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Title: Soil improving crops for Florida
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Title: Soil improving crops for Florida
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Scott, John M.
Publisher: State of Florida, Dept. of Agriculture,
Publication Date: 1935
Copyright Date: 1935
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Full Text
FROM THE LIBRARY
OF
DAVID FAIRCHILD

Bulletin No. 18 New Series August, 1935


Soil Improving Crops

for Roridl
(Reprint)
By
JOHN M. SCOTT





I -
HUME LIBRARY'



State of FJdridA.S. Univ. of Flor I?
Department of Agriculture
NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner


Prepared and Published in Co-operation with the College of
Agriculture, University of Florida, Gainesville.














Soil Improving Crops
By JOHN M. SCOTT
Prepared and Published in Co-operation with the College of Agriculture,
University of Florida, Gainesville
PERHAPS no phase of agriculture is of more importance to
the prospective farmers of Florida, as well as the ones
already here, than that of growing soil-improving crops.
It makes little difference whether one is a citrus grower,
truck grower, potato grower, or a general farmer in Florida,
for the growing of soil-improving crops is about as important
to each one as the growing of any other crop.
Soil-improving crops are, of course, just as important in
many other states as in Florida, for a very large percentage
of the agricultural lands of the United States is depleted of
soil fertility each year by crops. This is quite natural and
cannot be helped, although it is possible and practical to grow
soil-improving crops that, when turned under, will improve
the fertility of the soil.
Florida is blessed with a number of soil-improving crops
that fit in well with farming operations. A legume always
makes the best soil-improving crop, and there are a number
grown in Florida, all of which are annuals and therefore fit
into a crop rotation much better than perennials.
Soil-improving crops increase the humus of the soil, which
in turn increases the water-holding capacity of the soil, often
an important factor in the growth of a crop. The experience
of most successful farmers has been that the best crops are
produced on those soils that are well supplied with humus.
The virgin hammock soil of Florida is an excellent example
of land well filled with humus. Very little of the high pine
land contains a sufficient amount of humus for the best
growth and production of crops.
Another reason for growing soil-improving crops is that
when a liberal amount of humus is added from year to year,
the soil is kept supplied with bacterial life, which is very es-
sential to plant growth. A sandy soil on which clean culture
is practiced does not respond to fertilizers as well as a soil
of the same type to which soil-improving crop has been add-
ed. Soil without abundant bacterial life never responds to
fertilizer or cultivation to the same extent as does soil that is
well supplied with bacteria. Bacterial life in a soil is not only
dependent upon the humus content of the soil but also upon
the moisture and acid content.








DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


In other words, if one is to have an abundant supply of
bacterial life in the soil, it is necessary to have a good supply
of both humus and moisture. However, as the humus content
of the soil is increased, the water-holding capacity of the soil
is also increased. These are two very important factors in
the production of a crop. In many cases moisture is the limit-
ing factor in the production of a maximum crop.
In addition to the humus that the soil-improving crop may
add, it also adds plant food to the soil. The legume crops, of
course, add more plant food than do the non-legumes.
Since warmth and cultivation tend to destroy or burn out
the humus from the soil faster than any other factor, anoth-
er advantage of a cover crop is that it keeps the ground shad-
ed during the summer and thus conserves the humus content.
On sandy soils, especially where there is a sandy sub-soil, it
is necessary to grow a soil-improving crop each year, as such
soils do not retain humus or nitrogen very long. However, on
the clay soils, or where there is a clay subsoil, there is not so
much leaching of the nitrogen or burning out of the humus.
In other words, in the clay soils the results of a soil-improv-
ing crop are more lasting.
The growing of soil-improving crops will not take the place
of all commercial fertilizer necessary to produce maximum
crops, but it will materially reduce the amount of commer-
cial fertilizer needed, and it will put the soil in such condition
that the crops grown will utilize the commercial fertilizer
that is applied to better advantage. As maximum crops are
usually the most economical to produce, every effort should
be made to keep the land in such condition that best results
will always be obtained so far as crop production is concern-
ed.
CHOICE OF SOIL-IMPROVING CROPS
The choice of a soil-improving crop will depend largely
upon the preference of the individual person and the charac-
ter of his soil. There are a number of legume soil-improving
crops that are desirable for most conditions in Florida. The
legumes that have generally given the most satisfactory re-
sults are velvet beans, cowpeas, beggarweed, crotalaria,
vetch, pigeon peas and Austrian winter pea. In addition to
the legumes, one has the choice of a number of non-legumes,
such as crab grass, Natal grass, sand burs, Mexican clover
(which is not a legume), and other grasses and weeds that
might grow.








SOIL IMPROVING CROPS 5

VELVET BEANS
There is no definite information as to the exact date the
velvet bean was introduced into Florida. The name velvet
bean appears to have been applied to the plant for the first
time by the Florida Experiment Station in Bulletin No. 35
(1896), although it had been grown in the State several years
prior to this. This variety has been called Florida Velvet
Bean ever since that time.
As late as 1907 there was only one variety of velvet bean
known to southeastern United States. That was the Florida
velvet bean. Since that time other varieties have been intro-
duced into the United States by the Bureau of Plant Industry
of the United States Department of Agriculture. In addition
to these introductions, the Florida Experiment Station and
the Bureau of Plant Industry have developed new varieties
by crossing some of the imported varieties.
The varieties now grown in the State are Florida velvet,
Lyon velvet, Chinese velvet, Georgia or early speckled velvet,
and Osceola velvet. There are other varieties, but those given
above are the best known and more generally grown.
The velvet bean is a long season crop; by this is meant that
it grows from early spring until killed by frost in the fall.
How to Plant
Every grower has his own method of planting. However,
best results will be obtained by planting in rows from three
to four feet apart and dropping the seed eighteen to twenty-
four inches apart in the row. It may be possible to increase
the yield of foliage by planting in rows six or seven feet
apart and between the rows of beans plant corn or sorghum.
The corn or sorghum will form a trellis upon which the beans
may grow.
Seed
When planted with corn or sorghum, about one peck of
velvet bean seed is required to plant an acre. If planted alone,
it will take about one-half bushel of seed to plant an acre.
One bushel of seed weighs 60 pounds.
When to Plant
Since the velvet bean is sensitive to cold, there is no great
hurry about planting early in the spring. In fact, velvet beans
will grow off quicker and make a more satisfactory growth
if they are not planted until the ground has become thor-















EP


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10










Fig. 1. Florida Velvet Beans growing as a soil improving crop. Courtesy Fla. Expt. Station


Fi.i.Ford YletBan roig sa ol mroig rp.CureI M M xt.Sato


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SOIL IMPROVING CROPS


oughly warm so that they will not be checked in their growth.
Satisfactory results will ordinarily be obtained by planting
any time in April or early in May. In the southern part of
State, planting may be made in February or March.
Preparation of Seedbed
The land is prepared about the same as for corn or cotton.
The ground is first plowed broadcast about four to six inches
deep. If there is not a great deal of vegetation on the ground
the land may be prepared with the disk harrow. It may be
necessary to double-disk the ground in order to put it in good
shape.
Cultivation
It will pay to cultivate the crop at least twice, for this will
tend to hasten the growth of the young plants and at the same
time keep down weed growth. As soon as the plants begin
to put out vines, they will cover the ground so as to keep
down all weed growth.
Yield
The yield of green material per acre of velvet beans will
vary from four to five tons up to ten or fifteen tons, depend-
ing upon the character of the soil.








"7* A.


Fig. 2. Chinese Velvet Beans growing as a soil improving crop. Courtesy Fla. Expt. Station










SOIL IMPROVING CROPS 9


:.t"3A~i~9~ 2~.


Fig. 3. Nitrogen nodules on root of Velvet Bean. Courtesy Fla. Expt.
Station.


1








DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


YIELD AND ANALYSIS OF VELVET BEANS IN ALABAMA,
LOUISIANA AND FLORIDA*
Ala. La. Fla.
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Weight of green material from an acre........19,040 22,919 21,132
Weight of dried material from an acre ........ 8,240 7,495 5,953
Weight of dried roots from an acre ........... 1,258 191 690
Weight of nitrogen in vines from an acre .... 201.3 170 131.5
Weight of nitrogen in roots from an acre.... 12.6 2.9 9.7
Total nitrogen in crop from one acre......... 213.9 172.9 141.2
Fla. Experiment Station Bulletin No. 60:456; 1902.

COWPEAS
Cowpeas is another annual legume that grows to perfec-
tion in all parts of Florida. It is a crop that matures in from
65 to 90 days, depending upon conditions and the variety,
and may therefore, be termed a short season crop. This makes
it well adapted to planting after a late spring or summer
vegetable crop.
Varieties
There are a large number of varieties of cowpeas suitable
to Florida. During the past twenty years the Florida Experi-
ment Station has tested more than one hundred varieties, but
at the present time the Brabham and Iron varieties are best
for Florida conditions. Both of these varieties are more or
less vining in habit of growth. Cowpeas, however, do not
make as much growth of vines as do velvet beans.
The Brabham and Iron varieties are more resistant to root
knot and wilt than any other varieties, and this is an import-
ant feature in Florida.
Preparation of Seedbed
The preparation of the seedbed for cowpeas is the same
as for velvet beans. The ground should be disked or plowed
thoroughly before the seed are planted.
When to Plant
Since cowpeas are a short season crop, they can be planted
much later in the season than velvet beans and still make a
heavy growth of vines and leaves before fall. There seems
to be no "best time" for planting cowpeas, as they may be
planted any time from March to the first of August in South
Florida, from March 15 to July 15 in Central Florida, and
from April 1 to July 1 in North Florida.








AL .


Fig. 4. Cowpeas planted between corn rows as a soil improving crop. Courtesy Fla. Expt. Station.








DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


Cowpeas may be planted alone or as a companion crop. It
is a common practice to plant cowpeas with corn, the cowpeas
usually being planted at the last cultivation of the corn.
How to Plant
The heaviest growth of cowpeas will be produced by plant-
ing in rows two and a half or three feet apart, drilling the
seed in the rows. About three pecks to one bushel of seed will
be required to plant an acre.
Yield
The yield of cowpeas will vary, depending on the character
of the land and time of planting. From two up to five or six
tons per acre of green material is about the average.

BEGGARWEED
Another annual legume well adapted to Florida conditions
as a soil-improving crop is beggarweed. Its habit of growth
is quite different from that of velvet beans or cowpeas, as
beggarweed is an upright growing plant that reaches a
height of four to eight feet. When the stand is thin, the
plants branch freely, but when the stand is thick the plants
make a straight, slender growth with many leaves.

Preparation of Seedbed
The preparation of the seedbed for beggarweed is the same
as for any other crop. The ground must be thoroughly disked
or plowed and then smoothed by the use of a harrow.

How to Plant
Beggarweed is best grown by sowing the seed broadcast.
The seed, which are small and resemble alfalfa seed, should
be sown at the rate of fifteen to twenty pounds to the acre.
A harrow is generally used to cover the seed.

When to Plant
The best time to sow beggarweed seed is from May 15 to
June 20, although under very favorable conditions it may be
sown as late as July 1 with good results. Beggarweed seed
require a warm, moist soil for best germination and growth,
and nothing is gained by sowing too early in the season.








SOIL IMPROVING CROPS 13

Reseeding
If beggarweed is allowed to ripen seed in the fall, it will re-
seed itself and come up the following spring. Some people
may get the impression that beggarweed will become a pest
in a cultivated field, but there is no danger of this since the
young beggarweed plants are very easily killed by cultivation.
When land that has grown beggarweed one season is plant-
ed to corn the following season, very little beggarweed is apt
to appear until the corn has been laid by, which is generally
the latter part of June. By August or September the chances
are that there will be a fine crop of beggarweed to plow
Sunder.


























































Fig. 5. A heavy growth of beggarweed.


I








SOIL IMPROVING CROPS


CROTALARIA
Crotalaria is a much newer legume to Florida than any of
the ones just mentioned; however, it has been grown here a
number of years and has given such satisfactory results as a
soil-improving crop that it is now grown in all parts of the
State.
Crotalaria is an annual legume that makes an erect growth
three to six feet in height. When the stand is thin the plants
branch freely, but when planted thick the plants make an up-
right growth with few branches and a good percentage of
leaves.
There are two species that are now generally grown in
Florida. These are Crotalaria spectabilis, formerly called C.
sericea, and Crotalaria striata. There are other species, but
there two have been so satisfactory that there should be no
question about planting either of them.
How Planted
Crotalaria may be planted in rows or sown broadcast, but
the larger part of the crop in the State is sown broadcast.
Ten to twenty pounds of good seed will plant an acre, after
which the seed are covered with a light-tooth harrow.
Preparation of Seedbed
The preparation of the seedbed is the same as for beggar-
weed.
When to Plant
Crotalaria may be planted any time from March to the
middle of June. When the crop is allowed to mature and rip-
en seed in the fall, there will be sufficient seed shattered to
reseed and give a good crop the following spring.
Crotalaria seed may be sown broadcast or drilled between
the rows of corn at the last cultivation, and it will make a
good growth before frost kills it in the fall. In fact, this is
one of the most satisfactory ways to use the crop.
Yield
Crotalaria is perhaps the heaviest yielding soil-improving
crop grown in Florida. It is not at all uncommon to get yields
of five to eight tons of green material per acre, while there
are a number of records of eighteen and twenty tons of green
material per acre. It may, therefore, be said that the yield
will depend very largely upon the time of planting and local








16 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

conditions. Under average conditions a yield of six to ten tons
of green material per acre is not too much to expect.
PIGEON PEA
Pigeon pea is a rather new crop for Florida, but a number
of tests indicate that there is a good future for this crop in
all parts of the State. This is also an annual legume that
makes a heavy growth during the summer season and will
add a large quantity of organic matter to the soil. There are
a number of varieties, but not enough work has been done to
determine which will be the most satisfactory for Florida
conditions.
Since this is a crop that makes a rapid growth, it means
that it will produce a heavy tonnage of green material to be
returned to the soil. In fact, the growth is so heavy that it is
often difficult to plow under in the fall or winter. It may be
found advisable to make a cutting of this crop, say in July,
and then let it make a second crop that will be ready to turn
under in the fall or early winter. Handling the crop in this
way will not reduce the total yield for the year, but it keeps
the crop from becoming so large and cumbersome that it will
be difficult to incorporate with the soil.
If the crop is cut in July each summer, it should be cut
high enough to leave a stubble ten to twelve inches high, as
the subble will then sprout out and make a second growth.
Preparation of Seedbed
The preparation of the seedbed for pigeon pea is about the
same as for cowpeas or beggarweed.
When to Plant
As pigeon peas are rather sensitive to cold, they should not
be planted in the spring until danger of frost is past. In the
extreme southern part of the State, planting may be made
almost any time after February 15 up to July 1. In central
Florida, planting may be made any time from about March
20 to June 1, and in north Florida from April 15 to June 1.
How to Plant
Plant in rows four to six feet apart and drill the seed in the
row. The seed are small so that a peck or a peck and a half
will be sufficient to plant an acre.
Planting in rows gives a chance to cultivate the crop. This
will hasten the growth as well as keep down weeds until the
plants become established and have made a good growth.




























Fig. 6. Crotalaria spectabilis, formerly called C. serecia, used as a soil improving crop in Tung Oil grove.


.-








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Fig. 7. Crotalaria striata in a citrus grove as a soil improving crop.


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Fig 8. Crotalaria striata growing as a soil improving crop.







DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


*I.
,*" **^


Fig. 9. Crotalaria striata root system showing nitrogen nodules.
Courtesy Agronomy Dept. Fla. Expt. Station









SOIL IMPROVING CROPS


Fig. 10. Crotalaria spectabilis, showing individual plants in bloom
and seed pods. Courtesy U. S. D. A.









22 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


Fig. 11. Crotalaria striata, showing single plant. Courtesy U. S. D. A.
























































Fig. 12. Crotalaria spectabilis formerly called C. sericea, growing as a soil improving crop. This field produced a yield
of 26 tons green material per acre in 1928.


JA -

-,-' bk:.a


J. .






















0



Ci

tse
3;-


















Fig. 13. Pigeon peas. This crop produced an immense yield of green material.









SOIL IMPROVING CROPS 25

TABLE I. AVERAGE COMPOSITION OF PIGEON PEA PRODUCTS*
(Based on all available analyses made in Hawaii to February 15, 1920.)

a Carbohydrates

Character of material- M -a


Fresh green forage 1 70.00 2.64 I 7.11 10.72 7.88 1.13 1.65
Whole plant as hay I I
and ground into meal 11.19 3.53 14.83 28.87 39.89 2.37 1.72
Seed, and pod meal .. 11.45 3.85 17.65 | 30.73 34.53 2.82 1.49
Seed meal ................ .... 12.23 3.55 22.34 1 6.44 53.b4 3.57 1.46
Threshed pod meal 2 13.30 |2.66 I 8.75 [ 35.44 I 39.22 1.40 1.03
Bulletin No. 46, Hawaii Experiment Station, 1921.
1 Upper third of plant with seed in pod.
2 By-product in seed production.

COMPARISON OF SOIL-IMPROVING CROPS
The following tables give information as to the compara-
tive value of a number of soil-improving crops. The yields
given are all in tons of hay per acre. Heretofore in this bulle-
tin mention has been made as to the yields in tons of green
material. It might be well to state that the yield of green
material per acre will be about two or two and a half times
the yield of hay.
Table II gives the yield of hay in tons of four legumes for
each of three years, and the average for the three years,
when grown at Gainesville, Florida. The variation in the
yield of the legumes is shown to be rather large.
TABLE II. YIELDS OF FOUR LEGUMINOUS CROPS IN TONS OF
AIR-DRY MATERIAL PER ACRE AT GAINESVILLE, FLA.*
3-Year
Crop 1924 1925 1926 Average
Beggarweed .................................... 0.79 0.92 0.15 0.62
Velvet Beans ................. .......-... .. 0 98 0.82 0.76 0.85
Cowpeas .................- ........... ..... 1.48 1.30 0.52 1.10
Crotalaria ................... ............. 2.59 1.90 4.18 2.89
The yield of the same legume crops when grown at Lake
Alfred, Florida, is shown in Table III, although at Lake Al-
fred records of the yield were obtained for only two years.
The average of the two years at Lake Alfred is much better
than the three-year average at Gainesville.
Stokes, W. E., Agronomist. Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Journal
of the American Society of Agronomy, Vol. 19. No. 10. October. 1927.









26 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

TABLE III. YIELDS OF FOUR LEGUMINOUS CROP'S IN TONS OF
AIR-DRY MATERIAL PER ACRE AT LAKE ALFRED, FLA.*
Crop 1925 1926 Average
Beggarweed .............................. .. .......... 2.29 1.78 2.03
Velvet Beans .................................... 1.27 1.53 1.40
Cowpeas ...............- ... ... . 1.27 1.01 1.14
Crotalaria .--................ ..... .....- ...... 4.63 2.76 3.69
Table IV gives the percentage of nitrogen in each of the
four legume crops grown.
TABLE IV. PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL NITROGEN (DRY BASIS) IN
CROPS GROWN AT GAINESVILLE, FLA.*
Crop Tops Roots
Beggarweed ......................... -- ....... .--- 1.64 1.07
Velvet Beans .................... .... ... ........ .... 2.51 1.48
Cowpeas ....... ............. ... 2.29 1.65
Crotalaria ............................... 2.78 0.92
Tables V and VI show how the yield of corn and sweet po-
tatoes was increased when different legume crops were plow-
ed under in comparison with a non-legume. These two tables
are given here so that an idea may be obtained as to the
value of legumes in increasing the yield of crops.
On a two-year average the legume cover crops plowed un-
der increased the yield of corn all the way from 3.7 to 8.0
bushels an acre. When sweet potatoes were grown, the le-
gume cover crops, when plowed under, increased the yield of
potatoes from 9.3 to 27 bushels an acre.
TABLE V.-CORN YIELDS IN BUSHELS PER ACRE FOLLOWING
NON-LEGUMES AND LEGUMES TURNED UNDER.*
Non- Velvet Beggar-
Year legume Crotalaria Beans Cowpeas weed
1925 ........................ 15.13 21.71 22.99 22.28 19.28
1926 ....................... 8.40 17.65 16.66 12.90 11.75
Average ................ 11.76 19.68 19.82 17.59 15.51
TABLE VI. SWEET POTATO YIELD IN BUSHELS PER ACRE
FOLLOWING NON-LEGUMES AND LEGUMES TURNED
UNDER.*
Non- Velvet Beggar-
Year legume Crotalaria Beans Cowpeas weed
1925 ........................ 37.50 78.00 54.50 61.00 55.00
1926 ........................ 26.09 39.72 34.33 33.75 27.19
Average .............. 31.79 58.86 44.41 47.37 41.09
The yield of hay per acre, percentage of nitrogen in the
crop, and the total pounds of nitrogen produced per acre by
each of the four legumes grown at Gainesville are shown in
Table VII. A cover crop that will add from 17 to 141 pounds
of nitrogen per acre each year will, if not leached out by ex-
Stokes, W. E., Agronomist, Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Journal
of the American Society of Agronomy, Vol. 19, No. 10, October, 1927.









SOIL IMPROVING CROPS 27

cessive rains, increase the fertility of the soil from year to
year. A farmer knows from actual experience the value of
nitrogen. He knows that it is the most expensive fertilizer
element that he purchases.
TABLE VII. YIELDS OF HAY FROM FOUR LEGUMES GROWN AT
GAINESVILLE, FLA., AND ESTIMATED AMOUNT OF
NITROGEN IN CROPS PER ACRE
Yields in tons, Percentage of Pounds Nitrogen
Crop 3-year average 1 Nitrogen2 per acre
Beggarweed .................. 0.62 1.443 17.890
Velvet Beans .............. 0.85 2.208 37.536
Cowpeas ...................... 1.10 2.015 44.330
Crotalaria .................... 2.89 2.446 141.378
1 See Table II.
2 Air-dry basis.
Not only do cover crops plowed under add nitrogen to the
soil, but they will also increase the organic matter in the soil.
Table VIII shows how cover crops, when plowed under, in-
crease both the nitrogen and organic matter in the soil. The
results shown in Table VIII were not secured in Florida, it is
true, but the test was carried on at Cairo, Georgia, on Nor-
folk fine sandy loam. Since there are hundreds of acres of
Norfolk fine sandy loam soil in Florida, the results obtained
in Georgia are applicable to Florida soil of this same type. If
such results can be obtained on Norfolk fine sandy loam, it
is reasonable to expect similar results on any good soil
throughout Florida. Table VIII brings out the fact that the
results obtained in Georgia by plowing under the cover crops,
Small of which were not legumes, indicate that the percentage of
organic matter in the soil was more than doubled in five
years, and the nitrogen content was also doubled.
TABLE VIII. ANALYSIS OF 'SOIL FROM A PECAN ORCHARD ON
NORFOLK FINE SANDY LOAM AT CAIRO, GEORGIA, ON
WHICH COVER CROPS WERE GROWN AT DIF-
FERENT SEASONS OF THE YEAR.*
I Percentage of
d Spring and Fall and Winter Constituents
SSummer Cover Cover Crop Organic Nitrogen
Crop Matter

1918 I Fallow ............. Bur Clover ........................ 064 0 031
r 1919 Cowpeas .......... Oats ............- ..- ......
1920 Beggarweed .... Rye .........------..........-......
1921 I Cowpeas ......... Rye ..... ..... 0.90 0.040
1922 | Velvet Beans .. Rye and Oats .............- 1.23 0.050
1923 I Velvet Beans .. Rye and Oats .....-....-..-. 1.39 0.061
* U. S. D. A. Department Bulletin No. 1378, p. 4-5.








DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


Organic matter and nitrogen are two very important fac-
tors to have in the soil, and it is to the advantage of every
farmer to see that the percentage of these two constituents
is kept as high as possible in all of his land.
Table IX shows how the water-holding capacity of the soil
is increased when organic matter is added. The table shows
that when 5 percent of organic matter is added to coarse
sand, the waterholding capacity is increased 40 percent. When
10 percent of organic matter is added, the waterholding ca-
pacity is increased 85.7 percent.
TABLE IX. EFFECT OF ORGANIC MATTER ON RETENTION OF
MOISTURE IN SAND*
Grams of
Soil Material water retained Increase
by 100 grams per cent
Coarse Sand .............-.......... ... . ............. 13.3
Coarse Sand with 5 per cent Peat .................. 18.6 40.0
Coarse Sand with 10 per cent Peat ................ 24.7 85.7
Coarse Sand with 20 per cent Peat ..... ........... 40.0 200.7
Peat ...............- ... ..- ... ................. 184.0 1283.4
Soil Physics and Management, by J. G. Mosier and A. F. Gustafson, p. 149.
FERTILIZING VALUE
The question is often asked, "What is the actual value in
dollars and cents of legume crop when used as a soil improv-
er?" This will depend entirely upon the yield of green ma-
terian that can be produced. The value as a soil improver or
as a fertilizer may be stated about as follows:
The nitrogen content of the green material is about seven
tenths of one per cent, or in other words, each ton of green
material contains about 14 pounds of nitrogen, which is
equivalent to about 100 pounds of nitrate of soda. To put it
another way, each ton of green material produced per acre
is equivalent to the nitrogen in 100 pounds of nitrate of soda.
If the yield of green material produced is four tons, then it
would contain as much nitrogen as 400 pounds of nitrate of
soda.
There is a difference in the form of nitrogen produced by a
soil-improving crop and that in nitrate of soda. The nitrogen
in nitrate of soda in very quickly available to the crop to
which it is applied, while nitrogen supplied by a soil-improv-
ing crop is not nearly so quickly available for use by the
growing crop. For this reason it is often necessary to also
give the growing crop an application of commercial fertilizer
containing nitrogen in a quickly available form. This is espe-
cially true when a short seasoned or quickly maturing crop








SOIL IMPROVING CROPS


is being grown. Corn following winter legumes will need no
fertilizer.
WINTER LEGUMES
The following are some of the winter legumes that have
been found satisfactory for a considerable portion of Florida.
The only section of the State where winter legumes cannot be
grown at the present time is on the sandy citrus soils, and
especially what is called the ridge section. In the general
farming section, especially on the flatwoods type of soil,
there should be no difficulty in growing these winter le-
gums, but on the dry, sandy soils the growth is apt to be
rather unsatisfactory.
HAIRY VETCH
Hairy vetch is a winter legume that has been grown more
or less in various parts of the State during the past few
years with a good deal of success. This has been especially
true on the sandy loam soils with a clay subsoil.
When to Plant
Hairy vetch may be planted any time from October to De-
cember. Plantings in North and West Florida may be made
earlier in the fall than in South Florida. Since hairy vetch is
a winter crop, it is not wise to plant too early in the fall.
Winter crops grow best after the soil has cooled off some-
what and when the sun is not so warm. For these reasons one
should not get in too big a hurry to plant the winter crops.
Preparation of Seedbed
The experience of a number of growers has been that very
little preparation of the seedbed is necessary for vetch. If
there is no heavy growth on the land, the seed may be sown
broadcast and then covered with a disk harrow, but should
the growth on the land be such as to interfere with sowing
the seed, it is advisable to first go over the land with any im-
plement that will break down the weeds. The seed may then
be sown and covered with the disk harrow. Double disking the
ground is often necessary to put it in good condition after
seeding.
How to Plant
Hairy vetch seed should be sown broadcast at the rate of 20
to 30 pounds of seed to the acre, after which the seed should
be covered with a disk harrow.








DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


Yield
The yield of vetch is not as much as for some of the sum-
mer legumes, but the yield is sufficient to warrant planting
if the right type of soil is selected.
The yield of green material may vary from three to five
tons per acre, while under favorable conditions a yield of
eight to ten tons of green material per acre may be expected.
Yields of as high as twelve tons per acre have been reported
several times in Florida.
MONANTHA VETCH
The handling of this crop is the same as for hairy vetch.
AUSTRIAN WINTER PEA
Austrian winter pea is another winter legume that can be
grown satisfactorily, especially through North and West
Florida. From 30 to 35 pounds of seed are required for an
acre.
Soil preparation, seeding, and time of planting are the
same as for vetch.
INOCULATION
In planting Austrian winter peas, hairy vetch, and Monan-
tha vetch for the first time in a field, it is important that
the seed be inoculated before sowing. It is not necessary to
inoculate velvet beans, cowpeas, crotalaria, or beggarweed
seed.
It is neither difficult nor expensive to inoculate. The inocu-
lating material can generally be purchased with the seed, or
it may be obtained from any reliable seed house. If the seed
are not inoculated, the chances are that a very unsatisfac-
tory growth of these legumes will be obtained, which may
mean that the crop will be considered of no value and dis-
carded. It will also be found that a much better crop will be
produced the second and third year than was produced the
first. It is, therefore advisable to plant these legumes on the
same land each year for two or three years, for in this way
the soil becomes thoroughly inoculated and as a result much
better crops are produced.
Instructions as to how to inoculate always come with the
material when purchased.
In addition to artificial inoculation, good results may also
be obtained by using soil from a field that has grown two or
more successive crops of well inoculated vetch or Austrian
peas.



































Fig. 14. Austrian winter pea left, hairy vetch center, Monantha vetch right.













































Fig. 15. Hairy vetch in pecan grove, grown as a soil improver.
Courtesy Agronomy fept. Fla. Expt. Station





















z



0








Fig. 16. Austrian Winter Peas. Seeded October, 1928; photo taken January, 1929.








































Fig. 17. Disking under crotalaria. January, 1929.








SOIL IMPROVING CROPS 35

PLOWING UNDER
The growing of soil-improving crops is one problem, and
plowing them under so tney will become part of the soil is
quite another problem. In the past it has been rather diffi-
cult to get farmers in Florida to grow soil-improving crops
largely because it was not an easy matter to plow them un-
der. To plow under a heavy crop requires good machinery and
plenty of horse power. An ordinary 12 or 14-inch plow will
not do the work satisfactorily.
About the best way to do the job is to first go over the
field with a heavy disk harrow, a double disk being the most
satisfactory. In many cases it is necessary to weight down
the disk with two or three sacks of sand.
There is some question as to the best time to plow under
a soil-improving crop. Some farmers advocate doing the disk-
ing in November or December, while others suggest that it
is better not to disk until just previous to planting the spring
crop.
The ideal way would be to disk down the crop the latter
part of September or early in October, and plant the land to
vetch or Austrian winter peas. Then the vetch or Austrian
peas should be turned under ten days or two weeks before
planting the spring crop.
If no spring crop is to be planted, it will be found a good
plan to break down the heavy summer growth any time from
November to January and let it remain on the surface of the
soil, provided there is no danger of fire. Should there be
danger of fire, it is desirable to go over the field once or
twice with a disk harrow so as to do away with the fire haz-
zard.
When Austrian winter peas, vetch, oats, or rye are grown
during the winter season, they should be allowed to grow un-
til about two weeks before the spring crop is to be planted.
They can either be plowed under or disked in with a good
disk harrow. When these crops are grown on land that will
not be planted to an early spring crop, they should be allow-
ed to grow as late as possible in the spring so as to have as
much organic matter as possible to add to the soil. As the
warm spring weather approaches, the Austrian winter pea
and vetches will cease growing. It is desirable to turn them
under just before this stage is reached. Oats and rye should
be turned under before they begin to show seed heads.









DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


Fig. 20. Beef fattened on crotalaria.








SOIL IMPROVING CROPS 37

CROTALARIA STRIATA*
Of the many kinds of Crotalaria the kind treated in this
article is the one that cattle will eat. Many varieties are as
good for soil improvement but cattle do not eat them.
Crotalaria striata grows vigorously all over the State of
Florida. It is one of the most valuable legumes. Unlike most
legumes it adapts itself to an acid soil, the same type of soil
that is most favorable to Tung Oil production.
It gets its nitrogen indirectly out of the air, and produces
practically twice as much as any other legume, and shows
an analysis practically the same in food value as alfalfa.
The first notice we have of this plant is in 1908 when C. V.
Piper of the U. S. Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction at
Washington, received the seed from Amani, German East
Africa.
Experimenting with it as a cover crop between the rows
of Tung Oil trees in a grove, cattle were put in to eat the
grass around the trees and save expense of cutting the grass
so the nuts could be easily found, the cattle also ate the Cro-
talaria and some very excellent beef was the result.
This answers the question to the man who wishes to know
what he can do during the four or five years from the time
he plants his Tung Oil trees until they commence to bear.
Average per acre Per cent nitro-
Crop pounds top growth gen in crop.
air dried Dry basis
Alfalfa ..................... ........ ............ 5,0401 2.38
Red Clover Hay ............................... 2,5801 2.05
Timothy Hay .-........... ....... ...... 2,4401 .99
Corn Ears and Stalk ........................... 3,4401 1.25
Crotalaria Striata ............................... 5,4382 2.367
Velvet Beans ............... ........... ...... 1,7802 2.172
Beggarweed ..........................-....... -. 7352 1.312
Cowpeas ........................ ............. 1,7842 1.807
Mexican Clover.... ........ ...... ..... 1,2833 1.184
1-Henry & Morrison--Feeds and Feeding.
2-Five Year Average.
3-Three Year Average.
Please note the average production per annum of Crota-
laria striata on an area designated as Sahara because it is
too poor to grow any staple crop, yet a five year average has
shown that it grew 400 pounds more than the average of al-
falfa in the heavy lands of the West.
Crotalaria striata returned to the soil 104 pounds of nitro-
gen in terms of ammonia, velvet beans returned 40 to 50
This article was not contributed by Mr. Scott, the author of this bulletin.





DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


-4


Fig. 18. Crotalaria leaves and bloom.


38
r --


t


---1
I i









SOIL IMPROVING CROPS


Fig. 19. Crotalaria seed pods.









40 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

pounds, beggarweed 20 pounds and cowpeas 50 to 60 pounds.
The following is a test on an alfalfa ration compared to
a Crotalaria ration, which was made by Prof. J. M. Scott of
the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, and reported
in their annual report dated June 30, 1927.

Alalysis of Crotalaria and Alfalfa Meals


M oisture ................... ............. .... ..
A sh ..................................... .....
Fat ....... ...................--..-......
Protein ............ .. ...-.- ..... .....
Carbohydrates ... .... ..................
Fiber ..... ...... ..... -- ..........- ...


Crotalaria Meal
11.77 percent
3.21 percent
1.36 percent
8.58 percent
27.08 percent
48.00 percent


Alfalfa Meal
11.77 percent
9.23 percent
2.16 percent
12.56 percent
30.43 percent
33.85 percent


The above analyses show that alfalfa meal is richer in food
elements than is the Crotalaria meal. However, the Crotala-
ria meal used in this test was not made from the best qual-
ity of hay. The Crotalaria plants were too mature when cut
to make a good quality of hay. There should be but little dif-
ference in the analysis of Crotalaria meal and alfalfa meal
when both are made from the same quality of hay.

MILK PRODUCTION RECORD OF COWS IN CROTALARIA-
ALFALFA MEAL TEST.


First Period-March
Lot I fed alfalfa meal
pounds milk
Cow No. 171 418.7
Cow No. 225 367.4
Cow No. 229 529.4
Total for period 1,315.5


16 to April 12, 1927
Lot II fed crotalaria meal
pounds milk
Cow No. 141 411.4
Cow No. 151 400.0
Cow No. 155 448.1
1,259.5


Second Period-April 13 to May 10, 1927
Lot I fed crotalaria meal Lot II fed alfalfa meal
pounds milk pounds milk
Cow No. 171 388.7 Cow No. 141 363.6
Cow No. 225 288.0 Cow No. 151 453.9
Cow No. 229 454.6 Cow No. 155 393.0
Total for period 1,131.3 1,210.5


Third Period-May
Lot I fed alfalfa meal


Cow No. 171
Cow No. 225
Cow No. 229
Total for period


pounds milk
335.5
314.0
401.8
1,051.3


11 to June 7, 1927
Lot II fed crotalaria meal
pounds milk
Cow No. 141 294.8
Cow No. 151 399.7
Cow No. 155 331.4
1,025.9


Total milk produced by feeding alfalfa meal ......................
Total milk produced by feeding crotalaria meal ................
Difference in favor of alfalfa meal ..................................


3,577.3 lbs.
3,416.7 lbs.
160.6 lbs.









SOIL IMPROVING CROPS 41

GAIN OR LOSS IN WEIGHT OF COWS FED ALFALFA MEAL AND
CROTALARIA MEAL
First Period-March 16 to April 12, 1927
Lot I, Fed Alfalfa Meal
Weight at Weight at Gain or
Beginning Close Loss
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Cow No. 171 ....-......-- ...---......- --720 800 + 80
Cow No. 225 ............................ 872 901 + 29
Cow No. 229 ........-........................ 700 752 + 52
Lot II, Fed Crotalaria Meal
Weight at Weight at Gain or
Beginning Close Loss
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Cow No. 141 ............... ......- .. 848 950 + 102
Cow No. 151 .............................. 859 946 + 87
Cow No. 155 .................. ...... 780 860 + 80

Second Period-April 13 to May 10, 1927
Lot I, Fed Crotalaria Meal
Weight at Weight at Gain or
Beginning Close Loss
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Cow No. 171 ................ .... .........- 800 773 27
Cow No. 225 ............... ..........-- 901 893 8
Cow No. 229 ............................. 752 750 2
Lot II, Fed Alfalfa Meal
Weight at Weight at Gain or
Beginning Close Loss
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Cow No. 141 ........................ ....... 950 927 23
Cow No. 151 .......... ...... ............ 946 933 13
Cow No. 155 .................. .............. 860 8J1 29

It is interesting to know that the Crotalaria, which hap-
pened to be cut very late in the season when some of the
leaves had dropped, caused the protein content to show 8.58
against the alfalfa 12.56. Had the Crotalaria been cut at the
proper time the protein content would have been practically
the same as the alfalfa.
In spite of this the total milk produced with the alfalfa
ration was 3577.3 pounds and that was only a difference of
160.6 pounds between that and the Crotalaria.
It is also interesting to know that during the cool period
when milk cattle usually gain and during the warm period
that they lose in weight, that these cows gained more on
Crotalaria than on alfalfa ration during the gain period and









DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


in the losing period lost less. It shows that the cattle were in
a perfectly healthy condition in both seasons.
Mr. Scott reported there was no difference in the quality of
the milk or the flavor.


Fig. 21. Beef fattened on crotalaria. Its quality is pronounced by meat
dealers as A-1.


QUINCY PUBLISHING COMPANY--QUINCY




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