« AnteriorContinuar »
what power we possess to increase their natural nutritive quality, or, when this quality is lower than usual, to bring it up to the natural standard — why green herbage is more nutritious in its recent than in its dry state, and how the loss in drying is to be prevented-why new corn, wheat, beans, or oats, are unwholesome food for a horse — why new oats make him greasy — why kiln-dried oats affect his kidneys — why hunters keep their condition better on the common Angus than on the potato oat, and why the meal of the former variety is a better support for the Scottish ploughman ;- these are all questions which chemistry has taken up, and has succeeded in fully solving-or is confident in its ability to solve,--and the least informed in practical matters must see how the solution of every one of these problems more or less directly affects the pecuniary interests of the holder or possessor of land. We might enumerate scores of other questions of a similar kind, which only scientific investigation can answer; and, as in the preceding part of this paper, we might illustrate by numerous examples the direct money value of such researches. But our limits compel us to refrain.
Fourthly. There is a fourth subject, not without its share of economical interest to the farmer, on which the volumes before us throw considerable light. All our manufactures produce Waste or Refuse materials, to which the progress of science gives a new value by discovering for them new uses.
of * them be of use to me?' Agriculture demands; "for what ‘ purposes can I employ them ? and what price ought I to pay • for them?' It is to Chemistry that we must suppose these questions put; for it is chemical analysis alone, which has the power of making a satisfactory reply.
When the principles on which the improvement of land is based are once fully understood, — when the elementary substances are known, which are necessary to render a soil fertile, or to make a crop grow healthily and with luxuriance, and also their opposites, - all we require to learn of any substance, with the view of determining whether or no it will form a useful application to the land, is, what it consists of, and in what state of combination its constituents exist. We can then pronounce with certainty whether it can be of any use to vegetation, and upon what soils and crops, and in what quantities, it is likely to produce the most beneficial effects. Chemical analysis, therefore, determines the value to the farmer of the refuse of the manufacturer, and upon such inquiries it has expended considerable time and minute attention.
The determination of such values involves two considerations, - a chemical and an economical one. The chemical inquiry is, — Does this substance contain any thing which is likely to benefit
the soil or the crop? and, further, What soils and what crops? The economical inquiry is, What is the worth of the refuse, calculated at the market price of the useful ingredients it contains? and, further, What is its worth to this or that farmer living at this or that distance from the manufactory, and having to transport it thither?
For instance, the refuse substance, though possessed of a certain money value on the spot where it is produced, may lose that value when carried even to short distances; that is to say, the expense of conveying it a very few miles may make it a dearer application than a purer material would be more portable or nearer at hand. A simple illustration will make this plain. A farmer contracts with a gas company for all their white
lime, containing very little sulphur, for so many months, at sixpence a ton. This he carts six miles; and he thinks it much cheaper than the quick lime which he can purchase at the lime-kiln, two miles from his farm, for five shillings a ton. But, on a chemical examination, the gas lime is found to contain half its weight of water; so that two tons contain only one of dry lime, for which, therefore, he pays a shilling. But, besides, the lime is found to be chiefly in the state of carbonate, — the dry matter containing about two fifths — say only one third-of carbonic acid. Deducting this carbonic acid, we find that in three tons of the refuse there is only one of pure or quick lime, which, therefore, costs the farmer eighteen-pence. If his return carts carry it home at the low rate of fourpence a ton per mile, each ton of pure lime will cost him a shilling a mile for carriage. On this supposition, its ultimate price will be sevenand-sixpence a ton when delivered on his farm. At the same rate of carriage the lime from the kiln would be laid upon his land for five shillings and eightpence a ton; and, being caustic, or newly burned, one half the quantity would produce an equally sensible effect. Thus the apparently cheaper material is in reality much the more costly of the two.
Many cases of this simple chemico-economical kind have come under our own notice; and they illustrate very intelligibly the way in which exceedingly simple chemical inquiries may bring about a great saving to the farmer. The study of waste materials, while it shows that some substances, though really containing what is valuable to the plant, will prove dear to the farmer at any price, has also shown that many other refuse materials, which have been hitherto thrown away or allowed to run to waste, might be collected with great profit for agricultural purposes.
We might proceed to another line of inquiry — the prevention of disease in plants and of destruction from the attacks of in
sects-on which, also, science has entered and made no small
progress. But we must conclude our argument, which, cumulative in its nature, has already been sufficiently varied to meet the knowledge and to touch the experience of almost every reader. And we do think we may now venture to say that in the face of all our illustrations, it can no longer be said, with any degree of truth, that science is not of any direct money value to the practical farmer; and, if to him, then to the owners of land also from whom the farmer holds.
Half-read men are prone, in farmers' clubs and agricultural meetings, to exaggerate the importance of some trifling practical difficulty, and to lessen the value and usefulness of science, because, so far as they know, it either has not solved or cannot solve that difficulty. On the other hand any one, who should declare that our present knowledge of this branch of applied science enables us already to solve every difficulty, would display as much rashness, and a degree of ignorance almost as inexcusable as those who deny its intrinsic claims upon our consideration. A familiarity with the actual state of science will keep us from both extremes. There are still, no doubt, many points in regard to which our ignorance is very great; many more, of which our knowledge is very imperfect; but the acknowledgment of this does not weaken the just pretensions of science to the intelligent gratitude of the agricultural community. It is at this moment busily labouring to remove these dark places from the surface of our knowledge; and deserves to be encouraged, not only because of what it has done, but on account of what it is striving and undertaking hereafter to accomplish. How little hitherto agricultural bodies have for their part done to secure the aids of science almost every farmer can tell; — while to reproach science that, amid all discouragements, it has not done more for a too thankless class, is not the most likely way of ensuring its more zealous services for the future.
To return, then, to the point from which we started. Many persons are apprehensive of injury to the husbandry of the country, in consequence of the abolition of our corn laws; and are asking by what substitute the prosperity of agriculture is to be sustained. We have said, that more knowledge, especially of elementary science, is one of the ways by which this end is to be attained. But how, it is replied, will the possession of such knowledge aid us? The rejoinder to this is simple. It will enable us, either as individuals or as a nation, to beat in the race all other individuals or nations who, placed in similar circumstances with ourselves, possess a less degree of knowledge.
Nay more „arm all parties alike with the whole knowledge of the day, and we still believe that our native energy will bring us through. We may possibly be left to depend on our home productions-or we may be called on to compete with the productions of the world. In the one case, we shall be able to maintain our whole population more easily and with cheaper corn; in the other, we shall be more likely to triumph in the fight, even over countries more favoured by nature than ourselves.
There is, perhaps, a stronger argument still for our encouragement of the application of science. It is this. If we allow other nations to add the advantage of higher knowledge to their more favoured natural circumstances, the decline of our agricultural prosperity must then become almost certain. Above all other countries, the United States of America and our own colonies— born of the same blood, and inspired with the greater ardour of young nations - are most to be feared by our home farmers. They are rapidly advancing in knowledge, and are eagerly seeking it from every quarter; and if, while they enjoy so many other advantages, they can raise themselves even to an equality in agricultural skill and resource with ourselves, — what will be the result to Great Britain it is not difficult to conjecture.
The eighth section of Count Strzelecki's Physical Descrip<tion of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land' is a striking exposition of what is doing in those two countries for the improvement of their agriculture; and of the skill and energy which we may expect to see developed in our other colonies. As regards the United States, we may add another observation. The desire of their several governments to promote the applications of science to agriculture has been shown by the numerous surveys they have lately caused to be made, and by the reports, — similar to that of Dr. Jackson, the title of which we have placed at the head of this article, — which have been printed and circulated at the public expense. The anxiety of individuals also to obtain further information, and their estimation of its money value, may be judged of from the recent visit of Mr. Colman to this country. This gentleman was, in a certain sense, commissioned by his countrymen to inspect and report upon British agriculture; inasmuch as, before he embarked for England, he had already received upwards of 3,000 subscribers for his intended work. His published volumes on British Agriculture are full of kindly and benevolent feeling. From being written for the most part while in England, and published piecemeal, they are somewhat sketchy and unmethodical, and, in this respect, suffer by comparison with the smaller and more con
densed work of Von Weckherlin*, Director of the Agricultural School at Hohenheim, in Wurtemberg; yet they contain an outline of what was attracting most attention among us during the period of his visit, and can scarcely fail to be productive of good.
In respect to this visit of inquiry, also, we may remark that the welcome reception and ready communications on all subjects which Mr. Colman every where experienced among us - as is shown by his published letters, — are not only gratifying to ourselves, as they must have been to himself; but will prove, we trust, to our kindred on the other side of the Atlantic that we are still influenced by the old adage, that blood is thicker than
water. Let such of them as doubt this come among us with open hearts, and try.
To return from this brief digression, we would say that here, as in America and elsewhere, to avail ourselves of all the resources which science has already placed within our easy reach, is not enough. We should also secure its more extended and more zealous services for the future. In this way only are the difficulties, from which so much is apprehended, to be overcome. If with little encouragement, science has already, in so many ways promoted the interests of agriculture, what, as hopeful men, may we not expect from it when it is really stimulated to exert itself to the uttermost in our behalf?
In conclusion, while we speak thus of the uses of science and the services it may be made to render us, we do not hold them up as infallible nostrums for all possible evils. We are not to entertain unfounded expectations from it, as if sudden and great discoveries were to be made on the occurrence of every new emergency. All scientific progress is slow; but it is also sure; and its benefits are lasting. Nor do we recommend the diffusion and enlargement of such knowledge as the only things to be done, or as precluding any other means of improving the prospects of the agriculturist. But they are methods which ought to be tried, and which must and will be tried sooner or later.
We had better try them early, in the hope by their means of maintaining our existing position. It will be harder work to employ them hereafter, in the attempt to regain a position which we may then have lost.
Ueber Englische Landwirthschaft, und deren Anwendung auf I.andwirthschaftliche Verhältnisse insbesondere Deutschlands. Stuttgard: 1845.