Page images

period; and each of them gives nearly as large a carcase for the food of man as if his days had been unprofitably prolonged in executing labour, from which he has been gradually exempted in Britain, in France, and in other countries, very nearly in proportion to the progress of correct systems of husbandry.

4833. The description of horse which a farmer ought to choose will depend chiefly on the soil of the farm, and partly also on the quantity of road-work. Stiff lands require obviously a heavier and more powerful breed than such as are light and hilly. In the latter case, two of the best breeds are the Clevelands and Clydesdale, or some local cross with these breeds. In general, it is not advisable to procure horses from a climate materially different from that where they are to remain ; and therefore, for various reasons, a prudent farmer will look out for the best in his neighbourhood. Often, however, he is obliged to take the stock of his predecessor ; and this he can only get rid of or improve to his mind by degrees. The farm-horses in most parts of England are much too cumbrous and heavy, and are more fitted for drawing heavy drays or waggons in towns than for the quick step required in the operations of agriculture.

4834. The objections of Davis of Longleat to the using of large heary-heeled horses, in preference to the smart, the active, and the really useful breeds, merit particular attention. In some situations, the steepness of the hills and the heaviness of the soil require more than ordinary strength : but, in such cases, he maintains that it would be better to add to the number of horses than to increase their size. Great horses not only cost proportionably more at first than small ones, but require much more food, and of a better quality, to keep up their flesh. The Wiltshire carter also takes a pride in keeping them as fat as possible; and their food which is generally barley) is given without stint. In many instances, indeed, the expense of keeping a fine team of horses amounts nearly to the rent of the farm on which they are worked. They are pure ed young when two years' old colts, and sold at five or six years of age for the London drays and waggons. The expense of their maintenance is very seldom counterbalanced by the difference of price, more especially as such horses are gently worked when young, that they may attain their full size and beauty In ploughing light soils, the strength of a dray-horse is not wanted; and in heavy soils, the weight of the animal does injury to the land.

SUBSECT. 2. Choice of Live Stock for the Purposes of breeding or feeding. 4835. The most desirable properties of live stock destined for food are considered in The Code of Agriculture, in respect to size, form, a tendency to grow, early maturity, hardiness of constitution, prolific properties, quality of flesh, a disposition to fatten, and lightness of offal.

48.36. The bulk of an animal was the sole criterion of its value before the improvements introduced by Bakewell; and if a great size could be obtained, more regard was paid to the price the animal ultimately fetched than to the cost of its food. Of late, since breeders began to calculate with more precision, small or moderate-sized animals have been generally preferred, for the following reasons :

4837. Small-sized animals are more easily kept, they thrive on shorter herbage, they collect food where a large animal could hardly exist, and thence are more profitable. Their meat is finer grained, produces richer gravy, has often a'superior favour, and is commonly more nicely marbled, or veined with fat, especially when they have been fed for two years. Large animals are not so well calculated for general consumption as the moderate-sized, particularly in hot weather ; large animals poach pastures more than small ones; they are not so active, require more rest, collect their food with more labour, and will only consume the nicer and more delicate sorts of plants. Small cows of the true dairy breeds give proportionably more milk than large ones. Small cattle may be fattened solely on grass of even moderate quality; whereas the large require the richest pastures, or to be stall-fed, the expense of which exhausts the profit of the farmer. It is much casier to procure well-shaped and kindly.feeding stock of a small size than of a large one. Small-sized cattle may be kept by many persons who cannot afford either to purchase or to maintain large ones, and their loss, if any accident should happen to them, can be more easily borne. The small-sized sell better; for a butcher, from a conviction that, in proportion to their respective dimensions, there is a greater superficies of valuable parts in a small than a large animal, will give more rroney for two oxen of twelve stone each per quarter than for one of twenty.four stone.

4838. In favour of the large-sized it is, on the other hand, contended, that without debating whether from their birth till they are slaughtered the large or the small one eats most for its size, yet on the whole the large one will pay the grazier or the farmer who fattens him as well for his food ; that though some large oxen are coarse-grained, yet where attention is paid to the breed (as is the case with the Herefordshire), the large ox is as delicate food as the small one; that if the small-sized are better calculated for the consumption of private families, of villages, or of small towns, yet that large cattle are titter for the markets of great towns, and in particular of the metropolis; that were the flesh of the small-sized ox better when fresh, yet the meat of the large-sized is unquestionably more calculated for salting, a most essential object in a maritime and commercial country, - for the thicker the beef, the better it will retain its juices when salted, and the fitter it is for long voyages ; that the hide of the large ox is of very great consequence in various manufactures; that large stock are in general distinguished by a greater quietness of disposition; that where the pastures are good, cattle and sheep will increase in size, without any particular attention on the part of the breeder; large animals are therefore naturally the proper stock for such pastures; that the art of fattening cattle, and even sheep, with oil cake, being much improved and extended, the advan. tage of that practice would be of less consequence, unless large oxen were bred, as small oxen can be fatiened with grass and turnips as well as oil.cake; and, lastly, that large oxen are better calculated for working than small ones, two large oxen being equal to four small ones in the plough or the cart.

48.39. Such are the arguments generally mare use of on both sides of the question , from which it appears that much must depend upon pastures, taste, mode of consumption, markets, &c. and that both sides have their advantages. The intelligent breeder, however, (unless his pastures are of a nature peculiarly forc. ing,) will naturally prefer a moderate size in the stock he rears. Davis of Longleat, one of the ablest agriculturists England has produced, has given some useful observations on the subject of size. He laments that the attempts which have been made to improve the breeds of cows, horses, and sheep, have proceeded too much upon the principle of enlarging the size of the animal, whereas, in general, the only real improvement has been made in the pig, and that was by reducing its size, and introducing a kind that will live hardier, and come to greater perfection at an earlier age.

4840. Though it is extremely desirable to bring the shape of cattle to as much perfection as possible, yet profit and utility ought not to be sacrificed for mere beauty which may please the eye, but will not fill the pocket; and which, depending much upon caprice, must be often changing. In regard to form, the most experienced breeders seem to concur in the following particulars : - That the form or shape should be compact, so that no part of the animal should be disproportioned to the other parts, and the whole should be distinguished by a general fulness and rotundity of shape; that the chest should be broad, for no animal whose chest is narrow can easily be made fat; that the carcase should be deep and straight ; that the belly should be of a moderate size; for when it is more capacious than common in young animals, it shows a diseased state, and in older ones it is considered a proof that the animal will not return in flesh, in milk, or in labour, the value of the extra quantity of food which it consumes; that the legs should be short, for the long-limbed individuals of the same family or race are found to be the least hardy, and the most difficult to rear or to fatten; and that the head, the bones, and other parts of inferior value, should be as small as is consistent with strength, and with the other properties which the animal ought to possess. In animals bred for the shambles, the form must likewise be such as to contain the greatest possible proportion of the finer, compared with the coarser and less valuable parts of the animal. This, by selection, may be attained, and thus the wishes of the consumer may be gratified. As to the broad loins, and full bips, which are considered as a point of excellence in particular breeds, it is evident that the old narrow and thin make required improvement; but the alteration is now carried to a faulty excess, and often occasions great difficulty and danger in calving.

4841. The form of animals has fortunately attracted the attention of an eminent surgeon, Henry Cline, Esq. of London, whose doctrines we have already laid down at length, and the substance of which is: That the external form is only an indication of the internal structure, that the lungs of an animal form the first object to be attended to, for on their size and soundness the health and strength of an animal principally depend; that the external indications of the size of the lungs are the form and size of the chest, and its breadth in particular; that the head should be small, as by this the birth is facilitated; as it affords other advantages in feeding, &c., and as it generally indicates that the animal is of a good breed; that the length of the neck should be in proportion to the size of the animal, that it may collect its food with ease ; and that the muscles and tendons should be large, by which an animal is enabled to travel with greater facility. It was formerly the practice to estimate the value of animals by the size of their bones. A large bone was considered to be a great merit; and a fine-boned animal always implied great size. It is now known that this doctrine was carried too far. The strength of the animal does not depend upon the bones, but on the muscles; and when the bones are disproportionably large, it indicates, in Cline's opinion, an imperfection in the organs of nutrition. Bakewell strongly insisted on the advantage of small bones, and the celebrated John Hunter declared, that small bones were generally attended with corpulence in all the subjects he had an opportunity of examining. A small bone, however, being heavier and more substantial, requires as much nourishment as a hollow one with a larger circumference.

4812. Among the qualities for which thorough-bred cattle and sheep are distinguished, that of being good growers, and having a good length of frame, is not the least essential The meaning of which is, that the animal should not only be of a strong and healthy constitution, but speedily should grow to a proper size. As specimens of rapid growth, a steer of three years old, when well fed, will weigh from 80 to 90 or 100 stone, 141b. to the stone; and a two-year old Leicester wedder, from 25 to 281b. per quarter, immediately after his second fleece is taken from him. Animals having the property of growing, are usually straight in their back and belly; their shoulders well thrown back, and their

belly rather light than otherwise. At the same time, a gauntness and paucity of intestines should be guarded against, as a most material defeci, indicating a very unthriving animal. "Being too light of bone, as it is termed, is also a great fault. A good grower, or hardy animal, has always a middling-sized bone. A bull distinguished for getting good growers is inestimable; but one whose progeny takes an unnatural or gigantic size ought to be avoided.

4843. Arriving soon at perfection, not only in point of growth or size, but in respect of fatness, is a material object for the farmer, as his profit must in a great measure depend upon it. Where animals, bred for the carcase merely, become fat at an early age, they not only return sooner the price of their food, with profit to the feeder, but in general, also, a greater value for their consumption, than slow-feeding animals, This desirable property greatly depends on a mild and docile disposition, and as this docility of temper is much owing to the manner in which the animal is brought up, attention to inure them early to be familiar cannot be too much recommended. A tamed breed also has other advantages. It is not so apt to injure fences, or to break into adjacent fields; consequently it is less liable to accidents, and can be reared, sup. ported, and fattened at less expense. The property of early maturity, in a populous country, where the consumption of meat is great, is extremely beneficial to the public, as it evidently tends to furnish greater supplies to the market; and this propensity to fatten at an early age is a sure proof that an animal will fatten speedily at a later period of his life.

1844. The possession of a hardy and healthy constitution, is, in the wilder and bleaker parts of a country, a most valuable property in stock. Where the surface is barren, and the climate rigorous, it is essential that the stock bred and maintained there should be able to endure the severities and vicissitudes of the weather, as well as scarcity of food, hard work, or any other circumstance in its treatment that might subject a more delicate breed to injury. In this respect, different kinds of stock greatly vary; and it is a matter of much consequence to select, for different situations, cattle with constitutions suitable to the place where they are to be kept. It is a popular belief, that dark colours are indications of hardiness. In inountain breeds of cattle, a rough pile is reckoned a desirable property, more especially when they are to be kept out all winter: it enables them to face the storm, instead of shrinking from it. Hardy breeds are exempted from various diseases, such as having yellow fat, and being blackfleshed, defects so injurious to stock.

4845. The prolific quality of a breed is a matter deserving attention. The emales of some breeds both bear more frequently than usual, and also have frequently more than one at a birth. This property runs more strikingly in sub-varieties, or individual families ; and though partly owing to something in the habits of animals, and partly to their previous good or bad treatment, yet in some degree seems to depend upon the seasons, some years being more distinguished for twins than others. In breeding, not only the number, but the sex of the offspring, in some cases, seems to depend upon the female parent. Two cows produced fourteen females each in fifteen years, though the bull was changed every year: it is singular, that when they produced a bull call, it was in the same year.

Under similar circumstances, a great number of males have been produced by the same cow in succession, but not to the same cxtent.

4816. By the quality of their flesh, breeds are likewise distinguished. In some kinds it is coarse, hard, and fibrous; in others of a finer grain or texture. In some breeds, also, the flavour of the meat is supe. rior; the gravy they produce, instead of being white and insipid, is high coloured, well flavoured, and rich; and the fat is intermixed among the fibres of the muscles, giving the meat a streaked, or marbled appearance. Breeds whose flesh have these properties are peculiarly valuable. Hence two animals of nearly the same degree of fatness and weight, and who could be fed at nearly the same expense to the husbandman, will sell at very different prices, merely from the known character of their meat.

4847. A disposition to fatten is a great object in animals destined for the shambles. Some animals pos. sess this property during the whole progress of their lives, while in others it only takes place at a more advanced period, when they have attained their full growth, and are furnished at the same time with a suitable supply of food. There are in this respect other distinctions : most sorts of cattle and sheep, which have been bred in hilly countries, will become fat on lowland pastures, on which the more refined breeds would barely live; some animals take on fat very quickly, when the proper food has been supplied, and some individuals have been found, even in the same breed, which have, in a given time, consumed the least proportional weight of the same kind of food, yet have become fat at the quickest rate.' Even in the human race, with little tood, some will grow immoderately corpulent. It is probably from internal conformation that this property of rapid fattening is derived.

1848. The advantages and disadvantages of fattening cattle and sheep, at least to the extent frequently practised at present, are points that have of late attracted much public attention. But any controversy on that subject can only arise from want of proper discrimination. Pat meat is unquestionably more nourishing than lean, though to digest this oily matter there are required, on account of its difficult solubility, a good bile, much saliva, and a strong stomach; consequently none, except those who are in the most vigorous state of health, or who are employed in hard labour, can properly digest it. Though fat meat, however, is unfit for general consumption, yet experiments in the art of fattening animals are likely to promote useful discoveries; and though, in the course of trying a number of experiments, errors and excesses may be committed, yet on the whole advantage may be derived from the knowledge thus to be obtained. As the bone also gains but little in the fatting animal, and the other offal becomes propor. tionably less, as the animal becomes more fat, the public has not sustained much loss by over-fatted ani. mals. To kill even hogs till they are thoroughly fat, is exceeding bad economy. An ox or cow, though the little flesh it has may be of good quality, yet presents, when lean, little but skin and bone; and if slaughtered in that state, would neither indemnify the owner for the expense of breeding and maintaining it, nor benefit the public. A coarse and heavy-fleshed ox, which would require a very long time and much good food to fatten, may be slaughtered with most advantage while rather lean. It is not, however, so much the extent of fat, as the want of a sufficient quantity of lean flesh, of which the consumer com plains; for it cannot be doubted, that the lean fesh of a fat animal is better in quality, and contains more nourishment, than the flesh of a lean animal

4849. Handling well. The graziers and butchers in various parts of the kingdom have recourse to feeling the skin, or cellular membrane, for ascertaining a disposition to fatten; and since Bakewell directed the public attention so much to breeding, that practice has become more generally known. Handling cannot easily be defined, and can only be learned by experience. The skin and flesh of cattle, when handled, should feel soit to the touch, somewhat resembling that of a mole, but with a little more resistance to the finger. A soft and mellow skin must be more pliable, and more easily stretched out, to receive any extraordinary quantity of fat and muscle, than a thick or tough one. The rigid-skinned animal must, therefore, always be the most difficult to fatten. In a good sheep, the skin is not only soft and mellow, but in some degree elastic. Neither cattle nor sheep can be reckoned good, whatever their shapes may be, unless they are first-rate handlers. The improved short. horned breed, besides their mel. lowness of skin, are likewise distinguished by softness and silkiness of hair.

4850. Lightness of otfal. An animal solely bred for the shambles should have as little offal, or parts of inferior value, as possible (consistently with the health of the animal), and consequently a greater propor. tion of meat applicable as food for man. This, therefore, the skilful farmer will also keep in view in selecting his species of stock. (Code, &c.)

4851. The Rev. Henry Berry, who has paid much attention to the subject of breeding and feeding cattle, and written several valuable papers on the subject in the British Farmer's Magazine, seems to prefer for general purposes the improved short-horns. “* These cattle," he says, “ at three years old, are equal to Hereford cattle at four years old; and they are bred from cows which prove much more profitable for the dairy than the Herefords." At the same time, he admits that the Hereford cattle are excellent to purchase with a view to fattening, because in a lean state at four years old they will of course not bear an increased price in proportion to the increased time required to render one of them equal to a short-horn of three years. For breeders, therefore, he decidedly recommends the short-horns; and he has given an interesting history of this breed of cattle for the last eighty years, the period which has elapsed since it attracted attention. It was imported from Holland to the banks of the Tees; or, at least, it is the result of a cross between the breed so imported and the native breed of that district. (Improved Short-Horns, &c. By the Rev. Henry Berry. 2d edit. 1830.)

Sect. II. Choice of Agricultural Implements, Seeds, and Plants. 4852. The variety and excellence of agricultural implements is so great, that the prudent farmer, in regard to these, as well as in every other branch of his art, must study economy. He should not incur an unnecessary expense in buying them, or in purchasing more than are essentially requisite, and can be profitably used. This maxim ought to be more especially attended to by young improvers, who are often tempted, under the specious idea of diminishing labour and saving expense, to buy a superfluous quantity of implements, which they afterwards find are of little use. (Coventry's Disc. p. 47.) It is remarked by an intelligent author on matters of husbandry, that a great diversity of implements, as they are more rarely used, prove in general a source of vexation and disappointment, rather than of satisfaction, to the farmer.

4953. The different implements required by the farmer are: those of tillage; for drilling or sowing corn; for reaping corn; for harvesting corn; for threshing and cleaning corn; for mowing and harvest ing hay; of conveyance; for draining; for harnessing stock; for rolling land; for the dairy; and, for miscellaneous purposes.

4854. In purchasing implements, the following rules are to be observed: they should be simple in their construction, both that their uses may be more easily understood, and that any common workman may be able to repair them when they get out of order; the materials should be of a durable nature, that the labour may be less liable to interruption from their accidental failure; their form should be firm and compact, that they may not be injured by jolts and shaking; and that they may be more safely worked by country labourers, who are but little accustomed to the use of delicate tools. In the larger machines, symmetry and lightness of shape ought to be particularly attended to: for a heavy carriage, like a great horse, is worn out by its own weight, nearly as much as by what he carries. The wood should be cut up and placed in a position the best calculated to resist pressure; and mortises, so likely to weaken the wood, should, as much as possible, be avoided; at the same time, implements should be made as light as is consistent with the strength that is necessary. Their price should be such, that farmers in moderate circumstances can afford to buy them; yet for the sake of a low price, the judicious farmer will not pur. chase articles either of a flimsy fabric or a faulty form; and implements ought to be suited to the nature of the country, whether hiny or level, and more especially to the quality of the soil; for those which are calculated for light land will not answer equally well in soils that are heavy and adhesive. (Code.)

4855. In the choice of seed corn, regard must be had to procure it from a suitable soil and climate, and of a suitable variety. A change from one soil to another of a different quality, is generally found advantageous; but this is not always the case as to climate. Thus, some of the varieties of oats, as the Angus oat, which answers well in most parts of Scotland, is found not to fill in the ear, but to shrivel up after blossoming, in the south of England. In like manner, the woolly-chaffed white wheats of Essex and Kent rot in the ear when grown in the moist climate of Lancashire. In settling on a farm in a country with which the farmer is little acquainted, he will often find it advisable to select the best seed he can find in the neighbourhood, and probably to resift it and free it from the seeds of weeds and imperfect grains. Particular care is requisite in selecting the seed of the bean and pea, as no crop depends more on the variety being suited to the soil and climate. Thus, on hot gravelly soils in the south, the late grey pea would produce little haulm and no pulse ; but the early varieties, or the pearl pea, will produce a fair proportion of both.

4856. The only small seeds the farmer has to sow on a large scale, are the clovers, grasses, the different varieties of turnip, and probably the mangold wurzel and carrot. No expense or trouble should be spared to procure the best turnip seed; as if that is either mixed by impregnation with other varieties of the Brássica tribe, or has been raised from a degenerate small-rooted parentage, the progeny will never come to any size. The same may be said of carrot or mangold seed, raised from small misshapen roots. Even rape seed should be raised from the strongest and largest rooted plants, as these always produce a stronger progeny.

4857. The selection and propagation of improved agricultural seeds has till lately been very little attended to. But the subject has been taken up by Mr. Sinclair of New Cross, Mr. Shirreft of Mungos Wells, Mr. Gorrie of Rait, and others; and we have little doubt some greatly improved varieties of our more useful field plants will be the result. Mr. Shirreff mentions (Quar. Jour. Ag, vol. i. p. 366.), that the variety of the Swedish turnip cultivated in East Lothian had, by judicious selection of the roots from which seed was saved, been improved in nutritious value upwards of 300 per cent. "Potatoes and Swedish turnip,” Mr.

Shirreff says, “ appear to be susceptible of farther improvement by judicious selection, as well as the different grains so long cultivated in this country, and which, in almost every instance, have become spurious. But whatever may be the degree of improvement of which the agricultural produce of the country is susceptible, by the propagation of genuine seeds of the best varieties of plants, one remarkable feature of such an improvement is, that it could be carried into effect without any additional investment of capital, or destruction of that already employed. It would require, in the first instance, only a slight degree of observation amongst practical fariners to select the best varieties, and afterwards a small exercise of patience in their propagation. The whole increase of produce obtained by such means would go to support the unagricultural part of the population; it would, in the first instance, be clear gain to the occupiers, and ultimately to the owners of land. The difference of produce, arising from sowing the seed of a good and a bad variety of a plant, is so great, that it does not seem inconsistent with probability to state, that the gross agricultural produce of the country might be augmented, in the course of a few years, through the agency of improved seeds, to the amount of seven per cent.; and as the farmer's home consumption of produce, by such means,

would be increased nearly ten per cent., what an enormous fund this forms for maintaining the unagricultural part of the population, and augmenting the income of landholders!

4858. The facility of propagating genuine seeds, will become manifest from a statement of my practice. In the spring of 1823, a vigorous wheat-plant, near the centre of a field, was marked out, which produced 63 ears, that yielded 2473 grains. These were dibbled in the autumn of the same year : the produce of the second and third seasons sown broadcast in the ordinary way; and the fourth harvest put me in possession of nearly forty quarters of sound grain. In the spring of this year, 1 planted a fine purple-top Swedish turnip, that yielded (exclusively of the seeds picked by birds, and those lost in threshing and cleaning the produce, 100,296 grains, a number capable of furnishing plants for upwards of five imperial acres. One.tenth of an acre was sown with the produce, in the end of July, for a seed crop, part of which it is in contemplation to sow for the same purpose in July 1829. In short, if the produce of the turnip in question had been carefully cultivated to the utmost extent, the third year's produce of seed would have more than supplied the demand of Great Britain for a season.

4859. Plants and animals are both organic bodies, from the germs of whose fecundating organs proceed new races, which yield crops ; and thus an extensive view of improving agriculture through the agency of genuine seeds embraces the propagation of live stock. Now, however important the propagation of live stock may be, when considered by itself, yet, when viewed in connection with our agricultural system, embracing the cultivation and improvement of the herbage which support animals, as well as those plants, parts of which form the ingredients of human sustenance, it becomes less imposing. The analogy subsisting between animal and vegetable life is known and acknowledged ; and it may be stated, that the union of the male and female organs of different varieties of a plant, under favourable circumstances, produces a new race, which partakes of the qualities of both parents, and which is termed a hybrid. Now, hybrid varieties of agricultural plants, when suffered to intermingle with the original kind, disseminate their influence around them like cross-bred animals, unrestrained in their intercourse with the general herd, till the character of the stock becomes changed, and consequently deteriorated or improved. In either case, propagation from the best variety alone would be attended with good effects. The principles of propagating vegetable and animal life are nearly the same; but the propagation of vegetables must exceed that of animals in importance, as much as the vegetable produce of the country surpasses that of animals. Indeed animals may justly be considered mere machines for converting our inferior herbage into nutriment of a different description ; grasses and roots are the raw materials, butcher's meat the manufactured commodity."

4860. The importance of attending to varieties of cultivated plants has been ably pointed out by Mr. Bishop, at once a scientific botanist and an experienced practical gardener: By means of varieties," he says, “ the produce of our gardens and fields are not only increased in a tenfold degree, but the quality of the produce is improved in a still greater proportion. In them we perceive the labour and assiduity of man triumphing over the sterility of unassisted nature, and succeeding in giving birth to a race of beings calculated to supply his wants in a manner that original species never could have done. The difference between varieties that have sprung from the same species fits them for different purposes, and for different soils, situations, and climates. Some, by reason of their robust natures, are winter vegetables; and others, by being early, are spring, vegetables; while some are in perfection in summer, and others in autumn. The fruit produced by some is fit to eat when pulled off the tree ; while the fruit of others is valuable by reason of its keeping till that season, when Nature rests to recruit her strength. Thus, in edible plants and fruits, we are supplied with an agreeable change throughout the year, from a difference in varieties that have sprung from the same species. In the earlier ages of the world, no idea could have been entertained of the

excellence some varieties have attained over their originals. Who, upon viewing the wild cabbage that grows along our sea-coast, would ever imagine that cauliflower or broccoli would have been produced by the same? Or who would expect the well-formed apple of a pound's weight from the verjuice plant in our hedges? Many instances inight be noticed of original species that are scarcely fit to be eaten by the beasts of the field, the varieties of which afford a nutritious and wholesome food for man. Upon comparing the original variety of the Daucus Cardta, the Pastinaca sativa, and some others indigenous to our climate, with their varieties produced by culture, we are struck with their great inferiority, and cannot help reflecting on the hapless condition of that hungry savage who first taught us their ise; for nothing short of the greatest privation could ever have led to that discovery. Indeed, nothing is more obvious, upon comparing original species with their varieties produced by culture, than that we, by means of the latter, enjoy a vegetable food far preferable to that of our forefathers; a circumstance from which it may be inferred that posterity is destined to enjoy a better than that which we do now. For although it is reasonable to believe that there exists a degree of excellence attainable by varieties over the species whence they have sprung, yet as that degree is unknown, and as it is probably beyond the power of man, of cultivation, or of time, to determine the same, we are justified in regarding it as progressive, and in con. sidering the production of a good variety as the sign or harbinger of a better.

4861. The power of distinguishing varieties, and of forming some idea of their worth at sight, is an attainment much to be desired, because valuable varieties may sometimes appear to those who have it not in their power to prove them by trial; and if they have, the probability is, that the means to be em. ployed require more care, time, and attention than they are disposed to bestow on plants the merits of which are doubtful: whereas, were such persons capable of forming an estimate of the worth of varieties from their appearance, then would they use means for their preservation, whenever their appearance was found to indicate superiority. That this is an attainment of considerable importance, will be readily allowed; yet, that it, in some cases, requires the most strict attention, appears from the circumstance of varieties being oftentimes valuable, though not conspicuously so. Let us suppose, for instance, that in a field of wheat there exists a plant, a new variety, having two more fertile joints in its spike, and equal to the surrounding wheat in every other respect: a man accustomed to make the most minute observations, would scarcely observe such a variety, uniess otherwise distinguished by some peculiar badge; nor would any but a person versed in plants know that it was of superior value if placed before him. How many varieties answering this description may have existed and escaped observation, which, had they been observed, and carefully treated, would have proved an invaluable acquisition to the community? The number of fertile joints in the spike of the wheat generally cultivated, varies from eighteen to twentytwo; and the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland amount to nearly the same number of millions : therefore, as the wheat produced in those islands has been of late years sufficient, or nearly sufficient, to supply the inhabitants thereof with bread, it is evident that a variety with two additional' fertile joints, and equal in other respects to the varieties at present in cultivation, would, when it became an object of general culture, afford a supply of bread to at least two millions of souls, without even another acre being brought into cultivation, or one additional drop of sweat from the brow of the husbandman.

4862. The same varieties are not repeatedly produced by culture ; if they were, there would not exist that necessity for strict observation and skill on the part of observers; because, if a variety were lost or destroyed, we might look forward to its re-appearance: or did we possess the power of producing varieties, and of producing them late or early, tall or dwarf, sweet or sour, or just as we might wish to have them, then might we plead an excuse for inattention. But experience shows, that when a variety is lost, it is for ever lost; and the slightest reflection cannot fail of convincing us, that our power of producing them is most limited. Indeed, our knowledge only enables us to produce those of the intermediate kind; while varieties that confer extension or excellence are as likely to be produced from the seed sown and treated by the humble labourer as from that sown and treated by the ablest horticulturist, the most skilful botanist, or most pr und philosopher of the age. From these remarks it is obvious, that the benefits mankind derive from the varieties produced by culture are numerous and important, and that the discovery of those of merit is an object highly deserving of our attention," (Bishop's Causal Botany.)

4863. The varieties of wheat and barley in general cultivation, Mr. Gorrie observes, are " not nu. merous; but were 2 part of that attention paid to the production of new and improved varieties of field-beans, peas, oats, barley, and wheat, which is now almost wasted on live stock, the same success might follow, and varieties of each of these useful species of grain might be found as far surpassing those now in cultivation as the modern breeds of horses and cattle surpass those of former days. To effect this, a simple process only is necessary. When any two varieties are intended to be used in crossing,' it is necessary that they should be sown at such periods as may render them likely to flower at the same time, and we would recommend that such plants should be sown or transplanted into flower-pots, par. ticularly the variety to be used as the female breeder. The parts of fructification of all the Cerealia tribe are composed of a stigma, or fringed substance, which crowns the embryo grain; three anthers or male parts, which have either a purple or yellow colour; and firm, small, round, or rather longish cylindrical kuobs, with a hollow line longitudinally along the middle, on the side farthest from the filament which supports these anthers. Allowing that there are six plants, say of wheat, in a pot to be impregnated, let the variety possessing the greatest proportion of desirable qualities be selected for the mole, from a field or otherwise, and, before the anthers appear outside the glume, let the chaff be opened by a slight touch of the forefinger, cut off the anthers of all the ears growing on the plants in the pot, and then take the male parts of the variety wished to be improved, which have been newly out of the chaff, and, before the farina is all dissipated, touch the stigina of all the embryo grains whence the anthers have been previously removed, gently, with newly burst anthers, till the stigma is partially covered with the dust or pollen; keep the plants at a distance from the fields where grain of the same sort is coming in the flower, till the flowering season is fairly over, then, to prevent sparrows or other birds from picking the impregnated grains, plunge the pots to the brims in a field of the same kind of grain. Sare ivery seed, and sow them carefully next season ; if the process has been properly performed, there may be many varieties even from one car; the best should be marked, and the produce of each stalk worthy of notice kept, and propagated distinctly by itself. If all the farmers in a district were to submit five or six plants only to such process, we might soon have hundreds of new varieties, and it is certainly within the limits of probability to expect a few varieties superior to any now in cultivation." (Perth Miscellany, vol. i. p. 17.)

4864. Grain, sceds, and roots intended for reproduction are not required to have come to the same degree of maturity on the plant, as when intended for meal or other products to be consumed as food. The cause of this has never been satisfactorily explained ; all that is alleged being the conjecture, that the cotyledons of the seed are better fitted for entering the vessels of the minute plant, when they are not of such a farinaceous nature, as when these cotyledons are more maturc. “That grain not perfectly matured is fully qualified for seed, is evident from places situated near rivers or lakes, where the grain in some seasons is subject to be what the people who cultivate such situations term blasted or mildewed. This happens in autumn, before the grain is matured, and is probably caused by fogs or damps which arise from the water. This blast discolours the straw, and renders it so friable that it will hardly bind itself; the grain never receives any more nourishment, is shrivelled and light, and soon assumes a ripe appearance, and so small a quantity of farinaceous matter will be contained in the grains, that a sheaf, after being reaped, will feel as light in the hand as if it had been previously threshed; and yet, for as bad as it appears, it is commonly taken for seed, and never fails to give a luxuriant crop, provided it escape the following autumn." (Ibid.)

« PreviousContinue »