'Never revert to the past' seems rather a wholesome maxim. When I first heard it, many years ago, I thought it a very strange one, but I do not do so now, as a more extended experience has shown me that, by referring to the past, you are often liable to fall into a trap rather than into the hands of a trustworthy guide; for there are two great dangers in relying on the past action of our predecessors -- the one, as I have previously pointed out, that it is difficult to find any set of present circumstances exactly on all fours with those of the past; the other, that what has been done in the past may have been done, not on sound principles as to what was best to be done, but for some other reason altogether, and that the action taken on that reason may be partially wrong. When, for instance, I began to turn my attention to farming here, I was struck with the fact that the farmers usually began their nineteen years' leases by a heavy application of lime, though this is easily washed out of the soil, and should be applied little and often, and I was told that small applications were of no use. But I found on inquiry that in Durham, where eight-year leases were usual, the farmers limed every eight years, while in Gloucestershire the custom was to lime in small quantities every four years.. But the explanation of the action of the Scotch farmers really was that, while they thought they were carrying out the results of a well-founded experience, they were simply blindly working by a custom which arose from the length of the leases, and the desire of the farmer to get the largest benefit from his expenditure. But his action, resulting from his imperfect reasoning, was wrong, for he would have obtained a greater benefit by applying his lime at two different periods of his lease. There, then, is an instance of the so-called practical experience of the past, which is too often a custom which has arisen from erroneous reasoning. And when we come to consider the apparently inexplicable circumstance that the farmers of this country should still prefer an inferior grass to a much better one -- ryegrass to cocksfoot -- for their temporary, and often for their permanent, pastures, we shall see still greater reason for subjecting the experience of the past to an extremely close scrutiny, for it either may or may not be a really well-founded experience. In the case of the preference for ryegrass shown by most farmers, the cause, as far as I can learn, seems to be mainly a purely accidental one, and the subject is of such interest and importance that it may be well to quote in full a note on the point, which has been sent to me by Mr. James Hunter, the well-known agricultural seedsman of Chester. It is particularly interesting, I think, from the concluding sentence, which tells us that had not Mr. Faunce de Laune gone back to Sinclair to find out the truth we should probably be pretty much where we were twenty years ago. Mr. Hunter's note is as follows:
'The grass seed pamphlets of the leading seed merchants in England, up to 1882, may all be said to have derived their information from Lawson's Agrostographia; and, as an excessive use of ryegrass was, there recommended, the error extended to all the trade pamphlets. Lawson obtained his information from Sinclair, but Sinclair did not recommend the use of much ryegrass.
Mr. James Hunter
'In 1825, when Sinclair had finished his great experimental work for the Duke of Bedford, and had published the second edition of his book, he became a nurseryman at New Cross, near London. Shortly afterwards Mr. Charles Lawson, of Edinburgh (Lord Provost of Edinburgh in the early sixties), went to New Cross Nurseries, and no doubt studied the subject of the grasses there, under Mr. Sinclair. In 1833 Mr. Lawson, having returned to Edinburgh, and being engaged in the seed trade, wrote his paper on grasses, which appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, Vol. IV, 1834 (see the volume I have sent you, page 714). As ryegrass was almost the only grass seed dealt in at that time, and other species were difficult to obtain, Mr. Lawson seems to have arranged the quantities in his tables to suit the circumstances, and so he recommended the use of no less than from 12 lb. to 30 lb. of perennial ryegrass per acre (with other seeds) for laying down land to permanent pasture. But that was not Sinclair's teaching. At page 243 of Hortus Gramineus Woburnensis, 2nd edition, 1825, Sinclair gives his selection of seeds for permanent pasture, and although there is a certain vagueness, on account of the quantities being chiefly given in bushels, yet it is fair to assume that in Sinclair's opinion the proportion of ryegrass to the other species in a pasture should be about one in twenty. Lawson, however, recommended that ryegrass should compose from one quarter to one half of the whole seeding. The Agrostographia, published by Lawson, continued to recommend the excessive use of ryegrass, and the teaching of this work was adopted by the seedsmen of Great Britain without question. At that time the Lawsons supplied the English seedsmen with their grass seeds, and, in fact, controlled the trade in natural grasses. Indeed, it may be said that they not only supplied the other seedsmen with the seeds, but also with the ideas and information in reference to the subject. Thirty years ago the writer was for three years warehouse manager in the grass seed department of Lawsons', and is consequently acquainted with the facts.
'To Mr. Lawson is due the credit of creating sources of supply for the various grass seeds, but it is a pity he did not revert to Sinclair's teaching as to the limited use of ryegrass as soon as the other grasses could be freely obtained. If Mr. de Laune had not gone back to Sinclair to find out the truth, I fear we should still have been pretty much where we were twenty years ago.
27th July 1896.
Taking into consideration the controversy about ryegrass that has raged in recent years, Arthur Young's remarks on this grass and cocksfoot are very interesting. Sir Mordaunt Martin, he tells us, found cocksfoot much more profitable than ryegrass. It grew in midsummer when everything else was burnt up. It was cultivated in Norfolk and Suffolk with great success instead of ryegrass. Young recommended it widely in consequence of its earliness, largeness of produce, and yielding an ample rouen (aftermath). He quotes a Hampshire farmer who, in 1812, asserted that since cocksfoot had been substituted for ryegrass 100 additional sheep had been kept on his farm of 240 acres. When recommending cocksfoot, Young says 'that the exclusive attention that has been given to ryegrass has proved in a thousand instances most prejudicial.'
Curtis, in his Practical Observations on the British Grasses, 4th Edition, London, 1805, says:
'Ray-Grass (or ryegrass) still continues to be the only grass whose seeds can be purchased for the purpose of laying down meadow and pasture land; and how inadequate that grass is, for such a purpose, is known to every intelligent farmer. Why, indeed, the Lolium perenne should originally have been made use of, in preference to all the other grasses, cannot, perhaps, be satisfactorily accounted for; most probably it owes its introduction to accident, or to its being a common grass whose seeds were easily collected, rather than to its being preferred from any investigation of its merits compared with the others. However this may be, there appears to be no reason for excluding the others -- for it would appear exceedingly improbable, that, of upwards of a hundred grasses growing wild in this country, the Author of Nature should have created one only as suitable to be cultivated for pasturage or fodder.
'Taking it for granted, then, that there are other grasses, superior in many respects to the Ray-Grass, this question naturally arises: How comes it that they have not found their way into general use? To this it may be answered, improvements in any science, but more especially in Agriculture, are slow in their advances; and, perhaps, no class of men adheres more pertinaciously to old prejudices than the farmer.'
It is important to observe that Sinclair not only restricts the use of ryegrass to about one-twentieth of the mixture he thinks advisable for permanent pasture, but recommends its use, though in small proportion, for alternate husbandry. For the latter he advises a mixture containing no less than three-fourths of cocksfoot, while hard fescue, meadow fescue, rough-stalked meadow grass, tall oat-like grass, timothy, ryegrass, and clover should make up the remainder of the mixture, or, to use his exact words, 'should be used in smaller proportion'. But neither Sinclair (though he alludes to the superiority of cocksfoot to ryegrass as being less impoverishing to the soil, and affording a greater quantity of vegetable matter when ploughing up) nor my late friend, Mr. Faunce de Laune (though the latter did allude to the question of the disintegration of the soil as a subject which had not been sufficiently studied) have at all attempted to regulate the mixture they propose with reference to the effect of the roots of plants in keeping open and deeply aerating the soil. And, as we have seen, to find any account of such a mixture having been advised in the past we have to go back more than a century -- to Arthur Young, who had recommended the use of plants that would have this very important effect on the soil, though I may observe he did not allude to this, either because he thought it too obvious to be worth mentioning, or because he had not taken the point into consideration.
I have now to observe that if the conclusions I have arrived at are correct -- i.e. that a grass mixture should consist of the seeds of plants, some of which are of deep-rooting and drought-resisting character, so as at once to draw support from the lower strata of the soil, supply food when other plants dry up in a drought, and deeply disintegrate the soil, and permeate it with vegetable matter; if some of the plants should, besides, be of a kind especially calculated to promote the health of the stock, and also act as a preventive against disease; and if the greater part of the mixture should consist of grasses calculated to give the largest possible amount of produce, it is evident that all the existing mixtures for permanent pastures must be largely reconstructed, so as to meet, as far as possible, the above-mentioned requirements, And seeing that, from the existing agricultural conditions, temporary pastures will in future be allowed to lie from four to six years, it is equally evident that alternate husbandry mixtures should be composed with the same ends in view, and so should pretty closely resemble those used for permanent pasture. For laying down, then, to permanent pasture, and in the case of land to lie from four to six years, I now use much the same mixture, with this difference, that in the case of the latter I omit meadow foxtail, and, in the case of light lands, timothy too, as it is considered unsuitable for dry lands. As to the proportion of grasses, plants, and clovers that should be used, I am far from saying that the proportions I have used are the best. On the contrary, much more experience will be required to show the proportions that should be used for our varying soils and climates, but I feel sure that the principles on which my mixtures are founded are sound, and that the results from them on this property have been most satisfactory, and, indeed, in the case of the poor lands, the results have surprised me, and also farmers of great experience. I may here mention that during my long experience I have used a great variety of mixtures, and with varying degrees of results, but I do not. quote any of them, because I do not consider that they were founded on those principles which I now see should be adhered to when laying down land to grass. Two of the mixtures I have sown in 1895 were used for the two poor land fields to which I alluded in a previous chapter, and I also give the following, which was used for a field of very different character, on the low-lying land on the Clifton Park portion of the estate, some five miles distant from Clifton-on-Bowmont. In the case of the last, then -- the Longshot field, a deep, strong soil on a low-lying alluvial flat -- the following mixture, on the 25th April 1895, was sown with a thin seeding of oats: 5 lb. each of cocksfoot, meadow foxtail, and tall fescue; 7 lb. of meadow fescue, 4 lb. of timothy, and 1 lb. each of wood meadow grass and rough-stalked meadow grass; 2 lb. each of white clover, alsike, and perennial red clover, kidney vetch, and lucerne; 3 lb. of chicory, 8 lb. of burnet, 1 lb. of sheep's parsley, and 1/2 lb. of yarrow. The field -- one of fifteen acres -- was, in 1896, cut for hay, which amounted to 36 tons 14 cwts., or nearly 2-1/2 tons per acre; and the aftermath, grazed with lambs, was an excellent crop. Two trenches were cut in the field to a depth of about three feet, and on 11th September 1896, in company with my friend, Dr. Voelcker, I carefully inspected the land in order to estimate the depth to which some of the plants had penetrated. The results were particularly interesting as regards chicory, which seemed to have a profound contempt for the very hard pan, which we found at about fourteen inches below the surface, and which was about ten inches to a foot in thickness and was so hard that a powerful man with a sharp spade had to use great force to break it open when we were tracing the descent of the chicory roots, which had passed straight downwards without any deflections. As the seed was only sown in April 1895 it is interesting to find that the roots can go through this hard pan into the soft subsoil, which was a sandy clay, in such a comparatively short time; and we noticed that, in passing through the pan, the strong roots of these plants, notably the chicory, had succeeded in disintegrating the apparently impenetrable pan. (This pan was composed of very small particles of soil washed down from the soil above. This pan evidently was not formed solely from ploughs and horses, but owed much of its hardness and compactness to the smallness of the washed-down particles, which may be so small as to arrest capillary attraction.)
Altogether, we estimated that the roots had gone down about thirty inches. The burnet and kidney vetch roots had gone down about twenty inches, and the lucerne from eight to ten inches. It was interesting to observe how the clover plants had turned into plants more or less robust and large, in accordance as their roots were supplied with a larger or smaller quantity of those nodules which, in the opinion of the best authorities, have been now proved to supply the plants with nitrogen derived from atmospheric sources. Altogether, we came to the conclusion that the roots of these plants are capable of doing all the work of a subsoiler in breaking up the pan, which is often the most formidable obstacle to be contended with in the cultivation of all our old arable soils. I increased the chicory in the case of this field by one-third, as I wished deeply to pipe, and so aerate the soil, and bring up the manurial matters which must have filtered downwards in past years. Arthur Young, I may observe, objects to chicory for hay on the ground that it is difficult to dry, and no doubt there is something in this objection; but I have found two advantages from its use -- one is that, as a certain proportion of it always throws up long strong stems pretty early, these support the whole crop, and so greatly increase it, and favour the grasses generally; the other is, that the stems of the chicory aerate the cocks of hay, and cause it to dry much more quickly. Hay with chicory in it should be used within a year, as, if kept longer, it creates much dust in the hay. (I have since overcome the objections to chicory as regards the hay crop by grazing the land late in the spring before shutting up for hay. (Vide Bank field experiment, Appendix 3)) I usually sow 2 lb. of chicory, and think this is, as a rule, a sufficient quantity, but that in dry lands 3 lb., and perhaps even 4 lb., may be used with advantage. (From my experience this year (1907) 1 think that as much as 5 lb. of chicory may be used with advantage, as this quantity (which was sown in the Front Field in 1906) does not interfere with other grasses either above or below ground.)
Since writing the preceding remarks I have had another visit from my friend, Dr. Voelcker, who inspected (September 1897) the field, and at the close of the most prolonged drought we have ever had. Part of the field consists of strong clay, and my friend cut out of this, with his pocket-knife, several sections of soil, in each of which was a chicory plant, and called my attention to the fact that the soil was soft and friable, having been kept in that condition by the powerful roots of the plant, and also, no doubt, by the moisture it had brought up from a depth in the land out of reach of the effects of the drought. I am now so satisfied with the results from deep-rooting plants that I am, as an experiment, going to add a pound of parsnip seed per acre to one of my next season's mixtures, in order to deeply penetrate the soil, and increase in it the amount of vegetable matter. (Parsnip seed was sown in the Outer Kairnrig field in 1899, but from that experiment I have formed the opinion that chicory is superior to parsnip as a deep-rooter.)
It should be considered, further, in this connection that, by virtue of the acids in their roots, plants have the power of making use of the manurial matter contained in stones and gravel in the land, and it has been found that if you bury in the soil a block of polished marble, the roots of plants will literally engrave the surface of the marble. One of my numerous correspondents, who had read a letter of mine in the Scotsman, wrote to me on the subject, and headed his letter, 'Out of these Stones Bread', and it is literally true that plants can, in great measure, by virtue of the acids in their roots, supply themselves with some of the materials for the manufacture of bread. Notwithstanding this unusually dry season, I have found that the roots of chicory plants only about five months old have gone down about eighteen inches.
I now turn to the two poor land fields, one of which, as I have shown (vide Chapter 3), was of the poorest and most exhausted soil imaginable. The kinds and quantities of seeds used in the mixtures are given on in Chapter 3. The poorer field, the Inner Kaimrig, gave a crop, as we have seen in Chapter 3, of not less than two tons an acre, and the aftermath kept five and three-quarter lambs per acre for eight weeks, and afterwards two ewes per acre for fourteen days. The better field of the two, the Outer Kaimrig, was grazed with sheep and lambs as follows: three ewes and their twin lambs per acre from April 25th to July 10th, and afterwards about two ewes per acre up to October 1st.
A view of Clifton Park House.
In the opinion of my head shepherd the grazed field has given most satisfactory results as regards the amount of stock kept, and the effects produced on the stock were excellent, both as to their health and the progress made by the lambs. My factor (a practical farmer), who manages the farm, is of opinion that the results obtained could not be surpassed, and advises me to stick to the same mixture for the future. The fields, during my absence from home, were visited by one of the most advanced tenant-farmers in the south of Scotland, and as he has had great experience in laying down land to grass (having laid down to permanent pasture about 400 acres), I think it well to quote part of the letter he afterwards wrote to me:
'I was very fortunate in going at the right time, as your hay-cutting was in progress, and so I had an excellent opportunity, both of seeing the grasses growing and amongst the hay on the high field at Clifton. The crop I thought a remarkably fine one for a field of light hill land.
'The first thing that struck me was the extraordinary take of red and alsike clover, compared to the small quantity sown per acre, which leads me to doubt the system pursued generally of sowing 12 or 14 lb.
'The kidney vetch seems to be a remarkable forage plant to grow on light gravelly soil, and for such I think it very valuable. The burnet and chicory also seemed deep-rooting, fine plants for standing drought and, from the state of the pasture, much appreciated by sheep, as they were so closely eaten down. For your fine crop of hay, however, I noticed you were in the largest measure indebted to the red and alsike clover. The grasses will, I have no doubt, show more later.
'The pasture field adjoining of young grass (the grazed field alluded to) astonished and pleased me even more than the hay. The amount of stock on it and the quantity of grass is wonderful, and your manager told me it was stocked in April. I remarked how closely the sheep had eaten the burnet and chicory, and here, again, how the kidney vetch showed on the gravelly soil.'
As I had asked my correspondent to be kind enough to give me any hints or suggestions as to my procedure of laying down, he further remarked, in the letter quoted from, as follows:
'I have a very strong opinion, and that founded on experience, that your system, followed by a liberal use of cake on the pasture, would show results even more surprising than those attained. This I mentioned to your manager, who said it was thought an objection to the sale of the lambs their having been fed on cake. Those who use cake for their lambs, from this time of year, prefer those who have learned to eat it. If I farmed Clifton I would spend £500 per annum on cake, and I feel certain it would pay. I spent £1,700 on it last year, and so I know something of the results, and I intend, so long as it is as cheap as it is now, to use more than ever. It is the only way land can be kept in condition and rents paid.'
In the opinion, then, of the eminent agriculturist I have just quoted the farming of the future resolves itself into plenty of stock and abundance of grass and oilcake to feed it, and with this view I need hardly say that I entirely concur.
And here I must note one point of importance as regards the two poor fields to which his letter refers; that is, that neither were reseeded in the spring and yet they were so completely filled with plants that I was under the impression that this operation, the necessity for which I have fully pointed out in a previous chapter, had been carried out. I regard this result as of great importance, for it proves conclusively that, when the conditions are as perfect as they ought to be, the quantity of seed used in the case of these fields is quite sufficient; and further, what I had hitherto thought to be impossible, that land can be so perfectly laid down that no blanks may occur. Careful tillage, then, and the careful seeding of the land, would often save the re-seeding of the land, which, as I have shown, will usually cost about one shilling an acre for labour, besides the value of the seed. I may add here that a very trifling, or rather apparently trifling, defect in the state of the land will often make a large difference in the results obtained, and of this I had an instance this year in the case of a field about two-thirds of which was laid down with oats, and the remainder with barley. The latter showed so poorly as compared with the former that one would have supposed that either the seed had been bad or that the crop had affected the result; but I found, on going into the matter, that the oat-sown portion of the field had been ploughed much earlier in the season, and that the soil had therefore had time to solidify, while the soil in the barley portion had been much more recently ploughed; though the whole field was smooth above, the soil in the barley portion was too open below, and as there was a drought many of the seeds had not sprung, or, having sprung, must have perished from want of moisture. I now propose to offer some remarks on the quantity of seed which should be used, a subject as to which there is a considerable difference of opinion.
And here the reader will remember that Arthur Young said, as I have pointed out in the chapter devoted to him and his opinions, that whatever system of laying down land to grass is pursued a liberal amount of seed is essential to success. Mr. James Hunter, the well-known agricultural seedsman of Chester, tells me that of all his customers I am the most liberal seeder, and he has more than once even remonstrated with me as regards the quantity of seed I put down. This I was induced to do, partly from my own observation, and partly from the remarks of the late Mr. Brotherston -- an excellent botanist, who had paid much attention to the whole subject of grasses and their cultivation -- who was much in favour of liberal seeding, and the more I have considered the subject the more certain do I feel that Arthur Young is right as regards the opinion he held as to liberal seeding being essential to success. For what are the main points to be kept in view? Are they not to cover the ground as quickly as possible with as much grass as it will hold; and an equally important, or even more important, point, to fill the land as soon as possible with a large quantity of roots, to the end that its physical condition may not only be maintained, but improved? (A pasture not fully occupied with plants renders the whole land more liable to suffer from drought, and this is, of course, more especially the case when drying winds sweep over it. In the case of a young pasture the conserving of moisture is obviously a point of the first importance, as plants more often suffer from lack of moisture at a critical period of their growth than from any other cause. The land may be ever so rich, but without a good supply of moisture the pasture cannot take advantage of the plant food present. Every bare spot in a pasture, then, though only an inch in width, has a tendency to starve the plants in its immediate neighbourhood in the event of the season being a dry one. The wind and sun of course dry up the bare patches. These patches draw into them, by lateral attraction, from the adjacent soil moisture, which is speedily evaporated and carried away. Every bare patch, therefore, acts as a pump to draw moisture out of the land. Multiply these little pumps all over a field, and though each pump may be no larger than half a crown, it is clear that their total desiccating effect must be very considerable when drought reigns in the land.)
And when we come to consider the numerous causes of loss that are liable to occur from defective seasons, the ravages of birds and field mice and insects, and defective conditions of soil, is it not evident that if we wish to have a full take of grass we must put down plenty of seed? It is true that by liberal feeding with cake on the land, or by manuring in some other way, a thin supply of plants on the land will gradually tiller out and cover the ground; but while this process is going on what evils and losses are occurring! The numerous parts of the soil which are unfilled with roots run together, or solidify gradually from the action of the elements and the tread of the stock, weeds and bad grasses find ample spaces in which to establish themselves, and the production of the field is, of course, far below what it would have been had it been at once filled with grass plants; and the intrusion of moss is sure to take place in a greater or less degree, in accordance with the nature of the soil and climate. It should be considered, too, that if the plans of the farmer make it advisable that he should feed stock with cake on a fully planted young pasture, he will obtain additional advantages from the land being well filled with plants. It is evidently better, then, from many points of view, to at once fill the ground with the plants you wish to remain in permanent possession, and that it pays better to spend a little more on seed than to make up, or partially make up, for the deficiencies of thin seeding by subsequent manuring, there can be no doubt. But what is a full seeding? or a seeding sufficient to insure the land being well filled with plants? If the selection used should be of the same kinds as those recommended by me, then it is plain that, from the results obtained, 20,000,000 of germinating seeds would be an ample supply, as the mixture I have used contains 19,931,145 in the case of the field cut for hay, and in which Italian ryegrass was put down to increase the hay crop; and in the case of the other field alluded to, and which was grazed, and the results from which could not be surpassed, 18,872,745 germinating seeds were put down. But seeing that, from the total absence of blanks in the fields (a point to which I have previously alluded), all the conditions must have been extremely favourable, it is probable that it would be safer to assume that 20,000,000 of germinating seeds per acre should generally be used, though in the case of land in very fine tilth the quantity used by me, or, say, about 19,000,000 of germinating seeds, would be sufficient. In 1903 the Inner Kaimrig and Harewells fields, then being in fine tilth, in consequence of the vegetable matter grown on the land, were sown down with a reduced seeding (vide Appendix 3). In the case of the first field the take of grass shows that we have lost nothing by reducing the amount of seed. In the case of the second it is rather early to form a decision, but, as far as we can see at present, no loss will occur from reducing the amount of seed, and certainly none has as yet occurred in the case of the hay crop and foggage obtained from the field this year. (Subsequent experience shows that in the case of the Harewells field the reduced seeding used has been adequate.) Let us now turn to a point of great importance, namely the quality of the seed to be sown.
To an unskilled agriculturist a grass plant is a grass plant, and there is nothing more to be said about it as long as it comes up and flourishes. But there is, of course, as much, or perhaps even more, difference between grasses grown from different qualities of seed as there is between sheep or cattle of the same breed, and the quantity and quality of the herbage to be produced differ largely in accordance with the goodness or inferiority of the grasses from which the seeds put down have been gathered; and the evils arising from seed, which, ,though genuine, may be of inferior quality, cannot, as far as my experience goes, be remedied for a great many years -- if, indeed, ever. As to these points, we have had ample experience on this property by giving parts of fields to rival seedsmen, and in one instance a whole field to one and a whole to another; and the tenant, to whom I have previously alluded, has confirmed my experience, and one day said to me that if he hained, or turned the stock out of a field sown with the seed of a certain seedsman the grass recovered far more quickly than it did in the case of another field sown with seeds supplied by another seedsman. And this supremacy of one plant over another of the same species is by no means so evanescent as one would be inclined to suppose, though eventually, from climatic causes and the conditions of soil, there would be a tendency for the inferior and superior plants to eventually arrive at similar powers of production, though this is a point which requires further investigation; and I am not aware of any experiment having been made with the view of determining how long it would take, say, for cocksfoot plants, grown from the finest New Zealand seed, to approximate to plants grown from the, comparatively speaking, dwarf plants which are natives of our country, or from the seeds of any other inferior cocksfoot plants. On one occasion, in 1884, 1 gathered cocksfoot seed from plants in this park, and Mr. James Hunter, of Chester, on 26th June 1885, sowed it in line with New Zealand cocksfoot, American, and seed of German growth. He reported that the last three germinated on July 4th, and the former on July l3th. The Clifton Park cocksfoot plants were very dwarf, and quite different in habit of growth from the other cocksfoot, and gave a much smaller amount of grass, and yet it is almost certain that the fine New Zealand cocksfoot was the produce of plants very similar to those growing wild in this park. But though plants will, of course, in time improve or decline to the climate and soil they live in, it is probable that many years would elapse before a decided change would occur one way or another. The only means I have of forming an opinion here is in the case of a field, the Lake field, twenty acres -- low-lying flat alluvial land -- which was partly sown with seed supplied by a local seedsman, and partly supplied by one of the most eminent seedsmen in England. The local seedsman knew that the comparison was to be made, and, no doubt, did his best, and there was no reason to complain of the germination or trueness of his seed, but the difference in the result was most marked, and the cattle declined to eat his plants so decidedly that one would imagine they had been fenced off the field. It was interesting to observe how exactly the cattle had stopped grazing at the exact spot where the rival seedsmen met, and eventually I had to send a boy to herd the cattle on to the acres which had been allotted to the local seedsman, and though the field (it was sown in 1884) is now (1898) grazed evenly over without compulsion there is still a superiority apparent in favour of the superior seed. In 1903 1 enclosed two plots of eighteen feet square in each seedsman's portion of the field, and, after letting the grass grow as if for a hay crop, had it cut and taken direct to the weighing machine. The result showed a difference of 17 per cent in favour of Mr. Hunter's portion. The trial was repeated in 1904, when it was found that there was a difference of 13 per cent only in favour of Mr. Hunter's portion. The aftermath of Mr. Hunter's plot showed in 1904 a marked superiority to that of his rival, and in 1905 the superiority of Mr. Hunter's plot was still more marked. From these facts it seems obvious that, in the case of laying down land to permanent pasture, great care should be taken to provide the very finest seeds.
Another difference also attracted my attention as regards crested dogstail. It is well known that stock reject the wiry flowering stems of this grass, but I was struck with the fact that the stems of seed supplied to me by Mr. James Hunter of Chester had a much softer and more succulent appearance, and on inquiry was told by my shepherd that these were eaten by sheep, though the stems of the wild dogstail plant are rejected. On referring this point to Mr. Hunter, he informs me that the seed which he sells of this plant is collected from meadows on the Rhine in Holland, and adds that it is possible that, from the damp nature of the climate where it is collected, it may be more succulent than the wild native plant.
From the facts previously given, it seems evident that the whole subject of the difference of production in grasses of the same kind but grown under different conditions of soil and climate, deserves close investigation, as, even from my individual experience, it seems evident that there are far greater differences in the result than might be supposed from sowing seeds of the most superior kinds, and that these results probably are carried on over a much greater length of time than one would be inclined, at first sight, to suppose. I now propose to take each forage plant separately, and offer some remarks as to its quality and general merits.
Cocksfoot grass (Dactylis glomerata) calls for little remark, as, to use the words of Mr. Faunce de Laune, 'it is by far the most valuable of all grasses, because it grows on all soils, it produces the greatest amount of keep, it is the most nutritious grass; it also seems to grow faster and stronger in extremes of weather, either wet or dry, than any other grass.' Taking into consideration its productiveness, it is the cheapest grass that can be grown for land that is to lie in grass for four or more years, for though timothy seed to start with is cheaper than cocksfoot the productiveness of the latter grass in the course of about three years pays for the extra cost of its seed. It is certainly the most valuable for temporary pasture, and Sinclair says that, 'for alternate husbandry, it appears to have a greater variety of merits for this purpose than almost any other grass. It soon arrives at maturity, it bears cropping well, is very productive, and its nutritive powers are considerable. It is much less impoverishing to the soil than ryegrass, and when ploughed it affords a greater quantity of vegetable matter to the soil. It has been objected to cocksfoot that it rises in tufts, and is apt to become coarse. But this objection will apply to every grass that is not sown sufficiently thick to occupy with plants every spot of ground, and that is not sufficiently stocked to keep the surface in a succession of young leaves. It is the practice of thin sowing, and the strong appearance of the plant, that occasion it to appear a hassocky grass.' And he subsequently expresses the opinion that Dactylis glomerata, from its more numerous merits as compared with other grasses, should constitute three parts of a mixture of grasses adapted for the purpose of alternate husbandry. I have now a ten-year-old permanent pasture as fine as a lawn, and a mass of cocksfoot grass, but then I used 16 lb. an acre of the finest seed. I have been particularly struck with the value of this grass in alternate husbandry in the case of the hay crop, and have found that it is a far safer grass to grow than any other, from its withstanding drought, and have found that I have had a most luxuriant crop of hay in a dry season, when my neighbours, who relied mainly on ryegrass and clovers, had very poor crops. But notwithstanding all that has been written in favour of cocksfoot for such a number of years past, I have often heard it objected to by farmers as a coarse grass. It is quite true that it may become so if thinly planted and badly managed; but just as from the human animal you may produce the finest kind of English gentleman or the bloodthirsty cannibal, who only differs from the brutes by being worse than them, so there may be produced from cocksfoot a beautifully fine grass or a grass of the coarsest and most objectionable quality. In connection with cocksfoot it may be well to remind the reader that I have previously pointed out that, in making a pasture, regard must be had in particular to the quantity of the produce of a grass, and also to the safety of production from it in dry seasons. The nutritive value of cocksfoot, it should be observed, is, according to Sinclair's analysis, 10 per cent higher than perennial ryegrass. Sinclair remarks that the ryegrass ranks with those grasses which contain the least nutriment. It is seldom that, as in the case of cocksfoot, we can combine both qualities, but we must endeavour to do so as closely as possible, and that is why I rank tall fescue as second in merit in the list of large grasses.
Tall Fescue grass (Festuca elatior) is, we are told by Sinclair, nutritive and very productive, and one of the earliest grasses with regard to production of foliage early in the spring. It has also great powers of resisting drought, which, I need hardly say, is a quality of great importance, and more especially, of course, with reference to light soils in the, comparatively speaking, dry climates of the eastern sides of these islands. Writing on agriculture in 1888, in Morton's New Farmer's Almanac, Mr. Faunce de Laune says, with reference to this grass, 'I imagined in 1884 that I was the first person who had noticed its wonderful quality of withstanding drought. But the same quality was also observed the same year in America, and it was only in October 1887 that I found, in a book written by the late curator of Glasnevin Botanical Gardens, the same grass mentioned as growing luxuriantly on a dry calcareous soil.'
I am informed by Mr. James Hunter, of Chester, the well-known seedsman, that:
'Great care requires to be exercised in purchasing this grass, as there are two kinds supplied to farmers under the name of tall fescue -- the first valuable, and the second worthless -- and that is evidently why there is a difference of opinion as regards this grass. The former -- i.e. the valuable kind -- is grown for its seeds in the Rhenish provinces in a limited district, and is supplied to seedsmen who will pay the price for it; and this price, the moment any increase of competition occurs, naturally runs up to a high level, and the difficulty of obtaining a regular and considerable supply of the seed at a reasonable price leads to the importation of the tall reed fescue of New Zealand, which is an extremely coarse and harsh grass, and quite unsuitable as a pasture grass. Any one seeing it in a pasture would be sure to condemn it, and hence the bad reputation into which tall fescue has fallen. As the Rhenish seed costs about twice as much as that of the reed fescue from New Zealand, there is therefore a strong temptation to. supply the latter instead of the former, and it is thus of obvious importance to obtain a guarantee as to the kind supplied, and also to send it to the botanist for examination. It may be well to mention that samples of the New Zealand species usually contain ergot.'
Tall Oat-like grass (Avena elatior). This is a very hardy, drought-resisting and productive grass (for which qualities it is much valued on the Continent), and, the reader may remember, was much esteemed and largely sown by the great Arthur Young, who, however, ultimately gave it up in favour of cocksfoot, which, in his opinion, much excels it. At one time the late Mr. Faunce de Laune considered Avena elatior to be a grass of medium quality, but subsequently saw reason to place a much higher value upon it, and states that in this view he was supported by Mr. Moore, the late curator of Glasnevin. Sinclair says that it 'attains to maturity from seed in a very short space of time, and that it is very early and productive in the spring, and during the whole season grows rapidly after cropping, and the culms are succulent.' But the produce, he tells us, 'is very deficient of nutritive matter, which contains an excess of the bitter extractive and saline principles.' There can be no doubt of its value for permanent pasture, but it is, in error, objected to by some for land that is ever to be lifted again, because of the supposed difficulty of eradicating it; but Sinclair recommends it for alternate husbandry, though in small proportion -- the mixture he advises being 75 per cent of cocksfoot, while the remaining 25 per cent is to consist of hard fescue, meadow fescue, rough-stalked meadow grass, tall oat grass, timothy, ryegrass, and white clover. Sinclair says nothing of the difficulty of eradicating this grass when ploughing up, and I cannot help thinking that the variety of tall oat grass which has bulbous underground roots is the kind to which objections have been raised on account of the difficulty of eradicating it. I have grown the tall oat grass extensively for the last twenty years, and have never experienced any difficulty with it when ploughing up. I may also remark that Arthur Young, who, as I have pointed out, at one time sowed it largely, says nothing about the difficulty of destroying the roots on again ploughing up the land.
I have now considered three grasses of great importance -- cocksfoot, tall fescue, and tall oat grass -- and they all three possess most desirable qualities, being early, drought-resisting, hardy, and productive. On reference to the table of relative productiveness (vide Appendix 1), the reader will see that they stand at 100, while two of the other tall grasses -- timothy and Italian ryegrass -- stand at 75, while meadow fescue and meadow foxtail -- the two remaining tall grasses -- only attain a proportion of 70. The first three grasses are thus 25 per cent more productive than the secondly mentioned grasses, and 30 per cent more than the last two alluded to. This question, then, naturally arises: Why should we not use the first three grasses exclusively for the large grasses of the pasture? Add to them rough-stalked meadow grass, and golden oat grass to fill up the bottom of the pasture, and also chicory, burnet, yarrow, and kidney vetch, sheep's parsley, and some lucerne -- when the soil and climate are favourable to the last -- alsike, late-flowering red clover, and white clover. The mixture would then consist of thirteen or fourteen different kinds of plants, and supply that variety of food which is always so welcome to stock, and indeed to all graminivorous animals from elephants to mice. In these days, when farming profits are small at the best, and it is always a matter of doubt as to whether there may be any profits worthy of the name, it is obviously of the greatest importance to put down a seed mixture which will at once give the greatest amount of production, and from the hardy and drought-resisting character of the plants, the greatest safety of production when seasons are dry or unfavourable. The season of 1896 was particularly dry, but, in spite of the great drought, a mixture closely approximating to that suggested above gave wonderful results, and the pasture remained of a beautiful green colour. I may add that even in the moister climates of Great Britain a preference should certainly be given to drought-resisting plants when laying down to either temporary or permanent pasture. It is true that in the moistest climates a dry season may not wither up plants which are not remarkable for drought-resisting powers, but seeing that very dry seasons would certainly diminish the production from grasses of inferior drought-resisting power, while such seasons would affect but little grasses and plants best able to resist drought, it seems evident that a most decided preference should be given to drought-resisting plants, whether the climate is a dry or a moist one. There is, however, an exception to be made in the case of rough-stalked meadow grass, because, though it does suffer from drought, it recovers rapidly after rain, and also spreads so quickly that it is valuable for filling up the bottom of a pasture, as I have elsewhere shown, even in dry and exposed situations.
I now proceed to make some remarks on the other grasses commonly used for permanent and temporary pastures, and also on the other plants usually associated with them.
Timothy grass (Phleum pratense), as the reader will remember, is, by the table I have supplied, 25 per cent less productive than the first three grasses I have treated of -- cocksfoot, tall fescue, and tall oat grass -- which may readily be understood when we read in Sinclair that 'this grass is very deficient in the produce of aftermath, and is slow in growth after being cropped', two very serious defects, which certainly do not seem to be compensated for by the fact that its early spring produce is said by Sinclair to be more nutritive than cocksfoot in the proportion of nine to eight, though the quantity of spring produce was the same in the case of both plants. Timothy is unsuited for dry soils, and does not appear to have the merit of being a drought-resisting plant. It is recommended by Sinclair partly because, as it does not put out its flowering stems till June, it can be fed to a late period of the year without injury to the hay crop. But in this respect it is equalled by cocksfoot, and as that grass is distinctly more productive, and certainly suitable to nearly all soils and situations, and also more drought-resisting, I confess I am unable to see why it should occupy space which might better be filled with cocksfoot or tall fescue. Owing to its unsuitability for dry soils, I have not included timothy seed in the mixtures I have used for my light Cheviot hill land. At the same time, its value and suitability for moist and peaty soils should not be overlooked, and for these last-named soils I would recommend its use.
Italian Ryegrass (Lolium italicum), like timothy, is 25 per cent less productive than the three grasses first treated of. Its value is well known, and, as regards its nutritive value, earliness, productiveness, and quickness of growth after it has been mown, it far surpasses the perennial ryegrass. But it should be used with great caution for permanent pasture, as it is a biennial, and, as in the case of perennial ryegrass, its excessive use would leave spaces liable, or rather certain, to be filled by weeds and worthless grasses. When, however, either in the case of permanent pasture or for temporary pasture to lie for four or more years, it is intended to take a hay crop the first year, then 2 lb. or 3 lb. of Italian ryegrass may be used in order to increase the haycrop.
Further observation has led me to the conclusion that to increase the hay crop, and also aid in holding up the clover and the crop generally, tall oat grass would be preferable to Italian ryegrass, as it is free from the defects of the latter, but tall oat grass is too expensive to be used on a large enough scale for increasing the bulk of the hay crop and holding up the crop, and I now think, that, say, 2 lb. or 3 lb. of Italian ryegrass should be added to mixtures for permanent or temporary pastures.
Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne), as the reader will see by reference to the table, is 30 per cent less productive than the first three grasses on my list, and I have written so much on it previously that no further remarks on this grass are here required. I may add that, after a long experience, I am sure that, for the reasons previously given in this book, it does not pay to use it at all for permanent pasture, nor for temporary pastures which are to lie for four or more years. I am even doubtful whether it should be used for temporary pastures which are to lie for two or three years, but, if used, it should be sown in small proportions -- 5 lb. or 6 lb. to the acre.
Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis). The merits of this grass are too well known to call for any remark here. Sinclair says that 'it is much slower in growth after being cropped than cocksfoot', and this, of course, is the reason why in the table it stands as being 30 per cent less productive. It thrives in good moist soils and its herbage is nutritive and liked by stock.
Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis). This grass, too, calls for little remark, as its merits are so well known, but 'the weight of grass produced in one season is', we are informed by Sinclair, 'considerably less than the amount to be obtained from cocksfoot', and that, of course, is why it stands, for productive purposes, 30 per cent below that grass. According to Sinclair, 'this grass, under the best management, does not attain to its fullest productive powers from seed till four years', but later experience shows that the successful cultivation of this grass largely depends on the suitability of the soil and the sufficiency of moisture supplied. Thus at Carbeth, Killearn, Stirlingshire, meadow foxtail, sown in 1884 on a good stiffish loam, yielded in 1985 (the year following the sowing of the seed) such satisfactory results that it is stated of this grass by Dr. Wilson, in his able report, that 'of all the grasses examined meadow foxtail seems to combine best productiveness and nutritive qualities'. Though very valuable for permanent pasture, it is, however, not desirable for alternate husbandry.
I have now alluded to all the tall grasses commonly used for permanent pasture -- i.e. cocksfoot, tall fescue, tall oat grass, timothy, meadow fescue, and meadow foxtail -- but there is a sixth of which I have had some experience, and which, for hay in especial, seems to me to be very desirable, Poa fertilis, or serotina, and Sinclair tells us that 'it adds much to the value of a sward from its nutritive qualities and powers of early and late growth'.
Fertile or late-flowering Meadow grass (Poa fertilis, or serotina ), has for a great many years been highly esteemed in the United States, and as it perfects an abundance of seed, and can therefore be easily propagated, it seems singular that it should have been neglected here. This grass is described in Dr. George Vasey's work, The Agricultural Grasses of the United States, as Poa serotina, or fowl meadow grass, and he tells us that the culms are from two to three feet high (about the highest I have grown them here), and that there are some mountain forms, or varieties, which have culms only one foot or less in length. Mr. J. T. Gould, of New York, is quoted by Dr. Vasey as having found it to grow in almost every kind of soil, but as attaining its greatest perfection in a rich moist one. Professor Phares, of Mississippi (quoted by Dr. Vasey), writes that 'in portions of the Western States this grass has, for some years, been very highly recommended', and that 'in the Eastem States it has been cultivated for 150 years or longer, and highly valued'. Jared Elliott, writing in 1749, spoke of it as growing tall and thick, making a more soft and pliable hay than timothy, and better adapted for pressing and shipping for use of horses on shipboard. He says that it never becomes so coarse and hard, but the stalk is sweet and tender and eaten without waste, and another writer quoted by Dr. Vasey, Mr. Charles L. Flint, testifies to the same effect. The tenderness of the stems is most remarkable. On one occasion I had sheaves of this grass cut in a thoroughly ripened state, as the grass was grown for the sake of the seed, and yet my cows ate up with relish every part of the grass after the seed had been threshed out. The stems, however dry, are so tender that they break asunder with a slight twitch of the fingers. The grass, when allowed to grow tall, and by itself, is so tender that it is liable to be laid by wind and rain, but if it were mingled with a sufficient proportion of timothy to keep it erect I see no reason why it should not be then grown for hay.
Rough-stalked Meadow grass (Poa trivialis) is well known to be a very valuable grass in certain situations, and, after writing at length on it, Sinclair concludes 'that the Poa trivialis, though highly valuable as a permanent pasture grass on rich and sheltered soils, is but little adapted for the alternate husbandry, and unprofitable for any purpose on dry exposed situations'. Elsewhere he says that on such situations 'it yearly diminishes, and ultimately dies off, not unfrequently in the space of four or five years'. As regards productiveness, a reference to the table will show that it stands at 60, or 40 per cent less than the first three grasses given. But notwithstanding what Sinclair has said-and I need hardly say that I differ with him with great diffidence -- my most recent observation of it, in the case of a dry and rather exposed situation, is that it is a valuable grass, for, though easily affected by drought, it revives again with great rapidity when rain has fallen, and, from its spreading habit, is valuable for filling up the bottom of a pasture in any situation. In the case of a pasture in its fourth year, and which occupies the dry and rather exposed situation alluded to in the last sentence, it shows no sign of decline, and I have therefore no hesitation in recommending it for pastures in any situation that are to lie from four to six years in climates resembling the driest parts of Roxburghshire.
Golden Oat grass (Avena flavescens) is valuable for filling up the bottom of a pasture, and also for its hardy qualities and suitability to almost any kind of soil. Being one of the smaller grasses, its productive powers are not large, but as the flowering stems are long (about, two and a half feet), it would therefore yield fairly well in the hay crop. It stands in the table at 55.
Smooth-stalked Meadow grass (Poa pratensis) also stands in the table at 55, but is so decidedly condemned by Sinclair and other writers that I have given up sowing it, though, as the reader will remember, I used 2 lb. of it in the mixture which, in 1895, gave such satisfactory results, due no doubt to the better grasses in the mixture.
Hard Fescue (Festuca duriuscula) is a grass which has been favourably spoken of by most writers on grasses. Sinclair considers it to be 'one of the best of the fine, or dwarf-growing, grasses'. 'It springs rather early, and the produce is remarkably fine and succulent.' He elsewhere observes that it withstands the effects of severe dry weather better than many other grasses. Its productive powers are inferior , and are stated in the table at 50. It is, however, useful for filling up the bottom of a pasture, and it is a drought-resisting grass.
Sweet Vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) stands at 50 in the table. Sinclair considers that its early growth and hardy and permanent nature uphold its claim to a place in the composition of all permanent pastures; but, as its seed is scarce and dear, its use cannot be recommended while there are other grasses which have superior qualities, and are much cheaper.
Crested Dogstail (Cynosurus cristatus). The productive power of this grass is small, and the reader will perceive that it stands at 45 in the table; but Arthur Young speaks highly of it, and so does Sinclair, and he goes so far as to say that 'a sward of the best quality, particularly under circumstances where sheep are a principal object, cannot be formed without an admixture or proportion of the crested dogstail grass'. It has the merit of being very drought-resisting, and it thrives well on dry lands. Many farmers dislike it on account of its wiry culms, but there can be no doubt that it is useful for filling up the bottom of a pasture.
Wood Meadow grass (Poa nemoralis), as regards productiveness, stands on the same level as crested dogstail -- i.e. 45 -- in the table, and Sinclair says that 'the early growth of this grass in spring, and its remarkably fine, succulent, and nutritive herbage, recommend it strongly for admission into the company of the superior pasture grasses'. But I cannot find that it is ever spoken of as a good drought-resisting grass; and, though it may be very suitable for lawns or pleasure grounds, the practical farmer would, I think, rather see any space that might be given to it filled with a safer grass.
Fine-leaved Fescue (Festuca ovina tenuifolia) stands last on the table, with a productive power as low as 40. It grows and thrives on mountain pastures, and is valuable in lawn mixtures, but should never be included in mixtures for laying down any kind of pasture.
Nerved Meadow grass (Poa nervata). This grass cannot be obtained from seedsmen in this country, and I had some difficulty in procuring seeds from North America. From these I grew a certain number of plants, some of which are growing here now. I have not paid much attention to this grass; but Sinclair evidently did, as he says that it is remarkably hardy grass, and that 'it possesses very valuable properties, and will be found a valuable ingredient in permanent pastures, where the soil is not too dry, but of a medium quality as to ,moisture and dryness'. With reference to its hardiness, the writer said that in 17th February 1914, after the severe winter preceding, this species of Poa was perfectly green and succulent, while not one species of grass, out of nearly 300 different species that grew around it, remained in a healthy state, but were all inferior, and more or less injured by the severity of the weather'. I have elsewhere dwelt upon the obvious advantages of confining our attention as much as possible to the cultivation of the most hardy grasses, which, of course, are much safer for the farmer than the less robust kinds, and I hope that the mention I have made of the matter may induce seedsmen, and others interested in this important subject, to devote some attention to Poa nervata.
The clovers used by me at Clifton-on-Bowmont are:
Late-flowering Red Clover (Trifolium pratense perenne var.). The best form of red clover for my system, combining the qualities of permanence, productiveness, and the capability of resisting drought to a greater degree than any other red clover with which I am acquainted. I have used this variety extensively for nearly twenty years, and it has never failed. Its value as an accumulator of nitrogen from ,the atmosphere is second to none, and I think it one of the most important plants in my system of farming.
White or Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens). Too well known to call for remark.
Alsike, or Swedish Clover (Trifolium hybridum). Although neither deep-rooting nor drought-resisting, the Alsike clover is of too great value in a temporary pasture to be left out. It is very hardy but grows little in a drought.
I now proceed to remark, lastly, on various plants which may be usefully added to grass and clover mixtures.
Chicory and burnet, having been fully treated in what I have written previously (vide Chapters 4 and 6) require no notice here.
Kidney Vetch, or Yellow Sand Clover (Anthyllis vulneraria). This is a very valuable plant, and of supreme importance in a severe drought. In 1899 there was a very severe drought, and yet we cut two tons of hay per acre from the Big Countridge field, which, from a distance of many miles, looked like a veritable oasis in a desert of scorched hills. For the crop we were mainly indebted to the kidney vetch, which, after cutting, was almost entirely killed, but it had saved the situation, and its immense rootage, covered with nitrogen-collecting nodules, would no doubt tell favourably on the grass and subsequent crops. It is generally supposed that the kidney vetch never stands cutting, but Hayhope Shank field was hayed in 1897, and a small portion of the field, which was again hayed in 1900, showed a fair proportion of the plant. The Big Haugh field was sown in 1893; 2 lb. chicory, 3 lb. burnet, and 2 lb. kidney vetch were included in the mixture. The field was hayed the first year, and was ploughed for turnips end of 1900. A strip was left unploughed along the fence side on the margin of the Bowmont, and in 1901 (eight years after sowing) this showed plenty of chicory, burnet, and kidney vetch. This seems to show that under certain conditions the durability of the kidney vetch is greater than is sometimes supposed. (From inquiries I have made the kidney vetch does not seem to thrive on rich soils. Such is the opinion of an experienced tenant here, and also of the agent of my King's County property in Ireland.)
Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium). The value of this plant for permanent pastures has been well known for a long period, and therefore requires no detailed notice. Arthur Young, from what he has written, evidently had a high opinion of it. It will be observed that Mr. James Hunter, of Chester, thinks 1/4 lb. of it sufficient, and perhaps this may be so in the case of permanent pasture, as the plants spread gradually; but in the case of pastures to lie for three to six years, and which are then to be broken up, I think that 1/2 lb. to 1 lb. should be used, as it is desirable to have a good supply of this plant quickly established in the land -- partly as food for stock, and partly to insure a large root-growth in the land, so as to furnish much vegetable matter when the pasture is again brought into arable cultivation. For such temporary pastures I have used 1 lb., and do not find it too much. I have been particularly struck with the value of yarrow in seasons of extreme drought, and, in the case of the East Countridge field, I remember observing to my steward that were the yarrow removed the field would have had a totally different appearance, as it was the yarrow alone that maintained the green appearance of the field. In permanent pastures where the land happens to be very favourable to the growth and spread of yarrow, care should be taken to eat it close down early in the spring, or it will occupy the land to an injurious extent, and so, as I have found, injure a pasture. I was particularly struck with this in the case of a pasture let by me to a cow feeder. The tenant had no sheep to eat the yarrow down, and the yarrow was also allowed to seed, and the result was that the pasture has been distinctly injured -- in fact, the yarrow, in some places, spread so thickly over the ground as to strangle both the grasses and clovers. Had the yarrow been kept down by sheep, it seems impossible, judging by my other pastures, that such a result could have occurred. (The proportion of yarrow in this field has since declined and does not now (1907) seem much in excess of the amount desirable. Perhaps the field has become yarrow sick. There is a theory advanced in Fletcher's Soils, that plants sicken in a soil in consequence of the excreta from their roots, and it is possible that this may have been the case with the yarrow in question.)
Lucerne (Medicago sativa). On light, dry, or chalky soils, in the south of England, the lucerne is of great value as a deep-rooter and drought-resister, but it seems to be unsuitable to our soil and climate, and now I do not use it at Clifton-on-Bowmont, but for seed mixtures put down on my system on light, dry, or chalky soils in the eastern and southern counties of England I would advise the use of about 2 lb. per acre. It has been recommended by Sir John Lawes to be used when laying down land to permanent grass, and 2 lb. an acre may be added to the seed mixtures for that purpose.
Sainfoin (Onobrychis sativa). Like lucerne, the sainfoin is unsuited to our soil and climate, and I am therefore prevented from making use of this valuable forage plant, but on chalky soils in the south and east of England it should prove a very desirable addition to seed mixtures formed on the Clifton Park system.
Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) calls for some remark, as it appears in seedsmen's lists and mixtures, though, from Sinclair's account of the plant, neither it nor Lotus major seem to be deserving of attention. Sinclair says that 'they are greatly inferior to the clovers. The white clover is superior to the common birdsfoot trefoil in the quantity of nutritive matter it affords, in the proportion of five to four. It is much less productive of herbage'. Altogether, there seems to be no good reason for cultivating this plant.
Sheep's Parsley (Petroselinum sativum). I generally put down 1 lb. with my seed mixtures, as it is supposed to be favourable to the health of sheep.
Cotton grass, or draw moss (Eprihorum vaginatum). This, though called a grass, is a sedge which thrives best in peaty lands. Its effects on sheep are so remarkable that a little space may be profitably devoted to it for the benefit of pastoral farmers, and with the view of suggesting means for increasing it. A neighbouring proprietor, who is also a practical farmer, has sent me a bundle of letters from correspondents of practical experience in the moorland farms, and also an account of the proceedings of the Teviotdale Farmers' Club, where the subject of this grass was discussed and its merits generally admitted. One of the correspondents alluded to says that the value of a hill grazing is greatly enhanced for blackfaced sheep if there is a good supply of draw moss on it, and that it has a special value in the spring months, though the sheep eat it all the year round. In a very open spring he has seen the blackfaced sheep mellow in the skin and flush in condition on account of their having had a good supply of draw moss. Another correspondent writes that it is invaluable for lean sheep in a backward spring, and rapidly brings them forward. It is a common saying that a good draw moss year is a good sheep year. A third correspondent points out that, especially in bad seasons, its presence or absence on a hirsel (sheep farm) makes all the difference between being well or badly lambed. None of the various correspondents have ever heard of an attempt being made to increase the supply of this highly valuable sedge. One of them mentions that when some of the land on which it grew was burnt, the effect of this was to increase the supply of the plants, and a further experiment might be made as to the effect of burning in increasing the supply of this valuable sedge. So far as I can learn, wet ground is essential to the growth of this plant, and one of the correspondents alluded to alleges that it disappears on land which has been drained. Some plants were brought down from an elevation of 1,800 feet on this property, placed in the garden and watered at Clifton-on-Bowmont, but they all died. The head gardener at Clifton Park, writes as follows with reference to some plants sent here from the Lammermoors:
'Plants of this grass were received here in July 1901. At that time they were bearing seeds, and these were collected and sown in a soil consisting of peat and silver sand. The seeds germinated freely, and the young plants were kept in the seed box tin April 1902, when they were transferred to their permanent quarters. Some of the seedlings were planted in soil similar to that in which they were raised -- i.e. peat and silver sand; the others were planted in ordinary garden soil.
All the plants were kept in these quarters till April 1904. During the time they were under observation no difference could be detected between the plants growing in peat and those in ordinary soil. Both plots were well supplied with water. Had it been otherwise those plants in the ordinary soil would possibly have suffered more from drought than the others in the peat, as peat retains moisture longer than ordinary garden soil.'
These plants have now been transferred to the observation squares in permanent pastures. It seems likely that this valuable sedge could be readily extended by hurdling off pieces of land where the sedge is thickly distributed, and until the seed had been blown away by the' wind. It is probable, from the behaviour of the plants here, that they would flourish in any marshy ground, even though it were not of a peaty character.
I have now noticed all those plants which I think of value for laying down land to temporary or permanent pastures, or improving hill pastures, and trust that the remarks I have made on them may be of some use to the farmer.
In the Appendices will be found some interesting and valuable information contributed by Mr. James Hunter, the well-known agricultural seedsman, to whom, in the Preface, I have fully acknowledged my obligations.
Next: Chapter 7: Why Government Experimental Farms Are So Specially Needed, and the Lines on which They Should Be Laid
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