained.
21. Does standing water on soil have a detrimental or beneficial
effect on the heat and air? Why ?
Detrimental, because it keeps the temperature too low and
excludes the air; and soil texture is impaired.
22. How can you make the soil laboratory do the best work?
By making and preserving the best physical condition possible.


NO. 2. TILLAGE AND UNDER-DRAINAGE: "REASONS WHY.
I. What proportion of farmers in your neighborhood farm it
like Mr. Black ?
Apply the test to yourself, and see if you are using good,
economical business methods in carrying on your farm.
2. How is farming to be made to pay,-by getting higher prices
or by cheapening cost of production ?
Prices are largely beyond our control; the cost of production
very largely rests with us. At least, this is true within certain
limits.
3. Do you expect permanently higher prices for farm produce?
The past may be taken as a reasonably fair indication of the
future.
4. Do you set a certain yield before your mind when yov are pre-
paring for a crop f Or do you expect to be content with what comes?


112









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


In the first case, you are farming with your head as well as
with your hands, and the aim is to control circumstances as much
as possible: the work is done on a good business basis. In the
latter case, you are allowing yourself to be ruled entirely by cir-
cumstances and your work is not conducted in a good business-
like manner. The same careful, judicious business management
is necessary in farming that is needful in a successful commercial
enterprise.
5. An inch of rainfall weighs about 113 tons to the acre. About
3oo tons of water is required to produce one ton of dry matter.
Do you have rainfall enough in June, July and August to main-
tain a heavy crop of Indian corn or cabbage?
In considering this question one must'keepin mind the factthat
much of the rain-fall drains off into streams, especially on hilly
land ; also that large quantities are evaporated before the plants
can take it up. On account of these losses only a part of the
rain is available for the plants. Usually therainfall in midsummer
is not sufficient to maintain a heavy crop, and so we must try
to save, by thorough cultivation, what fell earlier in the season.
6. Does surface tillage make soil moist, or keep it moist?
It keeps it moist by preventing the soil from drying out. When
soil is left undisturbed for a long time, and it becomes packed
down, the moisture in the soil works toward the surface and is
evaporated, passing off into the air. Tillage makes a surface
mulch which the soil moisture cannot readily pass through. It
is equivalent to covering the soil with a layer of straw or a board.
Every farmer knows how moist it is under a pile of straw which
has remained in the same place for some time, or under a board.
This straw or board does not make the soil moist but prevents
it from becoming dry. This is what tillage does.
7. Why does deepfall plowing make soils warm or early
in spring?
Land so treated tends to dry out earlier in the spring than
unplowed soils; and soils which dry out early in the spring are
" warm and consequently early."
8. What proportion of farmers in your vicinity practice under-
drainage ?
The important point to be considered is, Does your farm need
under-draining ?









BULLETIN 174.


9. How many of thefarms need under-drainage?
There is comparatively little land which will not be improved
by under-draining.
io. How deep and how far apart would you lay under-drains?
The distance apart should be governed in a measure by the
depth: the deeper the drains, the farther apart they may be
placed. The contour of the land and the nature of the soil will
also influence very materially in the matter. In a general way
we may say that in moderately porous soils drains three feet deep
should be from 30 to 40 feet apart.
I 1. Do the farmers of your neighborhood have enough difer-
ent kinds of tools to enable them to till their land cheaply and
efficiently ?
This will depend upon the nature of the soil and the kind of
crops grown. It is a good question to think about.
12. How many different kinds of tillage tools should a man have
to farm it properly if he has Ioo acres devoted to general farming,
of which half is clay and halfsandy soil?
This question is too general to admit of any one fixed answer.
Each farm differs in some respects from every other, and the
tools used on the one farm probably would not be exactly suit-
able in all details for another farm. Let each man answer.
13. How often would you till a fieldof corn orpotatoes?
Often enough to keep the soil-mulch in good condition,-that
is, light and loose. Study this question.
14. WThy do you till your corn or potatoes? Are weeds the
leading problem in your mind ?
The keeping of the soil-mulch light and loose should be the
leading idea. When this is done, few if any weeds can grow.

NO. 3. FERTILITY OF THE SOIL: WHAT IT IS.

i. Do plants obtain all their food from the soil?
A part comes from the soil and a part from the air.
.2. What do you mean when you say that soil is exhausted,-that
it has no more plant-food in it, or merely that it fails to produce
crops ?
When a soil merely fails to produce a crop, it is usually said to be









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


exhausted, regardless of the amount of plant-food which it may
contain.
3. May a soilfail to produce crops and yet not be exhausted of
plant-food?
Yes; the plant-food must not only be present but it must be
in such a form that the plants can use it. The physical condition
of the soil also has much to do with the size of the crop. A soil
which is hard and lumpy, containing an insufficient amount of
humus, will not produce a good crop, even though it contains an
abundance of plant-food.
4. If there are 73 plant-foods which are positively essential, why
do we commonly speak of only 3 of them as plant-foods-of nitrogen,
potash, phosphoric acid ?
All the other plant-foods are sufficiently abundant in an
available form in most soils, so that they do not have to be con-
sidered in maintaining the fertility of the land.
5. Do you know if there is any difference between phosphorus
and phosphoric acid ? Write the chemical symbolfor each.
Phosphoric acid is a certain amount of phosphorus plus a cer-
tain quantity of oxygen. The symbol for phosphorus is P; for
phosphoric acid, PO.
6. Is there any difference between potassium and potash? Write
chemical symbols for each.
Potash is potassium plus oxygen, combined in a certain definite
proportion. K stands for potassium ; K-O for potash.
7. Write the chemical symbols for calcium and lime.
Ca is the symbol for calcium; CaO stands for lime.
8. Where do phosphorus, potassium and calcium come from,-
from the ground or from the air? Are they gases or solids?
They come from the ground. They are solids.
9. Where does oxygen come from ?
It comes from the air ; about on- fifth of the air is oxygen
and four-fifths nitrogen.
10. Do you know if phosphorus, potassium and calcium exist in
nature in their pure state ?
In nature they exist only as compounds with other substances.
i Does oxygen exist anywhere in a pure or uncombined state ?









BULLETIN 174.


Yes; oxygen exists in the free or uncombined state in the
atmosphere. About one-fifth of the atmosphere is oxygen.
12. Of what is water composed ? Write its chemical formula.
Of hydrogen and oxygen ; the symbol or formula is HO.
13. Of what is ammonia composed ? Is it a gas or liquid ? Can
you buy pure ammonia at the drug store ?
It is composed of nitrogen and hydrogen (N H,). It is a gas.
Ammonia of the drug stores is water which has absorbed some
of the ammonia gas.
14. Does the plant feed on ammonia directly?
Very little if at all. It must first be changed to a nitrate.
15. What is the composition ofa nitrate? Write the formula for
nitrate of potash and nitrate of lime.
Nitrates are the result of treating substances with nitric acid.
F6r nitrate of potash it is K NO,; for nitrate of lime, Ca (NO,),.
16. In what kind of materials does nitrogen oicur? Name some
common things which you think contain nitrogen.
Nitrogen occurs in organic materials, as in plants and animals.
In meat, leather, hair, milk,humus of the soil, cotton-seed
meal, etc.
17 Is nitrogen a solidor a gas?
It is a gas.
18. Are nitrates of potash and soda solids, liquids or gases?
They are solids.
19. Are nitrates soluble? Is there danger of their being lost from
the soil ?
Yes. Loss is likely to occur, especially on land which remains
for a long time with no crop on it.
20. What is an amendment ?
A substance which, while it has little or no value as a plant-
food itself, acts in such a manner as to make plant-food already
in the soil more available, or which improves its texture.
21. Is the soilin your garden sour ? Try it.
See Reading-Lesson No. 3, page 7.
22. In what materials can you buy phosphoric acid for fertilizer
purposes?
The most common materials are forms of bone. South
Carolina rock and Florida rock are ancient deposits of fossilized


16









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


bone. Ground fresh bones are sometimes used as a source of
phosphoric acid.
23. In what can you buy potash?
The common commercial forms of potash are sulfate of
potash and muriate of potash. Wood ashes is also a source of
this plant-food.
24. In what can you buy nitrogen ?
Sulfate of ammonia and nitrate of soda are common forms.
Cotton-seed meal, dried blood and tankage are some of the
organic sources.
25. Are there any home fertilizers, or common farm materials
(aside from barn manure), in which you can get these elements?
The plowing under of green-crops, like clover, peas, vetch
and the like will furnish nitrogen ; wood ashes furnish the only
"home supply" of potash; phosphoric acid must usually be
purchased from the dealers.

NO. 4. HOW THE PLANT GETS ITS FOOD FROM THE SOIL.
i. Do the root-hairs finally become roots, or do herv stay on as
the main root g rows ?
The root-hairs never become roots. As the young rootlets
which bear the root-hairs enlarge and their tissues become hard,
the root-hairs perish.
2. Are there root-hairs on old roots?
No.
3. On what part of the roots are the root-hairs ?
On the young, tender rootlets.
4. Where does the radish plant, which you grew in moss or
cloth, get nourishment for making the first root-hairs ?
This nourishment probably comes from the food-material
stored up in the seed.
5. Why doparticles of soil adhere to a young plant of wheat
or cabbage when it is pulled up ?
Because the root hairs and rootlets are so numerous and in
such close contact with the soil. The finer the soil, the closer
and more extensive this contact is.
6. What do you understand by a solution ?
A substance dissolved in a liquid.









BULLETIN 174.


7. Givw an example of a substance which will dissolve in water,
and one which will not.
Sugar will dissolve; sand will not.
8. May materials which are insoluble in rain water be soluble
in soil water Why ? (Consult Less. 3.)
Yes. Because the soil water contains carbonic acid gas in
solution and this increases the dissolving power of water.
9. Does warming the water increase its power to make sub-
stances soluble ?
Yes.
10. Write a definition of osmosis. (Consult dictionary or some
school book on physics or natural philosophy.)
It is the tendency of two liquids of different density to pass
through a membrane or porous wall which separates them.
I Why does the soil water go into the root-hair
It is largely on account of this osmotic tendency or action.
The outer walls of the little root-hairs constitute the membrane ;
the sap or moisture in the cells of the root-hairs and the soil-
moisture represent the two liquids separated by the membrane.
(See Reading-Lesson 4, fig. 3.)
12 Why does not the liquid in the root hair flow out into
the soil?
Because the sap in the hairs is denser than the water or
moisture in the soil; that is, it contains a larger percentage of
solid matter in solution. When two liquids of different
density are separated by a membrane, the passage of the liquid
through the membrane is in the direction from the less dense to
the more dense.
13 What would happen if the liquid in the root-hair and that
in the surrounding soil were of equal density ?
There would be little or no movement of the water from the
soil into the root hairs and the plants would die.
14. Must all food materials in the soil be in solution before the
plant can use them ?
Yes.
15. Does the plant ever utilize materials which are insoluble in
the soil water ? How ?
Yes; the roots of plants are slightly acid and this increases
the dissolving power of the moisture in contact with the roots.









THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


16. How is it that plants can live and grow in a soil which
is dust dry ?
Even the soil which seems to us dust dry really contains very
minute amounts of water; and so long as this is the case
osmotic action goes on though, of course, very slowly when the
soil is "dust dry."
17. Can your soil be so loose as to have too much air for the good
of the plants?
Yes. This is sometimes the case in very light sandy or
gravelly soils.
18. Do you understand that you can smother the root as well as
the top of the plant ? How .
Yes. The roots need air as well as the top. Soil which is
constantly soaked with water prevents the air from coming in
contact with the roots; smothering results as one of the
effects of too wet land.
19. At what season do you suppose that corn roots absorb the
most moisture ?
When the corn is making its most rapid growth.
20. At what season do you have the least rainfall
During -the summer season when plants are growing most
rapidly.
21. If you knew that you would not have sufficient rainfall in
August to maintain your potato crop, how would you plan to secure
the moisture?
Prevent evaporation so far as possible by means of a surface
mulch. This means thorough tillage.
22. Name one way in which plants are injured by too strong
dressings of potash or nitrogen.
If applied in such large quantities that the soil moisture dis-
solved larger proportions than were contained in the sap-that is,
if the density of the soil moisture became greater than of the sap-
osmotic action would be from the plants to the soil and the plants
thus giving up their moisture to the soil, would wilt.
23. If all the potash in your cornfield were to become suddenly
available, what would happen ?
The corn would be killed and heavy rains might leach much
of the potash from the soil.










120 BULLETIN 174.

24. How might you apply muriate of potash so that strawberry
plants would be injured ?
By applying in large quantities too close to the plants.
25. Would it be an easy matter to injure old apple trees by
muriate of potash? Why?
If applied in very large amountsdirectly overtheroots, injury
might follow; but such injury is rare.
26. If you put the fertilizer in the hill, willnotthe roots grow
beyond and away from it, as the plant grows ?
Yes, to a large degree.
NO. 5. HOW THE PLANT GETS ITS FOOD FROM THE AIR.
i. What portion of its dry substance does the plant secure
from the soil ?
The amount is variable, but on an average about 3 per cent.
Some varieties of plants take up much more and others less
than 3 per cent.
2. What one substance or compound is taken in most profusely
by the plant?
Water.
3. How does the plant get its water,-through roots or leaves?
Through the roots.
4. In what part of the plant does the water ascend-through the
young wood, or between the bark and wood ?
It ascends through the young wood.
5. Where does the plant get its carbon?
From the air.
6. How does it take in its nitrogen,-by roots or leaves?
By the roots.
7. Where is the starch manufactured?
In the leaves and other green parts.
8. From what substances is the starch made ?
From carbon dioxide and water.
9. Of what elements is starch composed ?
Of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
io. Into what is the starch changed before it is transported ?
It is changed into sugar.
I I. What use is made of the material after it is transported ?










THE PROBLEM OF IMPOVERISHED LANDS.


It is used in the growth of the plant.
S2. Through what part of the plant does the starch-like material
(or elaborated sap" )pass ?
It diffuses through the layers of the inner bark.
13. The root takes in water containing food: Can it use this
food material directly in making root-growth ? Why?
No. This food material is taken into the plant in a crude con-
dition, and it must be transported to the leaves where it unites
with other materials before it can be used in the growth of the
plant.
14. Why is starch stored in seeds and tubers ?
To be used by the seedlings or new plants when growth first
begins, and before the plants are sufficiently developed to take
their food from the soil and air.
15. Is starch stored in twigs in the fall?
Yes.
16. Are the flowers of peaches, and other early bloomingplants,
fed from food taken in at the root at the time, or from materials
stored in the twig ? (Think how the potatoes sprout in the bin.)
From materials stored in the twig the year before. It is for
this reason that the condition and health of the trees this year
influence so largely the crop of next year.
17. Will mulching the roots qf a peach tree with straw when the
ground is frozen delay the blooming in the spring ?
No ; because there is food enough in the twigs to feed the blos-
soms, and as soon as the weather is warm enough this food is
available.
18. Soil water holds very little food for plants; the roots must
take in enormous quantities of water; what becomes of some of
this water?
It passes off through the leaves.
19. Is the waterwhich evaporates from the soil of any direct use
to the plant ?
No, not of itself.
20. The plant needs water,-it sweats it out; how shall wa
manage so that the plant can have all the water it needs ?
An abundance of water goes into the soil (in New York) every
year, but it is not equally distributed. When the plants need it
most is the time when there is usually the least rain. The only










BULLETIN 174.


way we can help the plants (unless we irrigate) is to preserve the
moisture so that it becomes available when it is most needed. This
may be done by draining the land, and in this way increase the
storage capacity of the soil (See Lesson No 2) ; and by keeping
a good earth-mulch on the surface so as to prevent, as much as
possible, the evaporation of the water from the soil.
21. Write down all the substances (or materials) you know which
the plant must have in order to live and grow.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, lime, iron and sulfur were given
in Lesson No. 3 as some of the necessary plant-foods. Carbon,
hydrogen and oxygen are also necessary.
22. Which one of these does nature supply in sufficientabundance,
without any thought on your part?
Carbon.
23. What ones can you help nature to supply ?
Nitrogen, potash, phosphoric acid, lime and water.
24. Name all the congenial conditions (or agencies) which the
plant must have in order to be comfortable and to grow.
A certain temperature; a certain water supply; a certain
amount of humus; good texture; and a sufficient supply of plant-
food.
25. What ones of these canyou help nature to supply or maintain?
We can influence the water supply, add plant-food and humus,
and maintain good texture.


122




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