Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Soil improving crops
 Soil conservation

Group Title: Bulletin. New series
Title: Soil improving crops for Florida and conservation
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00002961/00001
 Material Information
Title: Soil improving crops for Florida and conservation
Series Title: Bulletin. New series
Physical Description: 103 p. : ill., maps ; 22 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Scott, John M ( John Marcus )
Allin, Bushrod W ( Bushrod Warren ), 1889-
Bryan, O. C ( Ollie Clifton ), b. 1894
Publisher: State of Florida, Dept. of Agriculture
Place of Publication: Tallahassee Fla
Publication Date: 1938
Subject: Crops and soils -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Soil fertility -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Soil conservation -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: Cover title.
General Note: "August, 1938."
General Note: "Reprint."
General Note: Parts written by John M. Scott, Bushrod W. Allin, O.C. Bryan.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00002961
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: ltqf - AAA3376
ltuf - AMF2851
oclc - 41414470
alephbibnum - 002447593
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Soil improving crops
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Full Text

Bulletin No. 18 New Series August, 1938

Soil Improving Crops

for Florida





NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner

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

Bulletin No. 18

New Series

August, 1938


Introduction .... 3.. .
Choice of Soil-Improving Crops ......... ....... 1
Velvet Beans .... ......... 5
H ow to Plant... ...................... 5
S eed .... ... .... .. . ..... ......................... 5
W\ hen to Plant ................ ...... 5
Preparation of Seedbed ......... 7
Cultivation ........ ..
Y ie ld ........ . ..................... .... 7
Cow peas .................... ......... 10
Varieties ........ ..10
Preparation of Seedbed ...... ...... .... 10
W hen to Plant.... ............ ..... .... 10
H ow to P lant .... ...... ............. ........ 12
Y ie ld .. ... ......................... ... ..... 12
B e 'g 'a rw eed .. .. .. ...... ....... ............................... .. 12
Preparation of Seed ed .... ......... .... 12
H ow to Plant........... .. .... 12
W hen to Plant .. .. .. .............. .. ............. 12
R eseeding .. ............ ......... ........ ... .. .... . 13
C rotalaria ............ .... ... .... 15
How Planted .. 15
Preparation of Seedbed ... ............. ...... ... ...15
W hen to Plant ........... .. ........... ... .... ....... 15
Yield .. ... 15
Pigeon Pea .. ... .. ..... ... IG
Preparation of Seedbed ...... l
W hen to P lant ... ..... ...... ........ . ............. l
H ow to P lant............. ....... ...... ... .. .
Comparison of Soil Improving Crops 25
Fertilizing Value .. ..... 28
W inter Legum es ...... ..... ...... ........... .. ... ....... .... .... 29
H airy V et'ch . ..................... 29
W hen to P lant.. ... ... ............................ 29
Preparation of Seedbed.............................. 29
H ow to Plant ... .......................... 29
Yield . .. 0... .. .............. ....... 30
Monantha Vetch ... ...... .... ......... 30
Austrian W inter Pea .................... 30
Inoculation ...... .. .. .. 30
Plow ing U under ........ ... ....... ...... ...... ...... 35
Crotalaria Striata .. .. ....... ................ 37


Introduction .............. ..... 45
Public Now Is Aroused to Save the Soil 46
Extent and Nature of Soil Losses ... ...................... 47
Some Local Conditions More Serious ....... 48
How Soil Fertility Is Lost...... 49
Supplies of Phosphorus Are Limited .. 50

Econom ics of Soil Conservation ............................ ............ .................. 51
National Purposes Relating to Soil Conservation.................... 52
Crop Adjustments Necessary to Maintain Fertility.................... 54
Can the Nation Afford to Save the Soil?..................... ........ 55
The Role of Education and Research............................................ 55
National and Individual Purposes May Be in Conflict................ 57
Land Tenure, Land Values, and the American System............... 58
Absentee Ownership and Speculation......................... ...... 5
Small Owner-Operators May or May Not Have a Long-
Time Interest in Their Farms....................... ..................... 60
Free versus Fair Competition........................... ....................... 61
Soil Conservation Requires Economic and Social Changes........ 63
County Agricultural Planning ............................ ....... ..... 64
Types of Possible Remedial Action....................... ........... 64
Direct Subsidy to Landowners and Operators............................... 65
Stabilization of Farm Prices and Income....................................... 66
Shifts in Population and Changes in Size of Farms.................... 67
Depression Added to Farm Population Surplus in Problem
A areas ...............-...-......... ..-..... ............. . ....................... 68
Industrial Recovery May Relieve Population Pressure on
Farm s in Problem Areas................................................ .......... 69
The Place of Soil Conservation in National Agricultural Policy.... 70
Efficient Use of Soil Resources...................... ................ 71
Soil Conservation and Production Adjusntents Are
Interrelated ............... ..... .. .. ...... .............. 72


Introduction ................................. .......................... 75
Classification of Crops.................................................. 77
K inds of Soils.... -............ ...................... ................... ........ 81
Early Farmers Used Poor Soil Conservation Measures.................... 83
Soil Depleting Crops.......................................... ... ............. 87
Soil Conserving Crops....... ........ ....................... 87
Soil Im proving Crops .......................................................... 87
Soil Erosion . ................................................... .................... 88
Kinds of Erosion ............ ... ............... ........... 89
Soil Leaching ........................................ .......... .. ........ 89
Control M measures .................................................. ..... 89
Sum m ary ......................................................... .................. .. 96
Suggested Exercises for Class Study................................100
Soil Conservation Paramount ................................101

Soil Improving Crops
Prepared and Published in Co-operation with the College of
Agriculture, University of Florida, Gainesville
P ERHAPS 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 im-
prove 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 ex-
cellent example of land well filled with humus. Very little
of the high pine land contains a sufficient amount of hu-
mus 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 cul-
ture is practiced does not respond to fertilizers as well as a
soil of the same type to which soil-improving crop has been
added. 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.


In other words, if one is to have an abundant supply of
bacterial life in the soil, it is necessary to have a good sup-
ply 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 limiting 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-
Since warmth and cultivation tend to destroy or burn
out the humus from the soil faster than any other factor,
another advantage of a cover crop is that it keeps the
ground shaded 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 much leaching of the nitrogen or burn-
ing out of the humus. In other words, in the clay soils the
results of a soil-improving crop are more lasting.
The growing of soil-improving crops will not take the
place of all commercial fertilizer necessary to produce max-
imum crops, but it will materially reduce the amount of
commercial 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 ef-
fort should be made to keep the land in such condition that
best results will always be obtained so far as crop produc-
tion is concerned.

The choice of a soil-improving crop will depend largely
upon the preference of the individual person and the char-
acter of his soil. There are a number of legume soil-improv-
ing crops that are desirable for most conditions in Florida.
The legumes that have generally given the most satisfac-
tory results are velvet beans, cowpeas, beggarweed, cro-
talaria, vetch, pigeon peas and Austrian winter pea. In addi-
tion to the legumes, one has the choice of a number of
non-legumes, such as crab grass, natal grass, sand burs, Mex-
ican clover (which is not a legume), and other grasses and
weeds that might grow.


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 the 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 in-
troduced into the United States by the Bureau of Plant In-
dustry 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 vel-
vet, and Osceola velvet. There are other varieties, but
those given above are the best known and more generally
[he velvet bean is a long season crop; by this is meant
that it grows from early spring until killed by frost in the
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 sor-
ghum. The corn or sorghum will form a trellis upon which
the beans may grow.
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 more satisfactory
growth if they are not planted until the ground has become

Fig. 1. Florida rrt llel lin growing as a soil improliog crop, (fourles' Fla, Jpl, SLlim



thoroughly 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 of State, planting may be made in February or
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.

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.

The yield of green material per acre of velvet beans will
vary from four to five tons up to ten or fifteen tons, de-
pending upon the character of the soil.

i .

Fig, 2 Chinese Veket IBm s growing as i soil improving crop, Courtesy Fl, Expt. Station


I ,


%1 .


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


Ala. La. Fla.
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Weight of green material from an acre ...19040 22,1. 21,132
Weight of dried material from an acre .. 8,2.10 7,.95 5,r53
Weight of dried roots from an acrie........ 1,258 191 6)0
Weight of nitrogen in vines from an acre 201.3 170 1:31.5
Weight of nitrogen in roots from an acre 12.6 2.10 9.7
Total nitrogen in crop from one acre 21:3.9 172.. 141.2
-l.i "l ,' rar.. ra' .:t.>i i. r. I:U !l*. 'it! N <,. *. .",,* 1:.,;

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.

There are a large number of varieties of cowpeas suitable
to Florida. During the past twenty years the Florida Ex-
periment Station has tested more than one hundred va-
rieties. 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 and growth. Cow-
peas, however, do not make ias 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
important 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.

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


Cowpeas may be planted alone or as a companion crop.
it is a common practice to plant cowpeas with corn, the cow-
peas 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.

The yield of cowpeas will vary, depending on the charac-
ter of the land and time of planting. From two up to five or
six tons per acre of green material is about the average.


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.


If beggarweed is allowed to ripen seed in the fall, it will
reseed 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 cultiva-
When land that has grown beggarweed one season is
planted 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 under.


Fig, 5, A hlin grmli of belggrwed


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
upright growth with few branches and a good percentage of
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 these 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 beg-
When to Plant
Crotalaria may be planted any time from March to the
middle of June. When the crop is allowed to mature and
ripen 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.

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 conditions. Under average conditions a yield of


six to ten tons of green material per acre is not too much
to expect.
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 stubble 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


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




t ',


1. It'll1




J _______

Jig (r~ti~iri~i~tratain dtv~ ga~'' n iisoilin~ro~ng rop

'*- ''.. I' 'I



i~lpr~lg ~ z


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



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





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


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


Ai i
A I , I "'N



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


(Based on all available analyses made in Hawaii to February 15, 1920)
S Curlrohlyd rntel

Fresh green forage 1 70.00 2.64 | 7.11 10.72 1 7.88 1 1.13 1.65
Whole plant as hay

Seed meal .................. 1 12.26 3.55 122.34 1 6.44 153.94 1 3.57 1 1.46
Threshed pod mea i 13.30 2.66 8.75 35.44 39.22 1 1.40 1.03

tive value of a number of soil-improving crops. The yields
given are all in tons of hay per acre. Heretofore in this bul-
letin 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.
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, AW. E., Agronomist, Florida Agricultural Experiment Sta-
tion, Journall of the American Society of Agroanolly, Vol. 19, No. 10,
October. 1927.


Crop 1925 1926 Average
Bcf,.ar\vweed 2.21'. 1.7s 2.03
Velvet Heal 1.27 1.5:3 1.40
Cowpeas 1.27 1.01 1.1.1
(C'rotalaria .l.6;3 2.76 3.6;9
Table IV gives the percentage of nitrogen in each of the
four legume crops grown.
Crop Tops Roots
Beggarwved 1i.';i 1.07
Velvet Bean- 2.:1 1.41
("Cow pea 2.2'.' 1.*65
Crotalaria 2.7h o.t02
Table V and VI show how the yield of corn and sweet po-
tatoes was increased when different legume crops were
plowed 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.
Non- Velvet Ileggar-
t'ar legume (rotalaria Beans Cow pea s weed
19125 15.13 21.71 22.9t 22.2s', 1.*.25
192; S.40 17.65 1l;.6;6 12.o00 11.75
A average 11 1.7t; 1 i.6; 190.s2 17.351 15.51
Non- Velvet Ieggar-
Year legume Crotalaria Beans (Co pias weed
1925 .... 37.50 78.00 5..50 i61.00 55.00
1926 26.09 39.72 31.33 3::3.75 27.19
Average 31.79 I 8.S 1.11 17.37 4.l0 .0
The yield of hay per acre, percentage of nitrogen in the
crop. and the total pounds of nitrogen produced Ier acre by
each of the four legumes grown at (;ainesville are shown in
Table VII. A cover crop that will add from 17 to 141 pounds
S tl k \\ I: .\A L .T.... I -t I.'l ,il l .l \L: ], il lll]! i :\ ..I i 1 -
S J urnal ht IIIlrlii e ,, l,,h : :


of nitrogen per acre each year will, if not leached out by ex-
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.
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 2.441 141.378
SS-e Table II.
A ir-dry bi. sis.
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,
increase 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
Norfolk fine sandy loam. Since there are hundreds of acres
of Norfolk fine sandy loam soil in Florida. the results ob-
tained 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, all of which were not legumes, indicate that the per-
centage of organic matter in the soil was more than doubled
in five years, and the nitrogen content was also doubled.

Spring and
Summer) Cover

Fallow ... ......
Cowpeas ........
Cowpeas .....
Velvet Beans
Velvet Beans...

Percentage of
Fall and Winter Constituents
Cover Crop Organic Nitrogen
.Bur Clover ......... .... 0.64 0.031
O a .... ....... ...
.. R y e ....................
R ye .............. ........ 0.90 0.040
Rye and Oats .............. 1.23 0.050
.. Rye and Oats ........... 1.39 0.061

* F. S. D. A. Ielb~a I ile1 t-I 1hl, tjIIv0it Na. 1378. 1). 1-5.




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 waterhold-
ing capacity is increased 85.7 percent.
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
Soll Ihysxit ni md tlan:gesnr nt. by J. G;. 1Mosir ;lnd A. F. Gustafsoln
p. 1419.
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-
terial 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 nitro-
gen in nitrate of soda is 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 es-
pecially true when a short seasoned or quickly maturing


crop is being grown. Corn following winter legumes will
need no fertilizer.
The following are some of the winter legumes that have
been found satisfactory for a considerable portion of Flori-
da. 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
legumes, but on the dry, sandy soils the growth is apt to be
rather unsatisfactory.
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
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 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.


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 expect-
ed. Yields of as high as twelve tons per acre have been
reported several times in Florida.

The handling of this crop is the same as for hairy vetch.

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
Soil preparation, seeding, and time of planting are the
same as for vetch.
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
It is neither difficult nor expensive to inoculate. The in-
ocluating 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 unsatis-
factory growth of these legumes will be obtained, which
may mean that the crop will be considered of no value and
discarded. It will also be found that a much better crop
will be produced the second and third year than was pro-
duced 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 Aus-
trian peas.

Fig. 11 Austrian winler pea lef, hairy vetci center, Mon ha retch right,

Fig. 15, Hairy vetch in pecan grove, grown as a soil imnprovr,
Courl'l -sy grouiny Oelil. Fhi( Yl l, SlalkinII/II

Fig, 1K, ARsrign Winter Peas Seeded Odteber, 19M8; phto tahen Januory, 19.

Fig 17, Diking unr crotaluria, Juuary, 19,


The growing of soil-improving crops is one problem, and
plowing them under so they 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 is 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
disking 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 Aus-
trian 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
When Austrian winter peas. vetch, oats, or rye are grown
during the winter season, they should be allowed to grow
until 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
allowed 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 win-
ter 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.



Fig. 20. Beef fattened on crotalaria


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 pro-
duces practically twice as much as any other legume, and
shows an analysis practically the same in food value as
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 the expense of cutting the
grass so the nuts could be easily found, the cattle also ate
the Crotalaria 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
lie 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 ............. ...... .. ......... 5,04. 1 2.38
Red Clover llay ............. ............ 2,580' 2.05
Tim othy H ay -.............. ........ .... 2,.110' .
C(orn Ears and Stalk.... 3,40 1.2
(rotalaria Striata. . ......... 5.438 2.367
Velvet Beans .... ............ .......1..... 1,780 2.172
Beg'galrw eed ............... ...... ..... ........ 7:15 1.312
Cowpeas ...... . ... ............... 1.78 -' 1.807
Mexican Clover ................ ........... 1.28: 1.18.1
: Hensry .M ,rris,,n--l.'. 1 [a l Ff-i.line.
S F iv e Y t.:ir .,vd-r t '.
"I'ill ';li"r .Vi r A R r.mf,

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
alfalfa 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
* Thi, ;lrticl, \; 1i- '-0t i', rilu1 -rh l I.v M r. S i h. t it l lith "or .f this lnllltin.


Fig. 18. Crotalaria leaves and bloom.




Fig. 19. rtalaria seed pods.
Fig..Er 19 I 1 pos
Fig. 19. Crotalaria seed pods.


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.
Analysis of Crotalaria and Alfalfa Meals

Crotalaria Meal
M oisture ........... .......-..... ................. 11.77 percent
Ash ........................................ .......... 3.21 percent
Fat ................................. .......... 1.36 percent
Protein ....... ..... ................. ........ 8.58 percent
Carbohydrates .............................. 27.08 percent
F iber ..................................................... 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
Crotalaria meal used in this test was not made from the
best quality of hay. The Crotalaria plants were too mature
when cut to make a good quality of hay. There should be
but little difference in the analysis of Crotalaria meal and
alfalfa meal when both are made from the same quality of
First Period-March 16 to April 12, 1927
Lot I fed alfalfa meal Lot II fed crotalaria meal
pounds milk pounds milk
Cow No. 171......... ............. 418.7 Cow No. 141........................ 411.4
Cow N o. 225............ ........... 367.4 Cow No. 151........................ 400.0
Cow No. 229.... ............ 529.4 Cow No. 155..................... 448.1
Total for period. .......1,315.5 1,259.5

Second Period-April
Lot I fed crotalaria meal
pounds milk
Cow No. 171........................ 388.7
Cow No. 225.. ..................... 288.0
Cow No. 229.................... ... 45 .6
Total for period............1,131.3
Third Period-May
Lot I fed alfalfa meal
pounds milk
Cow No. 171...................... 335.5
Cow No. 225........ ............ 314.0
Cow No. 229....................... 401.8
Total for period............1,051.3

13 to May 10, 1927
Lot II fed alfalfa meal
pounds milk
Cow No. 141....................... 363.6
Cow No. 151......................... 453.9
Cow No. 155....................... 393.0
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

Total milk produced by feeding alfalfa meal.................... 3,577.3 lbs.
Total milk produced by feeding crotalaria meal............... 3,416.7 bs.
Difference in favor of alfalfa meal.................................. 160.6 lbs.


First Period-March 16 to April 12. 1927
ILot I. Fel Alfalfa Meal
Weight at Weight at Gain or
Beginning lostt Loss
Pounds Pounds Pounds
o'ow No. 171 720 800) 80
Cow No. 225 S72 ;0l1 29
C('ow No. 229' 70 752 ,2

Lot II. Fed Crotalaria Meal
Weight at a Weight at Gain or
Beginning (lose Loss
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Cow No. 111 .... S IX :)0 102
'ow No. 151 8.59 9.; +- 87
Cow No. 155 780 8;0 + 80

Second Period-April 1: to May 10. 1927
I.ot I. Fed Crotalaria Meal
Weight at Weight at Gain or
Beginning (lose Loss
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Cow No. 171 8(. ( 773 27
Cow No. 225) 901 8! 8
('Cow No. 221' 752 750 -2

Lot II. Fed Alfalfa Meal
Weight at Weight at Gain or
Beginning Closte Loss
Pounds Pounds Pounds
Cow No. I 1 950 i927 23
('ow No. 151 ..... ....... .46 33 13
Cow No. 155 ... .... ... 8(i0 831 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 prac-
tically 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
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.



1 1


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

Soil Conservation

Its Place in National
Agricultural Policy

Nothing, in my opinion, would contribute
more to the welfare of the States than
the proper management of lands.


May, 1936
United States Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Adjustment Administration
Washington, D. C.

Soil Conservation Requires More Than
Physical Methods

In recent months much has been written concerning the
depletion of land resources. For the most part, however,
attention has been centered on the destructive effects of
soil erosion and the physical methods required for their
prevention. The present pamphlet is an effort to meet a
long-felt need for a clear exposition of the more important
economic aspects of the soil-conservation problem and their
relation to other elements of national agricultural and in-
dustrial policy. If our present knowledge of the physical
approaches required for soil conservation is to have wide-
spread effect on farm practices, economic conditions and
relations must be favorable.

Acting Administrator,
Agricultural Adjustment Administration.

Soil Conservation

Its Place In National Agricultural
Throughout much of American history, natural resources
have been so abundant that neither public nor private
agencies have felt any responsibility for their conservation.
But during the years since the Civil War, as the Nation
has approached maturity, a national conservation policy
has been gradually taking form.
After more than a century of indifference with respect
to all natural resources, public interest in conservation was
first aroused by the decline of fisheries and forests. The
office of Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries was estab-
lished in 1871; and 2 years later, a memorial of the Amer-
ican Association for the Advancement of Science started
the movement which led ultimately to the establishment
of the United States Forest Service.' In 1886, there was
created in the Department of Agriculture a Division of
Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy, which later became
the Bureau of Biological Survey. An act of Congress in
1891 empowered the President to proclaim public lands as
national forests; and in 1899, the Soil Survey was begun.
These represent the beginnings of conservation in the
United States; but the first real driving force back of the
movement developed only 30 years ago. An act to protect
the Alaskan fisheries was passed in 1906. The Inland
Waterways Commission was established in 1907, and the
National Conservation Commission in 1908.
Interest in mineral conservation also resulted in the crea-
tion in 1907 of the mining technology branch of the United
States Geological Survey, which became the Bureau of
Mines in 1910. At about the same time some of the unap-
propriated mineral lands in the public domain were with-
drawn from settlement, and a decade later (1920) Con-
gress passed the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal
Water Power Act.
At various intervals from 1904 to 1909 Theodore Roose-
velt issued proclamations setting apart for national forests
much of the unappropriated forest lands of the public do-
l'l'tdik ric.Ck I v. -'" it. "C',nlsIl'va;tioli". I 'yelopltldi:h of thle Sor i1ili
S. Prepared by Bushrod W. Allin, Program Planning Division. Agricul-
tural Adjustment Administration


main. Later, under the Weeks law in 1911 and the Clark-
McNary law in 1923. the Federal Government was author-
ized to acquire additional forest areas by purchase. In set-
ting up national forests, forest conservation was justified
not only by prospective shortage of timber, but also by the
beneficial effects of forestry upon water conservation,
stream flow, and flood control.

Public Now Is Aroused to Save the Soil
The soil is the last of the Nation's important natural re-
sources to become the object of popular conservation in-
terest. With recent dust storms in the West and floods in
the East the Nation is becoming increasingly conscious of
the harmful effects of soil erosion. The usefulness of large
dams constructed for irrigation and the development of
electric power is threatened by silting. The choking of
stream channels with silt is interfering with navigation,
and excessively muddy water prevents the preservation and
propagation of game fish and other desirable forms of wild-
life. Thus, the advocates of flood control and conservation
of power, water, and wildlife find the control of soil erosion
necessary for accomplishing their objectives; and soil con-
servationists find forestry an effective means for saving
the soil.
Since the Michigan land economic survey was started in
1922, a very few other states, notably Wisconsin and New
York, have begun the development of land programs which
deal definitely with forest and wildlife conservation. But
not until the last 2 or 3 years has public interest been
thoroughly aroused concerning the need for conservation of
the land itself. National agencies, such as the Tennessee
Valley Authority and others, are now vigorously attacking
the land-use problem in all of its ramifications. The Soil
Erosion Service was established in the Department of the
Interior in 1933, and in 1935 was transferred by executive
order to the Department of Agriculture as the Soil Con-
servation Service. Also in the interest of soil conservation,
the Taylor Grazing Act was enacted in 1934 to regulate
grazing on a large part of the remaining public domain;
and land conservation is one of the reasons for establish-
ment of the Resettlement Administration. The last con-
gressional action was the passage of the Soil Conservation
and Domestic Allotment Act in 1936, replacing parts of the
Agricultural Adjustment Act.
Present misuse of the Nation's land is in part the out-
growth of its traditional land policy. Until comparatively


recent years, that policy has been one of getting the land
into private ownership as rapidly as possible, without much
regard to the character of the land or the use to which it
was best adapted. Under the homestead laws, areas ill
adapted to continuous cropping were homesteaded in the
same manner as those less subject to destruction by wind
and water. This has resulted in the cultivation of millions
of acres in the Great Plains, and elsewhere, which never
should have been plowed.
Private property rights in land have been, and still are,
virtually unlimited so far as soil conservation is concerned.
No limitations are imposed upon individual action, either
because of the relative abundance of the resource or be-
cause it is assumed that in the matter of land manage-
ment public and private interests are necessarily identical,
which is a false assumption.
The soil is the Nation's most valuable natural resource.
Over large areas, loss of irreplaceable topsoil through ero-
sion has been increasing recently at a very great rate, and
depletion of replaceable fertility by unwise cropping systems
has seriously affected other large areas not damaged ap-
preciably by erosion. Thus, soil conservation means both
the control of erosion and the maintenance of fertility.
Though erosion is a major cause of fertility losses, it is
not the only cause. Nor can the problem be dealt with ade-
quately by individual action alone. Public action is impera-
tive. It is the purpose of this bulletin to describe the na-
tional interest in the problem and its place in national agri-
cultural policy.

"Recent surveys of the extent of soil erosion in this coun-
try indicate that approximately 50,000,000 acres of once
fertile land have been essentially ruined for practical culti-
vation. Another 50,000,000 acres are in a condition almost
as serious. About 100,000,000 acres still in cultivation have
been seriously impoverished by the loss of soil; and about
100,000,000 acres more of cultivated land are being depleted
of productive soil at an alarming rate.""
Altogether, there are approximately a billion acres of land
in farms, about one-third of which are normally in har-
vested crops. Thus, at the end of hardly more than a cen-
tury of cultivation for most of the country, an area equiva-
H. H. llenIn tt. "Soil ('Consetiation", ;a l address before the Forty-first
Annual Session. Illinois Farmners' Institute, Belleville. Ill., Feb. 20, 1936,
nini eogi'raliphd hb.y 1lie Soil Cons 1ervation Srvice, United States Depart-
nient of Agriciilture, Washin toni 1). 1 '.


lent to the total now in harvested crops, or to 30 percent
of all land in farms, is either destroyed, seriously damaged
or threatened. In time, nature might rebuild a part of the
land already abandoned because of erosion-if given a
chance; but in some cases centuries will be required. As a
practical matter, therefore, effort should be directed to re-
duce the losses, or threatened losses, on an area equivalent
to about two-thirds of the Nation's total cropland. In do-
ing so, there is no reason for imagining that the whole coun-
try is on the verge of washing away; for at least a third of
the cropland and 70 percent of the land in farms is not now
threatened by erosion.
The fact remains, however, that the Nation can ill afford
to remain indifferent to the possible consequences of ero-
sion. In terms of national existence, a century is a short
span of time. Unless effective measures are adopted, we
might reasonably expect to lose within the next 200 years
all the land now threatened by erosion. And if this should
happen, vastly larger areas would then be threatened. While
present interest in the problem, as well as recent and pros-
pective action concerning it, are indications that no such
dire calamities will occur, the extent to which they are
avoided depends directly upon the vigor with which preven-
tive measures are carried out.

Some Local Conditions More Serious
From the standpoint of local interests, the reasons for
preventing soil losses are even more impelling. National
averages conceal more serious local conditions. For exam-
ple, it is estimated that 85 percent of the drainage area of
the Dan River in Virginia was once cleared, and that 40
percent of it has been allowed to revert to forest because of
erosion.' For description of numerous other local situa-
tions the terms "ghost communities" and "ghost farms"
are entirely appropriate. Like the "ghost towns" which
were abandoned because of depletion of forest resources,
these communities and farms are monuments to a disgrace-
ful lack of national foresight. Some of the land suffered
the greatest erosion after being abandoned because of in-
feriority for profitable cultivation, but much of it was aban-
doned because of erosion.
Recent spectacular dust storms and floods have been ef-
fective in calling public attention to the dangers of erosion,
and the traveler is often impressed by the scars in the land-
SI'. i 1 ei' "Two Centuries of Ae 'ruinag, Tr agedy Along the Dan
iver". l Februairy ,13; issue of Soil Conservation, official organ of the
Soil Conscrvlion Sev -i.. unitedd Sllat's I,-partlmnt of Agriculture. P. 3.


scape caused by gullying. But unspectacular sheet erosion
is the most insidious and destructive of all forms of erosion,
and even less visible are the enormous losses of soil fertility
due to overcropping and improper rotations. While this
country's exploitative agriculture has caused the loss of
great quantities of irreplaceable topsoil, it has at the same
time mined other soil of its replaceable fertility. Even
though the soil itself is held in place, its fertility must be
maintained; otherwise its productivity will decline. Iowa
is one of the more level and fertile States. Yet, a recent
study by the Iowa State College of Agriculture, in coopera-
tion with the United States Department of Agriculture,
shows that under present cultural practices Iowa cannot
maintain fertility and control erosion unless corn acreage is
reduced by 20 percent. This study is a part of the Depart-
ment of Agriculture's regional adjustment project, which
is Nation-wide in scope. Results from other States are fully
as striking as those found in Iowa and they all point in one
direction. The Nation cannot maintain its farm plant unless
it alters its system of farming radically.

How Soil Fertility Is Lost
Adjustments in farming systems are necessary not only
as a means of reducing erosion losses of both soil and fer-
tility, but also for the purpose of reducing fertility losses
due to other causes. Fertility or plant nutrients may be
lost or removed from the soil in four distinctly different
ways: (1) By erosion, either by surface washing or by wind
action, (2) by removal of crops, (3) by leaching, and (4)
by volatilization.' Generally speaking, erosion and crop
removal cause the greatest losses. Because cropping re-
quires cultivation and cultivation increases erosion losses,
the two causes are manifestly inter-related, and both are
of major importance throughout most of the country. To
the extent that the control of erosion maintains fertility,
the two problems are one; but, quite apart from the effects
of erosion, continuous removal of crops without replacing
the chemical elements they extract from the soil has been
an important influence impairing soil productivity. The
important elements most readily removed by cropping are
nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium. And humus,
the carrier of nitrogen which is vastly important for many
other reasons, is another soil constituent often destroyed
by overcropping as well as by erosion.
'vril G. Hopkins, Soil Fertility and Permanent Agriculture, (;inn and
C'mlnipany. 1910. pI. G.


Supplies of Phosphorus Are Limited
Of all these constituents, phosphorus is the "crucial" one.
Nitrogen can be replaced by the growth of legumes and by
other means, and world supplies of lime and potash are so
abundant that they can be applied to most soils at reason-
able cost for an indefinite future. Though an expensive
and often a long-time process, humus can be replaced by
such cultural practices as applying barnyard manure and
plowing under growing crops. But because of the distinctly
limited world supply of recoverable prosphorus. the out-
look is that this element will become increasingly dear. At
present, most of this country's commercial phosphate is
mined in Tennessee and Florida, where the available sup-
plies are being rapidly reduced. Eventually, it will be
necessary to make use of deposits in some of the Western
States on lands in the public domain which were withdrawn
from settlement during the administration of Theodore
Roosevelt. The amount of phosphate rock in the West is
large compared with measured supplies in other parts of
the world, though not very great compared with probable
reserves in Africa.' They represent, however, "aside from
coal and iron the most precious mineral heritage of the
However. "it is not certain that the total supply of phos-
phate rock in the southern and western States together is
sufficient to restore the lands of the United States to their
original fertility in phosphorus, to say nothing of providing
for the great annual loss through our present methods of
handling fertilizers produced on the farms, and disposal of
sewage."' More than 30 years ago it was reported that
"during the past half century in Wisconsin one-third of the
original phosphorus of the soil has been lost in the cropped
fields. What has been proved for Ohio, Illinois, and Wiscon-
sin, and other States where tests have been made is un-
questionably true for the other States in the country which
have been settled for some time."' It is probable that to-
day the surface soils of the country as a whole have less
than half their original phosphorous content.
To control erosion is to conserve this vital soil constitu-
ent, because in most virgin soils it is concentrated in the
i lra :Iu I'u XIV (C o i'g S ologi(ue Intrat'll tion:l Eslatgni 19'26. **".I s
n,;.s.rv\ s .M1ondial,,s ,n I'hoslphatse". (;raficas Rlt.unidas. S. .\. S. larquillo,
S. Madrid, 1928, vol. 1, p. T.
'lirls R. Vant Iis,, "The C('ollervNltiotn of liturail Itemouree., in thle
United*( State.s ', Th.' .1acmillan ('Co.. 1918, p). 332.
7 (harles H. Van llise, "Pr.soervation of the Ilhosphates iandi the ('on-
servatl on of Ith Soil". C('ol Nrvaltlion of ,lnturn l temmari re A.ad.iny of Political and Social Science, P'hiladvlphia. 1'P. p). 223.
H Hopkins. op. cil., 1). 560.


upper 8 inches, having been drawn from the lower strata
by plants and deposited in the surface layer by their decay.
Soils like those of the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky are
underlain by phosphatic limestone, but these are exceptions
to the general rule. Where phosphorous supplies in the
surface soils have been depleted but are abundant in the
lower layers, this element is not a limiting factor in the
growth of such deep-rooted plants as alfalfa and sweet-
clover, once they are established.
In emphasizing the importance of phosphorous, there is
no intention of minimizing the importance of other plant
nutrients. From the standpoint of an individual farmer, it
is now frequently a much less costly and more rapid opera-
tion to remedy phosphorous deficiencies by applying phos-
phate fertilizer than to build up humus requirements. Al-
so, on some soils and for a number of crops such as tobacco,
there is a greater need for potash than phosphorus. The
relative importance of the latter from a national conserva-
tion standpoint arises from four basic facts: (1) That for
most soils phosphorous deficiency imposes a greater limi-
tation upon crop production than the deficiency of any
other mineral element: (2) that in relation to need, world
supplies of recoverable phosphorus are more limited than
those of other important soil minerals; (3) that a greater
proportion of existing phosphorous supplies in the soil is
lost by erosion than in the case of any other mineral ele-
ment; and (4) that it must be applied to many eroded and
depleted soils in order to grow legumes which are the best
growths for checking further erosion and restoring humus
and nitrogen requirements.
In summary, it is clear that the most serious of all soil
losses is the loss of the soil itself through the action of
water and wind. Where this happens, fertility goes also.
And of the various soil constituents, phosphorus is the most
important from the standpoint of long-run national inter-
ests. The extent of both soil and phosphorous loss is such
as to compel the attention of everyone interested in the
future productivity of the land.

Why should anyone be interested in the future produc-
tivity of the land? What is meant by soil conservation?
What action should be taken, if any ? Who should take it,
and how? These questions go far beyond the facts of
physical soil losses. They are social and economic questions
involving not only individual purposes and methods, but


also national purposes and methods. What does the pres-
ent generation "owe" future generations? And how far
into the future do such obligations extend? There are no
exact answers. It is sufficient to say that every step for-
ward in civilization means increased regard for the inter-
ests of the future.

National Purposes Relating to Soil Conservation
The question is often raised as to the extent to which the
Nation should control erosion. More than a quarter of a
century ago Van Hise said, "It is plain that we must not
permit soil erosion to take place more rapidly than the soil
is manufactured by the processes of nature. To do so will
be ultimately to destroy our soils. If nature manufactures
the soil at the rate of 1 inch in a century. then the erosion
must not exceed 1 inch in one century."' That the soil
would be destroyed ultimately if erosion continues at a
greater rate than soil formation is irrefutable logic. But
for some soils "ultimately" might be so far in the future as
to be of no practical significance.
Furthermore, in the case of certain soils, there are rea-
sons for preventing erosion which are quite unrelated to
the rate of soil formation from parent material. Large
areas of the surface soils of the country contain a higher
percentage of sand and have a more friable structure than
the subsurface layers. When erosion removes this sandy
or root-previous surface layer, a lower layer having a higher
clay content is exposed. Some of these subsoils might
never develop under natural conditions the same desirable
physical qualities possessed by the soil removed by erosion.
Gullying, moreover, proceeds faster in subsoil than topsoil,
and might so alter the topography as to make both culti-
vation and moisture conservation permanently difficult if
not impossible. With these qualifications, Van Hise's con-
ception of the ultimate national goal can be accepted as
Though the Nation is approaching a stationary popula-
tion and there is no prospect of an immediate shortage of
land for producing food, feed, and fiber, the outlook for the
future, especially the more distant future, is by no means
clear. Even if all the land should not be needed to produce
agricultural products for domestic purposes, there is no
positive assurance that it would not be useful in production
for an export market. Continued industrialization and pop-
ulation increases in the Orient and in other parts of the
V aun lise. op. ocit.. pp. 215-14.


world might greatly enlarge the export market for Ameri-
can farm products. Undoubtedly, science and technology
will work as great wonders in the future as in the past. Yet,
scarcely anyone would say that this is a sound reason for
permitting 200 million acres of topsoil to wash and blow
away. That would be nothing short of a calamity. Though
it were certain that all the topsoil would not be needed to
produce farm or forest products for domestic and export
purposes, it still would be valuable for conserving water and
controlling floods '"-to say nothing of its possible contri-
bution to more slightly landscapes and more abundant wild-
Heavy rains and melting snows will cause rivers to rise
and there will be floods regardless of the measures adopted
to save the soil, but there can be no doubt that soil conser-
vation would reduce the destructiveness of floods, because
frequently it is the last 10 percent of the rise in flood wa-
ters that does most damage to life and property. Land
management which would save the soil would also increase
water absorption, and consequently reduce both the rate of
run-off and the level to which streams now rise at flood
stage. An investigation in Oklahoma shows that over a
5-year period the run-off from land cultivated continuously
in cotton was 11 times as great as that from land in Ber-
muda grass."
Adequate flood control, however, requires more than the
best conceivable soil cover. Dams must be built to check
the rate of run-off, both from farms and from major stream
channels. The work of the T. V. A. in this respect is es-
pecially significant. Recent flood waters at Chattanooga
were at least 3 feet lower than they would have been if
the waters of the Powell and Clinch Rivers had not been
held back by Norris Dam.'2 But the usefulness of this and
other dams will be impaired unless the reservoirs are kept
comparatively free of silt. Here, then, is the most im-
portant relation of soil conservation to flood control. The
soil must be kept in place if the reservoirs are to be most
The Oklahoma study shows that land cultivated continu-
ously in cotton lost '670 times as much soil as that covered
with Bermuda sod."' Observations in Missouri covering
a 14-year period show that even land cultivated in a corn-
litieprt of lIh Mi lsnsi. i I' trlll .y (oll maimi ltllrt of t1 r lut(1 I l'llle WV rks
AtI inlimft lrIlt4ito t. 1, l : 1.
t Outlin~eI of Invet'si timi x on. ttil Snlatlnumnry "of Ite'utiIs 1:1o-:;15. ilt'
PliniitN Soil I,:ro nloii kI ';p 'erli'aett Stultloh ( lGuthrle. Okln.. Soil (',onserv;t-
tion S,.'vic, ., l'itd Stitt.s Dl)epartiii nlit of A, riCull'ur., 113i;l, p. 3.
I:ngini'teerlilg N.ews-Ilteruor Apr. 2, 1.3';l. I. 4:'i.
St- ftotliot. II.


wheat-clover rotation lost 9 times as much soil as that kept
in bluegrass." Tests of recent Potomac flood waters re-
vealed that silt in the water represented one-half of 1 per-
cent by volume. Though the usual proportion for flood
waters of most streams is less than 1 percent, the amount
in some cases is as high as 15 percent. Hence, reduction
of soil losses lessens the volume of flood waters by reduc-
ing both the amount of run-off and the silt load: and might
often mean the difference between destructive anl relative-
ly harmless floods. Certainly. the soil will serve the Nation
better where it is than by muddying creeks and rivers or
choking channels and costly reservoirs.'"

Crop Adjustments Necessary to Maintain Fertility
Nor are these the only purposes that may be served by
a national land-use program which effectively controls
erosion. Incidentally, such a program will contribute in an
important measure toward solving the immediate problem
of balancing agricultural production with effective demand,
and thereby tend to maintain farm income at reasonable
levels. It was discovered as a result of the regional adjust-
ment project of the Department of Agriculture that in order
to check soil erosion and depletion, farmers of the Corn Belt
would have to reduce their acreage of corn and oats and in-
crease their acreage of soil-building crops such as legumes,
hay, and pasture."' Southern farmers would have to de-
crease their cotton acreage and increase their acreage in
pasture and feed crops other than corn. In the wheat-pro-
ducing sections of the Great Plains and the Pacific North-
west, wheat acreage would have to be reduced, and low-
yielding land would have to be taken out of production.
Results of the project indicate that in the semiarid range
region, the number of cattle and sheep on the range should
M. F. Mill ;letr .il I. IT. Kl. -ls lp: The Influen pmllg atnd Mletlhodn of C'illture on Siurfat e Hlun-off andl Soil Erosion. Mlis-
sourli A.gricult iral Experilnoit Station. ]iesea-rch B ulletin No. 177,
Columbia. MoI.. 193''. P. 17.
.1. <". Ste-ens. "'The Silt Proi)lem". P'roreedimK of The Americann So-
eliet of C'ivil EngiKlneers, Ictolber 1I.34. pp. II11S1-82 and 12117 Referring
t such reservoirs as Bould.r I):tin. the author says. "'ltimatelvy. h\ow-
er\t. within solme dl'finite Itiinumberl of generations, the fact must be faced
that aill these reservoirs will have become useless for storage purposes.
TIhe l dependent Ipeopls i nmust theln be reduced t t hose that an subsist
i 11 e areas which the11 iconmsered flow of lthq river will irrigate.
"l'x:\ept oIn certain small resert-voirs for municipal or industrial pur-
poses. it is geni rally imnl'ti icabtle to remove anVi substantial quantity
of silt from resermoirs after it has been deposited. Their most practicable
remedy lies in prevenlitinig 1permanent-li deposits."
:' uris V. WV-lls. "T. he Itegional Adjustmen. t Project: .A Siiummary :aiu(]
somel Suiggstions for ''Further Work", an addlrss before the uaniinu al col-
r(ilion of the association n (f I. ang-Oratit Colleges and universities ,
Nov. ."S. 1435. iuimeo'graphlid by the Agricultui;al Adjustment Admiiois-
tratio 'United Staties I ',-eartment t of Agricultulre.


be stabilized at or near the present low level in order to
restore the grass cover and check wind erosion.

Can the Nation Afford to Save the Soil?
To pass the soil on to succeeding generations as nearly un-
impaired as possible is generally recognized as a worthy
national purpose. This requires the control of erosion and
the maintenance of fertility. Can the Nation afford to
carry out this purpose? The contention has been made
that it cannot afford not to do so. "It is a first principle of
political science that the State has immortal life. States
have perished in the past, but political and economic science
cannot take into account the possibility that our own na-
tional life will ever cease to exist. All wise plans must be
based upon the hypothesis of continued national exist-
ence."'7 Conservation means the greatest good for the
greatest number for the longest possible period of time,
with due regard for the interests of each succeeding gen-
Whether the Nation can afford to save the soil is a ques-
tion that cannot be answered solely in dollars and cents, but
a few observations in these terms are pertinent. The half
billion dollars expected to be appropriated annually under
the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936
is the equivalent of one-half to 1 percent of the national
income for a single year, which ranges from 50 billions in
depression to 100 billions in prosperity. It is equivalent,
moreover, to 5 percent of the value of the 200 million acres
of eroding land, assuming that such land has an average
value of $50 per acre. And it is at least doubtful that the
value is this great.
The real questions, then, seem to relate not to purpose
but to method, and appropriate methods can evolve only
from a clear understanding of the reasons for present
failure to conserve the soil. Fundamentally, there are three
reasons: (1) Individuals do not always know their own in-
terests, (2) their interests in soil conservation and those
of the Nation frequently are not identical, and (3) in-
dividuals do not always possess the personal qualities and
economic power needed for pursuing their interests.
The Role of Education and Research
Unquestionably, one important reason for abuse and mis-
use of the land is that many operators are either unaware
1: Ely. 't al., The IFoulindations of National PIrosperity. The Macmillan
C('.. 1923, Ipp. 36-37.


of its possible consequences for themselves as individuals,
or lack the technical knowledge required for the mainten-
ance of soil productivity. Technical research and educational
work can be expected eventually to minimize the import-
ance of this cause.
Due in large measure to the pioneering efforts of H. H.
Bennett and others of the Division of Soil Survey, the Soil
Conservation Service was established in 1935 to: (1) Con-
duct "investigations into the character and extent of soil
and water losses and for the development of measures and
practices of soil and water conservation to provide for flood
control and the conservation of national land resources", (2)
engage in "conservation operations, involving the carrying
out of proper land use and soil and water conservation prac-
tices on project demonstration areas, and the application of
such practices on extensive areas of publicly owned lands
and in other designated work areas", and (3) foster "the
general application of soil conservation practices through
consultation services and educational and informational
This agency, therefore, is attacking the problem partly
through the medium of education and research. Demon-
stration projects widely distributed throughout the United
States involve 6,500,000 acres of privately owned land. The
labor of 450 C. C. C. camps is being employed in other dem-
onstrations covering 7,000,000 more acres, most of which is
privately owned. In addition to the demonstration projects
on private land, erosion control activities are being carried
out on three large areas of federally owned land represent-
ing a total of 39,000,000 acres. Also, 12 regional erosion
experiment stations have been established. Such activities
as the Soil Conservation Service is now engaged in represent
the real beginning of a vast undertaking. Meanwhile, agri-
cultural colleges and experiment stations continue research
on all phases of soil management, and the extension services
continue to take the results to farmers. The work of the
soil scientist is both scientific and impressive.
Yet, over large areas, it is easy to overestimate the rela-
tive importance of education and research as a means for
saving the soil. It is for this reason that the Soil Conserva-
tion Service includes in its program the provision of techni-
cal services as well as instruction. The cost of these services
is defrayed by public funds. And the fact that in the soil
erosion demonstration projects the Federal Government fre-
quently furnishes a part of the necessary labor, seed, lime,
From officials of the Soil Conservation Service.


fertilizer, and fencing materials has a significance much
deeper than that of an educational technique. It suggests
that the usefulness of education alone is distinctly limited.
The two most obvious limitations are that the interests of
many farmers in soil conservation are not the same as those
of the Nation, and that even those individuals whose inter-
ests are adequate frequently are unable ta follow sound
practices because of the collective economic pressures under
which they actually operate.
National and Individual Purposes May Be in Conflict
Nothing is more apparent in economic life than that every
individual's interests are of two kinds-his interests as an
individual, and his interests as a member of a group. These
two interests may I)e, and often are, in conflict. National
interest. public purpose, or the interest of "society" rarely
(if ever) means the interest of every individual, and never
means an interest in which every individual is equally inter-
ested either absolutely or in relation to his interests as an
individual. National purpose is the purpose of the majority.
Through control of the army and the police force, the ma-
jority can agree to collect taxes wherever the taxes can be
found, in order to accomplish its purpose. Individuals can-
not do this. Unlike the Nation. many farmers cannot afford
to save the soil. Others have little or no economic incentive
to do so. however much their intellectual and emotional
interests might persuade them.
Where farmers have both the opportunity and expectation
of operating their farms for a period of 10 to 20 years. science
and experience agree that generally those practices which
will save the soil of land that should be in cultivation are
also the most profitable for the individual in the long run.
Many of the best farmers have already adopted such prac-
tices. And the fact that they regard their farms as perman-
ent homes as well as businesses is an additional powerful
incentive for conservation. Immediate interests, moreover.
frequently require practices more conducive to soil conser-
vation than those in use. But even if all farmers thorough-
ly understood their interests and had perfect knowledge of
the physical techniques required for soil conservation, large
areas of land would still be subjected to erosion and deple-
tion unless present economic relations are changed. These
relations are institutional in character. They are the forces
of collective action. governmental and non-governmental;
not of individual action.
Of what use is it to educate a tenant or a sharecropper,
with a 1-year lease and an inadequate income, on the physi-


cal technique of soil conservation? What is soil "waste" to
the Nation is most frequently not waste at all to him. And
of what use is it to teach a landlord the same subject if his
primary interest in the land is that of a speculator-to sell
it as quickly as possible to someone else, and in the mean-
time to take all he can from the land without reducing the
selling price unduly ?
Land Tenure, Land Values, and the American System
These questions refer to basic forces in what has been
called the "American system", which must be taken into
account in any conservation program if it is to be effective.
Until about the beginning of the present century land re-
sources were abundant; and in the interest of settlement, it
was the national policy to dispose of the public domain
as quickly as possible. Grants were made right and left
to all sorts of groups and individuals. Many persons in the
United States considered land as something to be acquired
and exploited or resold at a profit. "During the 1850's
and 1860's there passed into the hands of western railroad
promoters and builders a total of 158,293,000 acres, an area
almost equaling that of the New England States, New York,
and Pennsylvania combined."'
This quick transfer of the land from public to private
ownership was accompanied by settlement and rapid rise in
land values. Between 1850 and 1890 the average value per
acre of farm real estate practically doubled; and from 1900
to 1920 it almost doubled twice. With the exception of the
census at the close of the nineties, following a period of
extremely low farm prices, no census prior to that of 1925
failed to show an increase in farm real-estate values. The
figures for every census year since 1850 are as follows:
Year: Dollars per acre Year: Dollars per acre
1850 .............................. 11.14 1910................................ 39.60
1860 ........... ............. 16.32 1920... ................ 69.38
1870... ..... .. 18.26 1925.............. ........ 53.52
1880 .... ... ..... ......... 19.02 1930 ............................... 48.52
1890................................ 21.31 1935 prelim inary ... 31.16
1900............................... 18 .9 1
The almost continuous increase in land values prior to
1920 gave rise to the often-repeated witticism that "farm-
ing is the only business in which a man can lose money all
his life and die rich." It made speculators out of most land-
owners-farmers as well as others. And speculators are
not soil conservers. Speculators are buyers and sellers who
"' Li. II. IIibbard, "Land Grants', I,:neycloplediit of The Social Seieinces,
vol. p. p. 35.


are not m1uch concerned with a future generation's interest
in any particular parcel of land.

Absentee Ownership and Speculation
Absentee ownership and tenancy are inextricably asso-
ciated with speculation. From 1880 to 1930 the proportion
of farms operated Iby tenants increased from 25.6 percent
to 42.4 percent. and every intervening census showed an
increase over the preceding one. In 1935. however. -12.1
percent of the farms were operated by tenants. This is
the first census in history reporting a decrease in percentage
of tenants. But the entire decrease was due to changes
which occurred in the South. Outside the South tenancy
continued to increase, and the greatest increases occurred
in the North Central States where the percentage of ten-
ancy was already high. To what extent was this due to the
fact that the depression was forcing owners to give up titles
to their farms and become tenants? What is more signifi-
cant from the standpoint of soil conservation is the fact
that from 1930 to 1935 the value per acre of tenant-operated
farms showed a greater proportionate decline than that of
owner-operated farms. Does not this fact reflect a lesser
interest on the part of tenants in the long-time conse-
quences of their cropping and cultural practices?
American tenancy is short-lease tenancy. Short leases
facilitate speculation; the speculator usually does not want
any agreement with tenants to interfere for too long a
period with his buying and selling activities. Many ten-
ants. too. prefer short leases, partly because of nothing
more tangible than the urge to move. And since landlords
do not customarily compensate tenants for improvements
in soil fertility, there is little reason why the tenant should
conserve the soil. It is generally to his interest to get all
out of it that he can before he moves to the next farm. and
to exploit each farm he rents as completely as possible.
But it cannot he said that tenancy, as such. is the limit-
ing factor in soil conservation. It is the form of tenancy
that is the real issue, and neither the tenant nor the land-
lord is individually responsible for that form. It is an eco-
nomic and social institution, which is an outgrowth of con-
ditions partly determined by past public policy.
Land ownership in an earlier day meant social prestige,
as it still does in England where more than a quarter of the
farms are operated by tenants. Because of pride in owner-
ship, many of the estates are subsidized by the non-agricul-
tural income of the landlord. The modern English landlord


parts with his estate more frequently than did his feudal
ancestor, the lord of the manor, but he holds it distinctly
longer than the average American landlord. Similarly, the
modern English tenant moves more frequently than the
serfs and vassals of feudal times, but his migrations are as
nothing compared with those of the American sharecropper.
English tenants have a direct economic interest in maintain-
ing and improving the estates they operate. They are
either paid for their services or have such long tenure that
they are able to reap the rewards of their efforts.
In the ante-bellum days of the South there existed this
same English tradition of social prestige associated with
land ownership, though unlike the English estates, those of
the South were maintained by slave labor. While the culture
of Mount Vernon and Monticello was not inimical to soil
conservation, only a comparatively small fraction of Am-
erican farm land, even of that in the South, was ever owned
by "landed gentry". When that ownership passed from the
aristocrats to the lower and middle classes, much of the
land, along with other areas throughout the country, was
caught in the surge of American competition and specula-
tion-and washed away. This is not to say that under the
pre-Civil War plantation system the soil was treated any
better than, or even as well as, some small owner-operators
have treated it since. It means only that because many of
the plantations were owned by people who had a long-time
interest in them, they were probably less badly abused than
under the more recent sharecropper system.

Small Owner-Operators May or May Not Have a Long-Time
Interest in Their Farms
It should not be understood that a long-time interest in
land ownership and land conservation is confined to a "land-
ed aristocracy." European agriculture, generally, has an
entirely different historical background from that of the
United States. A very large proportion of the farms in
Europe are rarely ever sold. They pass down from genera-
tion to generation within the same family; and tenancy is
relatively small in some countries such as Germany, where
it hardly exceeds 10 percent. The individual owner-opera-
tor is linked to the past by a particular parcel of land and
expects it to remain"in the family" for the indefinite future.
But the American system has been a complex of forces
unrestrained by status or primogeniture. Tenants and ab-
sentee landlords are not the only farmers without long-time
interest in particular parcels of land. Though the number


is perhaps much smaller today than formerly, there are
probably owner-operators in Iowa still nursing the ambition
to live near former neighbors again by migrating to Los
Angeles and Hollywood. Others are educating their children
for nonfarm occupations and hoping to sell the farm at the
first favorable opportunity. Still others are seeking to
"make a deal" for a better farm. And so it goes most
landlords and tenants, and a significant proportion of own-
er-operators, all looking elsewhere from the land they now
operate. Altogether, it is probable that at least half the
farms are thus affected. Truly, it was inevitable that the
"old homestead" should have rough usage under this sys-
tem. Affection for or sustained interest in particular sites
was bound to suffer a loss.

Free versus Fair Competition
These are not all the forces in the system working against
conservation. While agriculture has remained exposed to
the vicissiture of free competition within its ranks, business
has steadily evolved controls in its own interest under the
name of "fair" competition. Until 1920. steadily rising
land values (and homestead land as long as it lasted) con-
cealed the fact that ultlimately agriculture would have to
develop its own controls in self defense, and that many of
the practices appropriate for a pioneer economy are positive
evils when retained after there is no more wilderness to
It was not by accident that the conservation movement
began 30 years ago. The end of the "unlimited" public
domain was in sight; and individuals seeking their own
interests in the name of rugged individualism had taken
such flagrant advantage of everyone else as to invoke
widespread wrath. To keep greed and special privilege from
getting an increasingly unfair share of land, mineral, forest,
and other resources was a part of Theodore Roosevelt's
"trust busting" efforts. This redistribution-of-wealth mo-
tive was the real spark that arrayed public support behind
the efforts of the conservationists. Concern for the inter-
ests of the more remote as well as the immediate future
and a desire to prevent waste were contributing influences,
but they were insignificant compared with the effect of in-
dignation aroused by the steals and frauds perpetrated by
and against people of that day.
During this entire period, to maintain the "status quo"
has been to maintain a system of resource exploitation.
Thus it happens that among those known as "liberals" have


been the ardent conservers, and among those known as
"conservatives" have been the ruthless wasters.
Effective interest in soil conservation first developed
after the longest decline of farm real-estate values in his-
tory. Every year from 1920 to 1933 showed a decrease
in values from the preceding year; and throughout much
of the period, agriculture was virtually in a state of econo-
mic collapse. There had been hard times before, but never
had there been the necessity of reducing such a heavy debt
and tax structure as existed during this period. What was
more important, wide disparities between farm and non-
farm prices were long sustained. Fundamentally. these dis-
parities meant that there was a lack of balance between
agricultural and nonagricultural production. It was appar-
ent that the difficulties were due in large measure to the
existence of free competition in agriculture alongside regu-
lated competition in business. Less than 18 months after
the collapse of farm prices in 1920, Professor Ely warned
that "in our own country there must be a proper proportion
between agricultural production and the production of non-
agricultural goods and services. This is fundamental in the
establishment of a national land policy.""" Yet, for more
than a decade, nothing effective was done to bring about
that "proper proportion".
Free competition in agriculture continued. Fair com-
petition and reasonable farm prices did not prevail because
no action was taken to coordinate the farmer's individual
and collective interests. These were in conflict. His in-
dividual interest was to produce as large a proportion of
the total supply of farm produce as possible, while his col-
lective interest was in not producing so much that the price
was unduly depressed.
Failure to substitute fair competition for free competi-
tion was the reason that throughout the period from 1920
to 1933. even those farmers who have, and recognized that
they have, a long-time economic interest in conserving the
soil were in many cases too hard pressed to do so. Low
prices for what they sold, high prices for what they bought,
heavy mortgages, high interest rates, and heavy taxation
compelled many of them to act contrary to their own long-
run interests in order to retain title to their farms. They
depleted their soil and other capital to meet necessary fixed
charges, and hoped that at some future time they might
be able to replace this capital. But despite such efforts
-" Ticha:rd T. Ei "A Nl i nal Policy for land U'tiliization", Report of
The national l Agrieuiltural Conferenee. printed in TH. Io<-. D15, 67th ConLg..
2'(1 S,-ss., \V;tshington. 1. i'.. 19i22. p. 117.


thousands failed to meet the charges and were subjected
to foreclosure proceedings.
Soil Conservation Requires Economic and Social Changes
Thus, it is clear that the soil conservation problem is in
large measure one of developing an economic policy in line
with physical necessities. As such, the method appropriate
for dealing with it must include economic and social tech-
niques which provide adequate inducements for or remove
existing handicaps to the adoption of proper physical tech-
niques. If the broad objective of soil conservation is fun-
damentally sound, if the economic interest of a large pro-
portion of farmers in conserving the soil is too limited for
national purposes, and if many of those who have sufficient
interest are without adequate income, what must be the
principal characteristics of desirable policy?
The economic, social, and political fact of paramount im-
portance in the formation of any national soil conservation
program is that the Nation's farm land is operated as more
than 6 million separate enterprises by people who represent
the most individualistic class of American society. There
are probably half as many separate owners, who now have,
and very likely will continue to have, authority to (do virtual-
ly as they please with land they own. A national program,
therefore, must come to terms with millions of owners and
operators, or the overwhelming majority of them, and it
cannot be put into effect by Federal compulsion. It seems
improbable, moreover, that a local compulsion will be em-
ployed except in connection with attempts to control the
most spectacular forms of erosion. Texas recently has
given power to county judges and county commissioners of
nine Panhandle counties to control wind erosion on farms
of individuals who refuse to do so, and to charge the costs
to the owners.'-' The law was aimed mainly at nonresidents
who own 30 percent of the farms, and is one of the first
instances of its kind on record. As yet, there is no in-
stance of local compulsion to control other destructive,
though less spectacular, forms of erosion.
A second highly important practical aspect of the prob-
lem is the extreme variation in both technical and economic
adjustments appropriate for regions, communities, and in-
dividual farms. No State or Federal agency has all the
knowledge and skill required for such adjustments, if they
are to be made with any consideration for the people now
living on the land. The task is one in which individuals,
*l tou c.1- Bill Noi. 97TS IT-.x:It ), P)siss,-d Ma v 21. 1<.:i;5.


communities, the States and the Federal Government can
all participate. In fact, if local, State, or national programs
are to be successful, there must be a maximum of farmer
participation in both their formulation and administration.
The soil scientist and other experts working alone cannot
work out the best program; and even if they could, farmer
approval and assistance would be required for its adminis-
In the field of land use, as in other matters. experience
has condemned the classical doctrine that private initiative
and self-interest can be depended upon to protect adequately
the public need. But the most hopeful procedure for harm-
onizing private and public interests is the employment of
collective persuasions and inducements democratically de-
County Agricultural Planning
During the past year a national project for county agri-
cultural adjustment planning was inaugurated in coopera-
tion with the Extension Service. This project was designed
to meet the need for greater participation by farmers in the
formulation adl administration of adjustment programs.
In October of 1935, a start was made toward setting up in
each agricultural county of the United States an adjust-
ment planning committee of 10 to 20 members representing
the various agricultural interests of the county. At the
present time, such committees exist or are in the process of
being established in most of the agricultural counties of the
country. Each committee, with the assistance of communi-
ty committees and subcommittees, is undertaking to build
a long-time adjustment program for its county. As a first
task, it is seeking to determine changes in local cropping
systems necessary to maintain fertility and control erosion,
and the possible effects of such changes on production.
This requires a careful appraisal of the problem in each local

For some farms, the limiting factor in soil conservation
is the lack of technical knowledge on the part of operators
as to either the damage being done by present practices or
the change in practices necessary for soil protection. As
previously noted, however, it is exceedingly doubtful that
more than half of all farms are in the hands of people whose
interest in them extends into the future sufficiently to


encourage the adoption of adequate soil-conservation meas-
ures. Adding to this number all those farms in which the
owners do have such an interest but are financially unable
to do anything about it, it is reasonably certain that at least
two-thirds of all farms are held by people who cannot be
expected to do what needs to be done if they are merely in-
formed as to the seriousness of soil losses and the techniques
for preventing erosion. Thus, besides an expansion and
development of the research, educational, and cooperative
activities of the Soil Conservation Service of the Depart-
ment of Agriculture, three separate though related types
of remedial action are required, as follows: (1) Direct sub-
sidy to landowners and operators, (2) stabilization of farm
prices and income, and (3) shifts in population and changes
in size of farms.

Direct Subsidy to Landowners and Operators
Production allotments and benefit payments under the
national agricultural adjustment programs of the last 2
years have already had important effects on agricultural
land use. Both in 1934 and in 1935, more than 10 million
acres of crop land throughout the country were shifted
from cultivated crops to soil-conserving legumes and gras-
ses, under adjustment contracts with farmers.
So far as use of submarginal land in the so-called problem
areas is concerned, there are only three alternatives for na-
tional policy: (1) To permit individuals to continue exploit-
ing soils that never should have been plowed, (2) to devote
the land to its best permanent use (such as forests, parks,
game preserves, grazing districts, etc.), and remove the
surplus population, and (3) to retire the land from culti-
vation and subsidize the the surplus population "in place".
If the soil is to be conserved, only the last two of these alter-
natives exist.
If all the land that never should have been plowed could
be permanently retired from cultivation and covered with
grass and trees, much of what is here described as the soil
conservation problem would be solved, and it is probable
that a substantial proportion of the land in this class is in
the problem areas. Yet, there would still remain the im-
portant, though less acute, problem of conserving soil which
is agricultural soil and which might well be in cultivation at
least a part of the time. This problem does not involve the
migration of surplus population; but it does require that
positive incentives for soil conservation be provided. The
primary reason is, as previously pointed out, that a distinct


majority of farmers either have no long-time interest in
the land they operate or are financially unable to pursue
that interest. And besides this reason, there is the addi-
tional reason that because of past neglect erosion on some
farms has already reached the stage where the cost of con-
trolling it exceeds the value of the land." But since ero-
sion. once it gets started, tends to spread at an increasingly
rapid rate, the community must control it on such farms
in order to protect other farms not yet affected. If the soil
is to be conserved, the Nation has no choice but to subsidize
soil conservation on individual farms until fundamental
economic and social arrangements are so revised as to pro-
vide the necessary inducements. The three forms of sub-
sidy now being given are benefit payments of the Agricul-
tural Adjustment Administration, supplies and techincal
services of the Soil Conservation Service, and phosphates of
the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Stabilization of Farm Prices and Income
Probably no changes in economic conditions would con-
tribute more toward fostering a wider individual interest
in soil conservation than those which would tend to reduce
land speculation and land "booms". The Nation is ap-
proaching a stationary population, which means that the
long-time outlook is for comparatively little increase in land
values due to population growth. This removes one influ-
ence which has tended in the past to encourage speculative
Stable land values are associated with stable ownership
and a minimum of speculation, and all of these are but re-
flections of relative stability in farm prices and incomes.
Thus, it is not only the level of prices and income that is
important from the standpoint of soil conservation but it is
also the stability of that level. There is evidence that ex-
cessively high prices serve nearly as much as low prices
to induce soil exploitation. The relation between soil con-
servation and farm income is most apparent in such prob-
lem areas as the Great Plains. High prices for wheat caused
destruction of sod necessary for soil protection; and though
subsequent low prices caused abandonment of many of
these lands, the wind was able to get in its work before
new sod could be grown.
It should not be supposed, however, that stable incomes
at any level would serve the cause of conservation equally
.-' \ C'. Lo'. wdurnlilk. "Erosioi l in thI Orijent as Related to Soil I'on..r-
Vation il Amnt-ria", Journi l (iof The Aimi-ric'in Sociely of .lronmomy,
April 1!29, p. 41:3.


well. American farmers will not live under conditions of
stabilized poverty and save the soil at the same time. As
long as farmers want to drive automobiles and live like
other Americans, they will heavily discount the future if
necessary in order to do so. The more they discount the
future, the less they will save the soil for future genera-
tions; and the lower their income, the more they will dis-
count the future.
Hence, the problem is one of balancing present and future
needs. As previously noted, an individual's interest in a
particular parcel of land may be for only a year, and rarely
extends beyond a generation or so; whereas the Nation's in-
terest is reckoned in centuries. The heavier rate at which
the individual discounts the future is the simple economic
principle underlying the whole problem of conservation. For
practical purposes, however, national interests would be
reasonably well served if the individual's interest extended
only to the next generation. But any farmer who is unable
to meet his present standard of living, whatever that stand-
ard may be, will certainly devote little effort to saving the
soil where it means any sacrifice of present income. If the
Nation would save the soil on all farms, it must assume
responsibility not only for insuring such individuals against
loss of present income, but also for maintaining a reasonable
level of income.

Shifts in Population and Changes in Size of Farms
A reasonable level of farm income cannot be maintained
indefinitely in submarginal areas, except by unreasonable
subsidies. In many instances, the farms are too small to
make possible, without subsidy, the type of agriculture re-
quired to conserve the soil. Much of the land should be
permanently retired from cultivation because of either its
susceptibility to erosion or its poor quality. To change the
size of farms so as to make possible a permanent and profit-
able agriculture and to retire from cultivation lands better
adapted to grazing and forest use, large-scale migration
must occur ultimately. Migration will either be forced by
soil wastage, as has already occurred in many areas, or it
will be planned for and carried out at public expense before
the land is destroyed. Even in 1930, large subsidies would
have been necessary to carry out immediately a sound land-
use program in the problem areas, unless at least 2 million
people on farms in these areas could have moved promptly
either to cities or to better farm lands. This number in-
cludes a half million in the Southern Appalachians, a mil-


lion in the Old Cotton Belt, and a half million in the Great
Plains and in such smaller problem areas as the Ozark

Depression Added to Farm Population Surplus
in Problem Areas

Excepting the Great Plains area, a disproportionate share
of the 3 million added to the farm population during the de-
pression has been added to the populations of problem areas.
A recent analysis of school census data of a representative
group of States shows that nearly three-fourths of the total
increase from 1930 to 1933 in school population of agricul-
tural counties occurred in counties classified as the poorest
half in each State, and 40 percent took place in those defined
as the poorest quarter."4 Thus, the greatest increases oc-
curred where there was already an excessive pressure of
population against an inadequate resource. Relief loads
of many counties in the problem areas are among the larg-
est in the country. Of the 29 counties in the United States
that had more than 36 percent of their population on relief
in 1933-34, 23 are in poor-land areas. Much of the land in
the Southern Applachians and the Old Cotton Belt has a
slope so steep that it cannot be plowed without serious soil
wastage, and an increasing farm population cannot maintain
even the present low levels of living without cultivating
these slopes. A progressive lowering of living standards
is inevitable unless the migration of the depression period is
The increases were greater in the poor-land areas because
birth rates are higher and land values are lower than in the
better farming regions. The back-to-the-land migration,
moreover, was to the same places from which large numbers
had migrated to cities during the prosperous twenties. How-
ever much the Nation might experiment with "repeatable
demonstrations" of desirable land-use projects in these re-
gions, the chronic difficulties causing misuse of the land
must be eliminated if the problem is to be dealt with ade-
quately. This means that any program designed to prevent
the use of poor land as a shock absorber for industrial un-
I lBushroid Alli. "Miigration l'Required for Best Land Use", a paperr
presented at the twenty-sixth annual meeting of the American iFalrm
Economic Association, New York City, Dec. 27, 1935.
For the details supporting estimates included here, see the fortheom-
ing report of the Study of Population ltedistrIbution,, Migration and Eco-
nomic Oportuniity, to be published shortly by the University of Pennsyl-
vania Press. Philadelphia, Pa.
*1 Goodrich, Allin, and Haynes, Study of PoIpulation Ited istri ltion,
Migration and Pluenes of Living 1920-193-1, University of 1'ennsylvania
Press, Philadelphia, Pa., p. 76.


employment will have to provide opportunities as good or
better than that of attempting to eke out an existence by
cultivating eroding hillsides. As previously noted, however,
this would constitute only a partial solution of the land-use
problems in the "problem areas", for the present surplus
population in these areas consists of not only the increase
that occurred since 1930 but also a significant portion of the
1930 population.
The problem areas cannot maintain their present popu-
lations on an adequate standard of living. Devoting lands in
these areas to their best permanent uses would sustain
fewer people on a higher level of living, and would release
those not needed on the land for better opportunities else-
where. An acute problem of the present time is how to
provide this segment of the Nation's man-power with an
opportunity to produce a decent living, without exploiting
soil resources. Proper land use for the problem areas might
mean a total farm population in the United States of 4 mil-
lion fewer people, or about seven-eighths of the present
number. The entire 4 million could leave agriculture and
the total volume of farm products could be increased at the
same time. Prior to the depression, when the farm popula-
tion was 3 million less than at present, agricultural produc-
tion was greater.

Industrial Recovery May Relieve Population Pressure on
Farms in Problem Areas
The productive capacity of this Nation is not so limited
as to deny it the privilege of providing decent maintenance
for the victims of its business cycles. Apparently, present
Federal relief policy is based on this assumption. Had the
relief policy been niggardly, the back-to-the-land movement
undoubtedly would have been greater, farmers would have
borne a larger share of the burden of unemployment relief,
and more soils which should never be plowed would have
been exploited and subjected to the effects of erosion.
With industrial recovery, much of the surplus population
in problem areas can be expected to migrate to urban cen-
ters. The improvement in general economic conditions that
has already occurred during the last 2 years has reduced
the rate of population increase in these areas below that of
the first years of the depression. But even if industrial
recovery should draw the surplus population from the farms
to the cities, mistakes in land use would occur again in
connection with the next industrial depression unless posi-
tive public action were taken to prevent their recurrence.


Such action would include not only a system of social se-
curity, but also land-use zoning and public purchase. At
best, however, these are long-time procedures. In the mean-
time, emergency measures must be adopted if the rapid rate
of soil destruction in some of the problem areas is to be

The foregoing analysis of the broader economic implica-
tions of soil conservation leads logically to a consideration of
its place in national agricultural policy. The goal of such a
policy is to bring about that use of land which will provide
consumers with continuous and abundant supplies of farm
produce at reasonable prices, yield a reasonable income to
farmers, and at the same time maintain soil fertility and
control erosion. The goal is not merely to conserve the soil.
Nor is the purpose to conserve the soil only to protect the in-
terests of the more remote future. Conservation thus in-
terpreted has never had any popular appeal, and probably
never will have. To be successful, an adequate soil-con-
servation program must appeal to the farmer's immediate
as well as his long-time interests. By paying the cost of
technical services which farmers cannot afford, the Soil
Conservation Service appeals to both interests.
Conservation provisions of the present national agricul-
tural program are linked inseparably with other broad ob-
jectives of immediate interest to the farmer. Among the
declared purposes of the Soil Conservation and Domestic
Allotment Act are: (1) To conserve soil resources, (2) to
protect rivers and harbors against the results of soil erosion
in aid of maintaining navigability and in aid of flood control,
and (3) to reestablish and maintain the pre-war ratio be-
tween the per capital purchasing power of farm and non-
farm income. In seeking these objectives, it is also declared
that due regard shall be given to the maintenance of a con-
tinuous and stable supply of agricultural commodities ade-
quate to meet consumer demand at prices fair to both pro-
ducers and consumers.25 "Aiming at justice for agricul-
ture and self-interest for the Nation, the plan seeks to sal-
vage and conserve the greatest values in human life and
resources with which this Nation is endowed.""
Public, No. 461, 74th Cong. (S. 3780), sec. 7 (a).
-" Statement by President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued at the time of
signing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act. Mimeo-
graphed Mar. 2, 1936, by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration,
Washington, D. C.


Efficient Use of Soil Resources
The program has been condemned by some as a "subter-
fuge", as an attempt to nullify the Supreme Court's decision
in the Hoosac Mills case by changing words rather than pur-
poses, as an attempt only to continue the emergency crop
control features of the Agricultural Adjustment Act.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Long before the
court's decision, farmers and their leaders were aware of
the need for revising the emergency program to meet the
requirements of a sound long-time program. And on Octo-
ber 25, 1935, more than 2 months before the decision, the
President said concerning the Agricultural Adjustment Act
it never was the idea of the men who framed the act, of those in Con-
gress who revised it, nor of Henry Wallace nor Chester Davis that
the Agricultural Adjustment Administration should be either a mere
emergency operation or a static agency. It was their intention-as
it is mine-to pass from the purely emergency phases necessitated by
a grave national crisis to a long-time, more permanent plan for
American agriculture.
He then went on to say:
Such a long-time program is developing naturally out of the present
adjustment efforts. As I see it, this program has two principal objec-
tives: First, to carry out the declared policy of Congress to maintain
and increase the gains thus far made, thereby avoiding the danger of
a slump back into the conditions brought about by our national neglect
of agriculture. Second, to broaden present adjustment operations so
as to give farmers increasing incentives for conservation and efficient
use of the Nation's soil resources.
The long-time and more permanent adjustment program will pro-
vide positive incentives for soil conservation. The benefit payments
can be made on a basis that will encourage individual farmers to adopt
sound farm management, crop rotation, and soil conservation methods.
The crop insurance feature afforded by benefit payments will help
farmers to maintain these beneficial systems of farming without
interruption in poor crop years. Long-time adjustments can be adapt-
ed to natural soil advantages of regions and localities. Already the
adjustment administration has under way local studies to help in
working out farm programs on a county basis, so as to fit the best
permanent use of the varying soil resources of the country up to that
county's share of available domestic and foreign markets. Thus,
plans are being worked out that should encourage widespread co-
operation of farmers in a permanent national soil-maintenance pro-

-: Issued ill millml',ralphail formal at the White Holuse as a statement to
tile press.


Soil Conservation and Production Adjustments
Are Inter-related
The court's decision accelerated the development of the
long-time aspects of national agricultural policy and invali-
dated a part of existing procedure for accomplishing the
immediate objectives. Whereas, under the first emergency
program the maintenance of reasonable farm prices and in-
comes by means of crop control was necessarily the major
purpose and soil conservation was incidental, under the
present program soil conservation becomes a more impor-
tant objective and the maintenance of reasonable farm
prices becomes no less important. True, the Federal Govern-
ment can no longer control output by contracts with individ-
ual producers in order to maintain prices, but it can grant
financial assistance to States for the same purpose. The
1936 act provides for this procedure.
As previously pointed out, results of the regional adjust-
ment project indicate rather clearly that a national pro-
gram designed solely to conserve the soil would tend to re-
duce the output of those crops recently affected by unsal-
able surpluses. Also, experience under the emergency ad-
justment programs has demonstrated that a national pro-
gram intended primarily to control output contributes in an
important degree toward soil conservation. That one pur-
pose is a function of the other is the basic fact giving rise
to some of the misunderstanding concerning the new pro-
This relation between the two purposes, however, should
mislead no one to conclude that measures appropriate for
one are equally useful for the other, because they are not.
Unless the States, with Federal assistance, are able to de-
velop programs aimed primarily at production control, those
who look upon the new Federal program as adequate for
this purpose are very likely to be disappointed. Surplus
crops are also soil-depleting crops, but there is no assurance
that production adjustments sufficient for soil conservation
will always be adequate for maintaining reasonable prices.

Course in Conservation
of Florida Soils




State Department of Agriculture


Printed and Distributed by the
Department of Public Instruction
Tallahassee. Florida
COLIN ENGLISH. State Superintendent


This is one of the several bulletins prepared and issued by
the Department of Public Instruction in compliance with
Sections 5-6 of Senate Bill No. 532 enacted by the Legisla-
ture of 1935 and relating to Courses of Instruction covering
the Conservation of the Natural Resources of Florida.

It has been planned to use the material contained in the
pamphlets in connection with the Courses in General
Science, Advanced Civics and other courses, without pro-
vision for a separate course carrying credit, in the Conserva-
tion of Natural Resources.

The soil antedates even the most ancient forests. It is
the heritage of all life, the source of food, the beginning of
wealth and the basis of civilization. It is a cradle for the
seed, sustenance for the growing plant, and a grave for
the dead. When the soil loses its fertility, empires decline
and nations crumble. Truly the soil is man's most precious
natural resource and should be approached with reverence.

Strange as it may appear, the salt of the ocean and food
for fish come directly or indirectly from soil. Although the
ocean and other bodies of water furnish a portion of man's
food, this is comparatively small, even for people living near
the shores. The greater part of man's food is grown on the
the soil.

Since the land is the source of food and the basis of all
wealth, it behooves any nation whether young or old to
give serious consideration to soil conservation. This is not
a new problem. It has been practiced in a limited way by
some farmers in America for more than a century, and in
China and Europe for many centuries.

The materials contained in this bulletin were prepared
for the State Department of Agriculture by Dr. O. C. Bryan,
Professor of Soils, at the University of Florida, in the belief
that one function of the public schools is to acquaint future


citizens with the important problems affecting the welfare
of society. It is hoped that these pages will aid teachers
and students in making a worth while study of the conser-
vation of the resources of Florida's soils.

An effort has been made to print and distribute a suf-
ficient number of copies to furnish each high school library
with at least ten copies for the use of teachers and that of
pupils enrolled in the subjects above mentioned.

The office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruc-
tion is deeply indebted to the administrative officers of the
several departments of the State governmentt concerned
with the Conservation of Natural Resources for their active
and valuable cooperation in the preparation of these pam-



Crops are classified into four classes. They are soil-depleting
crops, soil-conserving crops. soil-building crops, and neutral crops.
Soil-Depleting Crops:
1. Corn (including broom corn and sweet corn);
2. Cotton;
3. Tobacco;
4. Irish potatoes;
5. Sweet potatoes:
6. Rice;
7. Sugarcane;
8. Commercial truck and canning crops; including melons and
9. Peanuts, if harvested as nuts;
10. Grain sorghums, sweet sorghums and millets;
11. Small grains, harvested for grain or hay, (wheat, oats, barley,
rye, and grain mixtures);
12. Soybeans, if harvested for crushing.
Soil-Conserving Crops:
1. Annual winter legumes, including vetch, winter peas, bur and
crimson clover, biennial legumes, including alfalfa. kudzu, and
sericea, with or without such nurse crops as rye, oats, wheat,
barley, or grain mixtures, when such nurse crops are pastured
or clipped green; summer legumes, including soybeans, except
when produced for seed for crushing, velvet beans, crotalaria,
cowpeas, and annual varieties of Lespedeza.
2. Peanuts, when pastured.
3. Perennial grasses, including Dallis, redtop, orchard. Bermuda,
carpet, or grass mixture, and Sudan grass, with or without such
nurse crops as rye, oats, wheat, barley, or grain mixtures, when
such nurse crops are pastured or clipped green.
4. Winter Cover Crops, including rye, barley, oats, and small grain
mixtures, winter pastured or not, and turned as green manure;
or if harvested and followed by summer legumes.
Soil-Building Crops:
1. Annual winter legumes, including vetch, winter peas, bur and
crimson clover, turned under as a green manure crop.
2. Biennial legumes, including sweet and alsike clover, perennial
legumes, including alfalfa, kudzu, sericea, and annual varieties
of Lespedeza.
3. Summer legumes, including soybeans, velvet beans, crotalaria,
and cowpeas, if forage is left on the land.
4. Winter cover crops, including rye, barley, oats, and small grain
mixtures, turned as green manure and followed in the summer
by an approved soil-conserving crop.


5. Forest trees, when planted on crop land in 1936.
Neutral Classification (not to be counted in establishing bases):
1. Vineyards, tree fruits, small fruits, or nut crops (not inter-
planted). (If interplanted, such acreage shall carry the classi-
fication and actual acreage of the intercrop grown.) Idle crop
land, cultivated fallow land, Waste and Woodland, etc.
Note: It is generally understood that the Florida Committee may
make some slight alterations of the above classifications, as
set up for the Southern Region.
Approved Practices: in soil-conserving and soil-building should include:
(a). Properly terracing land needing terracing.
(b). Growing and leaving on the land either winter or summer
legumes grown as catch crops.
(c). Seeding of crop land to perennial grasses including Bermuda,
Dallis, redtop, orchard, carpet or pasture mixtures.


Crop Soil Depleting

Cotton Yes
Tobacco "
Potatoes (Irish
and sweet)
All Truck Crops
(inc. watermelons) "
Sugar Cane
Small Fruits and Berries "
Sugar Beets
Vineyards "
Cultivated Nut
Crops (Including
Tung Oil)
Wheat If harvested

Soil Building

Soil Conserving

When not harvested

If harvested

Grain Sorghum

Broom Corn
Sweet Sorghums

All Field Beans
and Peas

- Plowed under or

If hay and

If hay and

Annual Forage If hf
grass crops f
Annual Legumes
Biennial Legumes
(Sweet, Red, Alsike)
Perennial Legumes

Perennial grasses

or hay

When plowed under W
When plowed under Wh
When plowed under Wh
d -

When plowed under


Exceptions by

hen grazed off
en left on land
pastured or
en only seed
en left on land
pastured or
en only seed





Soils are different in many ways, the most outstanding
of which are variations in color such as gray. brown, red,
and black: variation in size of particles such as gravel, sand,
silt, and clay:' variation in topography such as level,
hills, or mountains: variations in parent material such as
limerock. sandstone, clay, granite, marble, and others: also
variations in moisture, whether wet or dry. One or more
of these variations may be observed in any community and
is reflected by the differences in native vegetation and crop
production. In fact, these variations account for the wide
variety of plant life which we see about us.
The average person may recognize that soils differ in
their ability to grow plants, but he seldom understands how
or why. (lose examination shows that soils are made up
of many small particles which vary in size and color. Sand
particles vary from about the size of a pin head to fine
powder, while clay particles cannot be seen with a micro-
scope. Particles as large as sorghum seed and larger are
called gravel, while those intermediate between sand and
clay is silt, which has a floury feel. When soil is rubbed be-
tween the fingers quite different characteristics are noted
in different soils. Sands have a gritty feel between the
fingers, while clay particles are very fine and smooth, with
a sticky and plastic feel when wet. Although all soils con-
tain some sand, silt, and clay, the different soil grades or
classes commonly referred to as sands, loams, and clays,
merely contain different proportions of these ingredients.
Each of these class names has subdivisions such as coarse
sand and fine sand, sandy loam, silt loam and clay loam. Soils
with eighty per cent or more of the sand ingredient belongs
to the sand class. If a soil contains over fifty per cent of
the clay ingredient it is a clay soil while the loams contain
from twenty to fifty per cent clay and silt ingredients.
Further examination of a soil shows that the surface is
usually darker than the subsoil which often exhibits distinct
layers or strata. These may be seen along roadside banks
or ditches. (These layers are illustrated for two Florida
soils in Plate I.) The nature of these different layers is
very important to agriculture. Soils which have a brown
hardpan stratum underneath the surface are quite different
from those having a clay or sand underneath. These layers
serve as a basis of classification and naming of soils.
S Sa (d- 0(5 to 1 rn inll di: lt r. ('lay--el, \ .005 I i diamlllt-r.


-t -5
,.H,- '



- i'.

I 4
Ifrr~f -9-

"I. Iwo-


(Upper)-A road cut showing the different soil layers in Orangeburg
fine sandy loam.
(Lower)-A ditch bank showing the soil layers in Leon fine sand.
(Note the layers in both soils.)


Among the other important soil variations are differences
in available plant food elements or fertilizer nutrients such
as nitrates, phosphates, potash and others. These varia-
tions are inherent properties of the soil and further ex-
plains why some areas are productive and others are not.
Many plants grow normally without the aid of man, but
most of our economic plants require special cultivation and
care for satisfactory production. Such crops as corn, cotton,
sugar cane, beans, cabbage, celery and tomatoes require a
certain amount of inter-tillage, sometimes referred to as
cultivation, while oats, barley, rye, clover and such crops,
planting is the essential operation. Tree crops do not re-
quire as much tillage as annuals.
Crops which require inter-tillage or cultivation are usual-
ly hard on the soil. When the land is plowed and changed
from its natural condition it is more subject to erosion and
leaching losses. Cultivation increases the rate of availability
of the plant food elements, thereby increasing the produc-
tive power of the soil. But it also opens the way for erosion
losses as may be seen on the slopes of many farms in the
South. (See Plates II, II, and IV)


During the early history of America, most crops were
grown without a great deal of regard for soil conservation.
Land was cleared and cropped until the surface soil had
become depleted and often eroded; then newland was ac-
quired and the process repeated. This type of farming
has resulted in the loss of so much of the soil, largely
through erosion processes, until at the present time over
fifty per cent of the cultivated land in the United States
has been affected by erosion losses. It has been conserva-
tively estimated that over fifty million acres in the United
States have become so severely eroded that farming is no
longer profitable. (See Plates II and IV.) Unless some
measure is taken to conserve the surface soil, other areas
will be destroyed and the prosperity of our nation seriously
affected. China faced this problem several centuries ago,
but failed to control erosion losses, with the result that
much of her country is now desolate.
In recognition of the magnitude of soil losses facing the
American people, the National Government, through its soil
conservation service, has undertaken to bring about sane




(Upper)-Small gullies in a field showing the result of poor soil

(Lower)-River showing soil washed in from hills and fields similar
to upper condition.

(Courtesy of Soil Conservation Servl'. U. . D. A.)


,I ..

~Pfr -::; ~'' "J'-i
!' --

E.~ ;
~-~P ~~


~?~. ~,L~?~_~~.~i-i~z~C~Ch-3~(~--


r r .-. -- .,
w .-.. -.. -:

(Upper)-View of sheet and gully erosion. Market peanuts in back-
ground. (Note the absence of ground cover.)
(Lower)-View of small gully erosion after peanuts were stacked.
The barren soil is subject to erosion common in West Florida.
(Courtesy of Soil Conservation Service. U. S. D. A.)


(Upper)-A gully ready to undermine farm buildings.
(l.ower)-Method of controlling gully erosion. The log dam prevents
further deepening of channel. (Note soil collected in gully channel.)
(Co(.urtsy of Soil 'ions.rvation Servic.,. I'. S. 11. A.)


and practical conservation measures throughout each
state." This service is intended to reach every rural
community and educate all classes of people regarding the
basic nature of the soil and the importance of conserving the
surface layer through better farm practices. If the surface
soil can be maintained, our nation will be more permanent
and our farm people more prosperous.


When crops are sold from the farm, part of the plant food
in the soil is removed and eventually the soil becomes so de-
pleted that profitable crops can no longer be produced.
Where crops are thus sold from the farm they are desig-
nated as soil depleting crops. The following crops are "soil
depleting": corn, (including broom corn and sweet corn),
tobacco, cotton, potatoes, rice, sugar cane, commercial
crops and canning crops, (including melons, cucumbers,
and strawberries), peanuts, if harvested, grain sorghum
and millet, small grains such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye
when harvested for grain or hay and soy-beans when har-
vested, or any crop sold from the land.


If the crops should be grazed, the soil is not depleted of so
much of its plant food. Such crops are known as soil con-
serving crops and are so indicated as follows: Annual win-
ter legumes, (including vetch, winter peas and clover) ; per-
ennial legumes, (including alfalfa, kudzu, and sericea) ; sum-
mer legumes, (including soybeans, velvet beans, crotalaria,
cowpeas, and annual varieties of lespedeza); peanuts when
pastured, perennial grasses such as centipede, Dallis, Ber-
muda, and carpet grass; winter cover crops, such as rye,
barley, oats, and small grain mixtures. Furthermore tree
crops planted since 1934 are designated as soil conserving


Experience has taught that some plants may even im-
prove the soil by preventing leaching or erosion losses or
(-Craceville, Florida is the headquarterrs for the soil conservation
projects in Florida. (LU.S.D.A.)


by securing through the roots atmospheric nitrogen. Such
crops as cow peas, velvet beans, crotalaria, beggar weed
and clover, are generally known as leguminous plants. They
are often grown as cover crops and when they, or any other
crops are grown especially for the purpose of improving
or conserving the soil, without being grazed or sold, they
are designated as soil building crops.


Although losses through leaching processes and the sale
of crops reduce the natural productivity of the soil, by far
the greatest soil loss is erosion. The annual erosion losses
of plant food in the United States has been conservatively
estimated at four hundred million dollars ($400,000,000)
annually.3 It is further estimated that the aggregate
loss in terms of plant food soluble and potentially soluble
is sixty times that of the nutrients added in fertilizers.4
(See Plates II, III, and IV.)
While erosion may be caused by either wind or water,
that of water is more general and more severe than that by
wind. In both cases the losses usually begin when the na-
tive vegetation, either grass or trees, is removed. (See
Plates III, and IV.) Wind erosion is most severe in arid
regions where the native sod has been broken as in the Da-
kotas and other western states. From a national stand-
point the grass sod is more important for agriculture than
cultivated crops in such regions. Breaking the sod reduces
the binding properties of the soil and permits severe wind
erosion and even water erosion during certain periods of
heavy rainfall.
In humid regions practically all the cultivated slopes are
subject to erosion. This may be observed in the hill region
of Northwest Florida. The soil losses from erosion are
usually in proportion to the degree of the slope of the land.
In many instances, improper management of soils with five
and ten per cent slope has resulted in the loss of the first
five or six inches of soil during one generation.

a Circular 33, Soil Conservation Service-U.S.D.A.
4 United States Department of Agriculture. Yearbook 1934.



Soil erosion is grouped under two general headings. 1.
Sheet erosion. which consists of the movement of water
carrying soil over the surface in a manner not unlike a sheet.
(See Plate III.) While this type of erosion usually is the
most severe, it is not as conspicuous and often passes un-
noticed. 2. (ully erosion, which is very destructive when
once started. (See Plate IV.) (ullies may start in a rather
small and inconspicuous way as a result of plow furrows,
trails, and road ways. and within a few seasons become so
severe that the land cannot be used for crops. Often times
farm buildings are in danger and sometimes are under-
mined by the progressive action of gullies as shown in Plate
IV. Cotton and corn farmers should exercise precaution in
the running of rows in contours and in the use of terraces
on slopes. A management program that will reduce the
surface soil losses to a minimum is the most profitable prac-
tice. If this is not done. the cutlivated slopes will lose their
natural fertility. While this takes place gradually, never-
theless it is certain and the owner will probably find his
farm under mortgage because of its inability to produce
crops properly. Such areas have poor schools and inexperi-
enced teachers. (See Plate V.)


Another form of soil loss. though not conspicuous. but
never-the-less serious. is known as leaching which takes
the soluble part of the soil nutrients downward with moving
water. This is a downward washing of the available soil
nutrients. The loss is most common in sandy lands of
humid regions. The greater part of Florida would come
under this type of soil losses. The losses are so great that
a high tonnage of fertilizers are used annually in Florida


For many years certain American farmers have devised
some erosion control measures in their own individual ways.
Some of these measures have been partially successful. The
construction of elevated ridges or terraces in the field to
control erosion has been practiced for many decades. On


Showing the percentage of one room schools, and inexperienced
teachers on poor soil compared to rich soil.
(Courtesy, Tennessee Valley Authority.)

the whole the farm people have not been financially able
to construct proper terraces on stiff and heavy soils be-
cause of insufficient power on the farm. Such soils are
usually most subject to erosion. This may be seen in the
rolling piedmont areas of the cotton belt where erosion has
destroyed millions of acres of farm land. (See Plate VII.
Upper right.) The sloping lands in West Florida are also
subject to serious erosion losses.
Erosion control measures consist very largely in keeping
the vegetative cover on the land as much as possible. This
means that those crops which are most aggressive are the
most useful in soil conservation. Grasses are soil binding
plants and are among the most effective soil conserving
crops. Areas with a slope of more than fifteen per cent should


howng te p nte omed room schools 1933)






Showing the percentage of one room schools, and inexperienced
teachers on poor soil compared to rich soil.
(('ourtsy, T'nllnssee V. llte authorityy. )

be retired from cultivated crops and planted to either trees
or sod producing crops (pastures). The best gully control
measure is a preventive through the use of sod, brush, con-
tour farming and terraces to either hold or divert the water
from the gullly channel. Any kind of aggressive plants,
especially those that will bind the soil such as grasses and
vines as well as locust and pine trees, will control gully
formation. In most cases the sod forming crops are more
effective than tree crops within short periods. (See Plate
Any practice that will break the sod and permit the im-
pact of rain to agitate the soil, will increase the erosiveness
of the soil and in the long run should be done with care.
In other words, plowing and harrowing prevents the weeds


(Upper)-Terracing machine in operation. (Note depth of furrow
made by machine.)
(Lower)-Terraces completed in field. Properly constructed terraces
remove excess water without erosion loss.
(Courtesy of Soil Conservation Service. U. S. D. A.)


y ~l.er


and grass from covering the land and allows the rain to
agitate the soil, permitting water or wind to carry off the
finer particles or cream of the soil. This is emphasized on
land where cultivated crops are frequently grown compared
to grass land. The comparative losses under different
management may be seen in Plate VIII (Lower right). This
graph represents soil losses over a six year period in Mis-

For those crops which require inter-tillage, it is necessary
to construct terraces. (See Plate VI.) This is done with
tractors and terracing machines in all soil conservation re-
gions. In some cases teams are used to construct terraces.
Then to further control erosion the inter-tilled crops are
arranged in a strip crop fashion with those that do not
require tillage. These strips or non-tilled crops serve to
hold any soil material that may wash from the plowed areas.
(See Plate VII.) As a further measure, crops are rotated
in such a way that intensively tilled crops will not be on
the same area every season. In many instances it is neces-
sary to use commercial fertilizers to stimulate a cover on
eroded soils. This is usually a profitable measure in the
long run.
It is very desirable to keep all soils covered with plants as
much as it is practical; where land is too steel for culti-
vated crops, trees should be planted. Any kind of plant or
cover on the land will materially retard erosion losses as
well as leaching losses. (See Plate VIII.) In the first case
it is a problem of preventing the solid portion of the soil
from being washed away. In the second case it is a prob-
lem of preventing the soluble portions of the soil, common-
ly referred to as fertilizer nutrients, from being leached.
Therefore, plants will either bind the soil particles together
or absorb the available soil nutrients and convert them into
a less leachable form. Thus the sandy land will be bene-
fitted and conserved by the use of crops whether weeds,
grass or otherwise. It is even necessary and profitable at
times to bring in litter from outside to serve as a soil cover
as well as to increase the moisture holding capacity of the
soil for the main cash crop. This is particularly true in a
warm humid climate such as Florida, where the conditions
are favorable for the soil organisms to render plant food
available during the entire year. In such areas weeds or
grass are often a blessing in disguise to the soil. Under
Florida conditions the natural forces have tended to equalize
soil losses and we have a number of very profitable volun-


(Upper)-Terrace arrangement on a fairly steep slope.
(Lower)-Strip farming on a steep slope.
(Courtesy of Soil Conser\vation Service. UI. S. D. A.)



(Upper)-Erosion on poorly managed farm in the cotton belt.
(Lower)-Terraces and strip farming using cotton and peanuts in
(Courl.tesy of Soil Cotnserv-ation Service S'. 1 D. A.)
(Uppr)-Eosio on oorl maagedfarmin te coton elt


teer crops such as beggar weed, native grasses, and other
crops that grow after the cultivation of the cash crops have
been discontinued. This is nature's way of replenishing her
land and should be encouraged wherever possible. The value
of this farm practice has been observed by many farmers.
One of the most serious problems involved in the man-
agement of organic soils, such as peat and muck, is the fact
that they shrink and burn readily when dried. Since or-
ganic soils consist very largely of plant materials, bacteria
and fungi decompose them readily when once exposed to at-
mospheric conditions. Moreover, when dry, they will burn
rather freely. So the problem confronting the Florida
Everglades is that of moisture control. By moisture con-
trol is meant sufficient moisture through drainage and
canal systems to prevent fires and excessive decomposition
process and at the same time to drain the excessive water
so that crops may be grown. It is just as important to
consider this as a soil conservation measure as erosion con-
Where land for any reason (sand, gullies, or what not)
is not suited for cultivated crops, it should be planted to tree
crops or grazing crops, both of which are soil conserving.
Such a practice as burning of the forests damages the trees
so severely that they can rarely become established. Many
Florida wooded areas have been cut almost bare of pines
with the result that much of the land in the state exists as
is indicated in Plate IX.


While Florida soils are not subject to severe erosion los-
ses except in the hilly sections of the central and west-
ern counties they are subject to severe leaching losses be-
cause of their sandy nature. Clay subsoil prevents leach-
ing. This problem is as serious as the erosion problem, and
can be considerably improved by using crops that keep the
land covered as much as possible. Nature's way is often
better than man's way.
Soil conservation is a constant problem with the state
and nation as well as with the individual farmer. Plans are
to be made and executed each season and year regarding
control measures, such as building or repairing terraces,
contour plowing, planting tree crops, cover crops, repairing
gullied areas, seeding pasture areas and all other practices


(Ipper)-Lespedeza Fericea less than two years old. This crop makes
good ground cover and hay.
(Lower)-Velvet beans and sorghum. Makes a good cover and hay
1 ,,'**u rt .. ,, ,,f S.. l i'..n* ,.r\.. tl..11 ."r.'*rt '.-m I". S I .\.)


Plowed4 PlowedfS Continuous Continuous Rotation Continuous
F.llIoed Followed BluSgrs Whet Corn
(Upper)-Centipede grass set only two months using small squares
of sod. This grass makes good ground protection.
(Courtesy, Soil Conservation Service, L. S. D. A.)
(Lower)-Graph showing the effect of different treatments on erosion.
(Note the small annual loss of soil under continuous grass.)
(Courtesy, AMo. Agr. Exp. Station, Ites. Bul. 177.)


-," .a .

". -.4 ,'k.. **. -: .. (. :'
(Upper)-I.ongleaf pine reseeding.
(Lower)-Florida cutover land with no seed trees left. Land allowed
to burn annually.


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