Volume 25 Number3 31 -ff5
JULY 1, 1915
W. A. McRAE
COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE
Entered January 31, 1903, at Tallahassee, Florida, as second-class
matter under Act of Congress of June, 1900.
THESE BULITINS ARE ISSUED FRE TO THOSE REQUESTING THEM
T. J. APPLEYARD, State Printer,
v4o. 3 Q
COUNTY MAP OF STATE OF FLORIDA.
Br P. H. ROLFS.
Director Experiment Station and Superintendent
PREPARATION OF THE SOIL.
Deep Plowing.-In preparing the soil for cotton it
should be kept in mind constantly that the plowing or
breaking in the winter or early spring is the most im-
portant operation of the entire year. Some of the other
defects may be corrected, but if this one operation is
neglected we are nearly certain to reap a small crop, no
matter what our later work may be. The land should be
broken early in the year. December or the first two weeks
in January are the most favorable periods of the year. It
should be broken deeply if a considerable amount of veg-
etable matter occurs in the field. Ten to twelve inches
will not be too deep. If, on the other hand, the soil has
been cultivated for many years and contains only a small
amount of vegetable matter, it may be advisable to break
the land no more than two or three inches deeper than it
was broken up the year before.
The deep breaking early in the 'ear provides ample
space for storing up moisture. The particles of soil are
separated by this tillage, allowing the air and the moist-
ure to circulate freely through that portion of the soil
which is to become a seed-bed later in the year. If the
soil is broken early in the year it catches the winter rain-
fall and stores it up for spring and early summer use.
Having broken up the soil thoroughly in the spring, and
pulverized it well, the loose soil forms a blanket which
prevents the escape of moisture from the soil. The capil-
lary moisture rises upward, but the surface blanket stops
its rise and so prevents it from evaporating into the air.
Aeration of Soil.-Another important point that is
usually entirely overlooked is that by thorough plowing
the lower portion of the soil is brought near the surface
and the surface soil is turned down deeper. This brings a
large portion of the soil near the surface, where it can be
aerated, and where the oxygen of the air can get to the
soil particles and put them in condition to furnish the
plant food for the coming crop. This is forcibly illus-
trated by many instances. We have frequently noticed
that when a well is dug on a farm the earth thrown out
from the bottom of the well is usually a dead mass, on
which for the first six months hardly any weeds will
grow. We may think that this is due to the want of weed
seeds in it. This, however, is not the case, for plenty of
weed seeds are blown or otherwise distributed through it.
It is simply too low in available plant food to allow any
of the weed seedlings to grow. After this earthy matter
has been aerated for a few months, however, we find the
tallest and rankest weeds springing up in this soil which
was formrely deep down in the earth. The same condi-
tions occur when we break up our land. If we break it
up deeply and then plant our seed immediately we will
certainly be disappointed, unless the land has also been
broken up deeply and the surface soil aerated in previous
years. By breaking up the soil deeply in the late fall or
early winter, enough time elapses before the cotton has
to be planted to let this soil become thoroughly aerated,
and then we have a fresh, vigorous soil. In a large
measure this soil is like newly broken land.
Soil that has been deeply broken, especially if it is
twelve to fourteen, or eighteen inches deep, makes an
excellent seed-bed, in which rapid growth of plants is
greatly promoted. Cotton is no exception to this rule.
Anyone doubting this assertion can readily prove it for
himself if he will simply take the trouble to dig out a
dozen of the best cotton plants from deeply prepared
soil and then dig out a dozen cotton plants from soil that
has been prepared in the ordinary haphazard way. The
roots of the cotton plants that have been dug from the
deep soil will be found to be much more abundant, much
more vigorous, and deeper in the soil than those from the
land that has been prepared only three or four inches
Deep Soil and Fertilizer.--Even if the important
reasons for deep plowing just given were not considered
sufficient, there is still another reason that makes deep
plowing a necessity. Land deeply prepared has a much
greater capacity for holding fertilizer than land that has
been only indifferently prepared. Usually it is thought
that the quantity of cotton produced on the acre will vary
directly in proportion to the amount of fertilizer that one
can afford to apply. Definite tests have been made by
the Experiment Station, which show that this is alto-
gether a mistake. An acre of land prepared in the ordi-
nary way and of only ordinary fertility cannot make use
of more than about six hundred pounds of fertilizer of
ordinary concentration, such as is given in the formula
below. In our experiments we find that the amount of
cotton produced from different applications of 200, 400
and 600 pounds increased rapidly and gave handsome
additional returns for the larger amounts. In fact, in
many cases it will be found that an application of 400
pounds of fertilizer to the acre will double the amount of
cotton produced by an application of 200 pounds of fer-
tilizer, thus making as much cotton on one acre as other-
wise would have been made on two. Our experiments
showed that 600 pounds of fertilizer was the maximum
amount that could be applied profitably on ordinary land.
When 800 pounds was applied there was actually a de-
crease in the total amount of seed cotton produced as
compared with 600 pounds of fertilizer. The land, how-
ever, was prepared in an ordinary indifferent way.
Turning Under Vegetable Matter.-For years past, and
for generations, our forefathers have made it a practice
to wait until about time to plant cotton, and then to turn
into the old cotton field and burn off the vegetable mat-
ter. A man who in this day and age will burn off the
vegetable matter in the same manner as was done by our
forefathers is nothing but an agricultural criminal. He
is taking comfort and pleasure away from his family, re-
quiring them to live in wretched surroundings and leav-
ing himself a miserable living. Our criminal laws punish
any one who sets fire to any building; but the farmer who
intentionally and by design sets fire to and burns up his
vegetable matter harms himself and his family more than
he would if he were to set fire to his stables; for it not
only impoverishes the soil for that year, but continues to
have its detrimental effect for years to come.
Must Plow Early.-Plowing under vegetable matter
must be done early in the year. It cannot be put off until
cotton-planting time. The earlier in the year this can be
done the better. It should not, however, be delayed longer
than the middle of January.
Humus.-Plowing under the vegetable matter gives the
important and necessary element to the soil which we
ordinarily know as humus. Humus is not vegetable mat-
ter, nor is it soil. It is the intermediate stage between
vegetable matter and soil. All vegetable matter when it
decays goes through much the same chemical process as
when the chemist ignites it in the crucible and reduces it
to earthy matter, the difference being that the sun and air
act more slowly than fire, and nature takes her time to
do this work. The burning process, or oxidizing process
as the chemist calls it, goes on, however, just as certainly
as if it were in the chemist's laboratory. The vegetable
matter in the soil, as mere vegetable mat ter, is of no
value to us, nor is the vegetable matter of much concern
or value to us after it has reached its ultimate reduction
and has returned again to soil. It is on its transition
from the vegetable matter towards earthy matter that it
is of greatest importance to us from an agricultural
standpoint. In this transition period, that is, after the
vegetable matter has been thoroughly broken down and
no longer has any semblance to the plants from which it
was derived, and before it has taken on the condition of
earthy matter, this once organic material is what we call
A soil abundantly supplied with humus has a very
largely increased water-holding power. The humus in the
soil might be likened to myriads of small sponges dis-
tributed through the soil. These small sponges will soak
up the water and hold it and give it up slowly to the soil.
Our chemist in his laboratory has found that soil rich in
humus has a capacity for holding at least a hundred per
cent. more moisture than soil which is devoid of humus.
When soil is completely made up of humus and vegetable
matter it is usually spoken of as muck soil. Where the
vegetable matter is not fully disintegrated and is still of
a fibrous character it is usually spoken of as peat. Where
the peat or muck is pure the water-holding capacity of the
soil is many hundred per cent. greater than that of soil
entirely devoid of humus.
Any condition of the soil which enables it to hold mois-
ture also increases the fertilizer-holding power. Sandy
soil has so little water-holding capacity that we usually
speak of it as leachy soil. When fertilizer is placed in
such a soil the first rain that comes washes it below into
the subsoil. In the presence of humus, however, the fer-
tilizer is retarded or entirely stopped on the way down,
and so the plants are enabled, later in the period of their
growth, to absorb the fertilizer from the humus.
Plowing.-Since the earliest time of cotton planting in
Florida it has been the custom to bed up for cotton in the
middles of the same land where the crop has been grown
the year before. In this way only a fraction of the land
is broken up and prepared for the cotton plant. This is a
most imperfect and slovenly way to prepare a seed-bed.
If the weather and everything else is in the farmer's favor
he may make a crop, but he will find that nineteen years
out of twenty the weather is against him rather than in
his favor. He will therefore find that nineteen times out
of twenty he has lessened or ruined his chances of making
a good crop before he planted his seed. The only certain
way to begin is to begin right, and the right way to begin
with cotton planting is to break all the land; what we
ordinarily speak of as breaking broadcast. This is a little
more tedious than doing it in a slovenly haphazard way
and requires more labor and horsepower. If, however, we
keep it in mind that farming is a business and not a holi-
day employment, we can readily get plenty of time to pre-
pare our cotton land. Ordinarily every bit of lint cotton
has been taken out of the field by the middle of December.
At this time then we can begin breaking up our land for
the next year. This will give us ninety days' time in
which to prepare our cotton land. Of course, to begin at
this time of the year would mean that we should have to
do a little less fishing, and probably not go hunting quite
so frequently. But to make a success of anything it is
necessary to give pleasure a second place and attend to
our business first.
The cotton plant is not very fastidious about the source
from which the fertilizer is obtained. Of course, it has its
preferences and dislikes, but as a whole if a moderate
amount of fertilizer composed of the right elements be
applied to the soil, we may reasonably expect the cotton
plant to make use of it. The cotton plant is not a glutton
and does not want a big meal at any time; but it wants
good wholesome food every day in the month for about
five months in the year. A fertilizer composed according
to the following formula will be found to be fairly good
on the average, for clay land. By comparing this with
the formula for sandy lands it will be noticed that the
clay land requires less of the element potash than does
the sandy land.
FERTILIZER FOR CLAY LANDS.
Ammonia ....................... 4 per cent.
Phosphoric Acid ................ 10 per cent.
Potash ......................... 4 per cent.
The following ingredients will give approximately the
amount of plant food required for an acre of cotton ac-
cording to the above formula:
Cottonseed meal (7 .per cent ammonia)......320 pounds
Acid phosphate (16 per cent phosphoric acid) .375 pounds
Muriate of potash (50 per cent potash)...... 48 pounds
These ingredients will furnish the amount of plant-food
contained in 600 pounds of the foregoing formula.
For sandy land, that is, where the clay does not come
nearer than within twelve to eighteen inches of the sur.
face, the following formula will be found to give good
FERTILIZER FOR SANDY LANDS.
Ammonia ........................ 3 per cent.
Phosphoric acid .................. 7 per cent.
Potash .......................... 7 per cent.
Ingredients needed to supply the plant-food in 600
pounds of the preceding formula for sandy lands:
Cottonseed meal (7 per cent)..... 240 pounds
Acid phosphate (16 per cent)...... 263 pounds
Muriate of potash................ 84 pounds
The amount of fertilizer to be applied either to the
sandy land or to the clay land will depend largely upon
the condition of the soil. If the soil has been prepared
only three or four inches deep, as is the too frequent cus
tom, 600 pounds of the above formula will be the largest
amount that we can safely apply under average condi-
tions. If the land has been deeply prepared and contains
a large amount of humus, double the amount of fertilizer
can be applied with greater profit. It is a great advantage
to us to be able to reduce the acreage without reducing
the production as a whole. Consequently it is necessary
to increase the humus content, increase the depth of our
soil, and improve the grade of the fertilizer we are using.
Ask a dozen of your neighbors separately what is the
object of plowing, and eleven out of the twelve will tell
you that it is to kill weeds. A greater mistake could not
well be made. The killing of weeds is merely an incident
along the way. We cultivate the land to improve the
health of the plant we are growing, to increase its vigor,
to enable it to withstand insect attacks and ravages of
diseases so that it will produce a large crop of cotton.
The direct effect of cultivating the soil is to aerate it
and to conserve moisture. We have, therefore, two points
to keep in mind, primarily, in plowing the land and culti-
vating the crop. First, we must aerate the soil so as to
make it a fit place for the habitation of the roots of
plants. The roots of these plants need air just as cer-
tainly as do human beings. They do not need the same
amount, but in the absence of oxygen the roots will be
killed and the plants will die. The best way to get this
air into the soil is to put it in before the crop has been
planted. This is done by deep plowing. Second, we con-
serve the moisture by frequent and shallow cultivating.
This also helps to aerate the soil when the surface has
become compacted by heavy rains. Where the soil has
been prepared only three or four inches deep, it becomes
necessary to cultivate deeply in order that a certain por-
tion of the soil at least may be aerated. In doing this
work, however, we multilate and kill thousands and mil-
lions of the roots of the cotton plants. Our best friends
are being ruthlessly destroyed and slaughtered for the
sake of getting a small amount of air into our soil. No
wonder that we have to run down one side of the cotton
plant one week and then wait two weeks before it is pos-
sible for us to run down the other side. If we were to
run down both sides of the cotton plants at one time it
would unquestionably ruin thousands of the plants out-
If destroying four-fifths of the roots at one time would
ruin the plant, how can it be anything else but an injury
to the plant to destroy one-half of the roots.
The question as to the frequency of cultivation is often
asked. The frequency with which we should cultivate de-
pends upon the cost of cultivation. If we have to cultivate
with one mule and a hand it will cost us a great deal more
per acre than when we cultivate with two mules and a
hand. Two mules and a hand can do twice as much work
and better work than one mule and a hand. The more
frequently we can cultivate, the greater amount of mois-
ture we conserve. Consequently the more frequently we
can afford to cultivate, the more likely are we to have a
good cotton crop.
The cotton crop is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of
the agricultural crops that we are now producing. Yet in
the past comparatively little attention has been given to
systematic selection and breeding. Practically nothing in
a systematic way had been done up to twenty years ago.
Everything previous to that time had been done in a sort
of haphazard lucky-go-easy way. Since then, however,
experiments have been carried on with sufficient exact-
ness to allow us to lay down some general rules that may
be carried out profitably. First, we know that the seed
from a fine, well-boiled, productive cotton plant has im-
measurably greater probabilities of producing a good crop
than seed from a half barren or a small and scrawny
stalk. Second, we know that the chance of crossing or
cross-breeding between different cotton plants in a field
is not nearly so great as in the case of the corn plant.
Consequently the work of selection is much more easily
accomplished, and the precautions that we have to throw
about our work are very much reduced.
Knowing these general principles, it is a simple matter
for us to deduce methods for improving our cotton seed.
All that is necessary is to select a field of cotton that is
being grown on a rather poor or medium poor soil, then
go through the field and label or tag the best plants by the
easiest method at hand. A very simple way is to tie a bit
of muslin to the top of the desirable plants. In looking
for desirable plants we should be careful to select those
that are very fruitful, those whose bolls open well, whose
seeds are well covered with cotton, and whose lint is of
the correct length. Five hundred such plants can easily
be selected in a day from a five-acre plot.
The seeds of these plants are then saved separately, the
first picking being taken off before the whole cotton field
is picked, the second picking is taken before the second
cotton is picked, and so on. The seed cotton is then saved
separately, ginned separately, and stored for next year's
planting. The selected seed should be planted by hand to
make it go as far as possible. The second year we should
save seed only from the best plants in the field of selected