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Since the delivery of the foregoing Address, I have had the pleasure of receiving the following letter from Mr. Phinney, on one or two highly important topics of practical agriculture ; and I am happy in having his permission to insert it in our volume of transactions.
Lexington, December 1, 1840. A. HUNTINGTON, Esq. DEAR SIR—The question is often asked, How can farming be made profitable? I answer, by liberal manuring, deep and thorough ploughing, and clean culture. I will venture to affirm, without fear of contradiction, that no instance can be cited, where a farmer who has manured his grounds highly, made a judicious use of the plough, and cultivated with care, has failed to receive an ample remuneration for the amount invested, nay more, that has not received a greater advance upon his outlay than the average profit derived from any other business. One great difficulty is, that most farmers seem not to be aware of the fact, that the greater the outlay, to a reasonable extent, when skilfully applied, the greater will be the profit; they therefore manure sparingly, plough shallow, and the consequence is, get poorly paid for their labor. This has raised a prejudice and given a disrelish to the business of farming, especially among those who are in the habit and
are desirous of realizing something more from their occupation than a naked return of the amount expended.
The farmer who is so sparing of his manure that he can get but thirty bushels of corn from an acre, gets barely enough to pay him for the expense of cultivation, and in addition to this, by the ordinary method of ploughing, his field, at each successive rotation, is deteriorating, his crops becoming less, and in a few years he finds he must abandon his exhausted and worn out fields to seek a subsistence for himself and family in some other business, or in some other region, where the hand of man has been less wasteful of the bounties of nature.
Instead then of his scanty manuring of ten cart loads to the acre, which will give him but thirty bushels of corn, let him apply thirty loads. This additional twentyloads, at the usual price of manure in this part of the country, will cost him thirty dollars. But he now, instead of thirty bushels of corn, gets sixty bushels, and the increased quantity of stover will more than pay for the excess of labor required in cultivating and harvesting the large crop over that of the small one. He has then added thirty bushels of corn to his crop by means of the twenty loads of manure, which at the usual price of one dollar per bushel, pays him in the first crop for his extra outlay. His acre of land is laid to grass after taking off the corn, and the effect of his twenty loads of additional manuring, will be to give him, at the lowest estimate, three additional tons of hay in the first three years of mowing it, worth fifteen dollars a ton standing in the field. Now look at the result. His thirty dollars expended for extra manuring was paid for in the first year's crop, and at the end of three years more, he will have received forty five dollars profit on his outlay of thirty dollars; and in addition to this, his land is improved, and in much better condition for a second rotation. There is no delusion in this. It is a practical result,
of the reality of which any farmer may satisfy himself, who will take the trouble to make the experiment.
From no item of outlays can the farmer derive so ample, or so certain a profit, as from his expenditures for manure to a certain extent. This has been most strikingly verified by some of our West Cambridge farmers. It is not uncommon among some of the farmers in that town to put on their grounds one hundred dollars' worth of manure to the acre, and in more instances than one, the gross sales of produce from ten acres under the plough have amounted to five thousand dollars in one season. This is the result of high manuring and judicious cultivation of a soil too which is exceedingly poor and sandy.
The subject of subsoil ploughing is one upon which there has been little said, and less done in this part of the country. In all our grounds except those which are very loose and sandy, there is no doubt that great benefit would be derived from the use of the subsoil plough. In England the effect of subsoil ploughing in increasing their crops, as stated by some agricultural writers, would seem almost incredible. By this means, the crops in that country have been doubled, and in many instances trebled. The expense, however, is stated to be very great, so great, as to be beyond the means of most of our farmers. In one case the expense of subsoil ploughing on a farm of over five hundred acres, was estimated by the owner, to cost the enormous sum of thirteen hundred pounds sterling. This calculation took into consideration the use of the heavy Deanston plough which always required four, and, in some stiff clays, six horses to work it. I am aware that an implement might be constructed, which though it might not do the business quite so well, could, nevertheless, be made highly beneficial in the hands of our farmers, and obtained at a far less cost. I am informed that Mr. Bosson, of the Yankee Farmer, has with a highly praise-worthy zeal in the interest of agriculture,
imported from England, a subsoil plough, which may be worked with a less powerful team than the one commonly in use in that country.
In a climate like our own, which at that season of the year when our crops, particularly our root crops, most need the benefit of moisture that may be derived from deep ploughing, and are most likely to suffer from drought, the use of the subsoil plough would be attended with unquestionable benefit. On a field of my own, which had been set to an orchard, and therefore kept under the plough for some years, in attempting to under drain a part of it, that was usually flooded by water in the spring of the year, I noticed what the English call the “upper crust.” This lay some inches below the surface, at the depth to which the land had been usually ploughed, formed by the treading of the oxen and the movement of the plough over it. This I found to be so hard as to be apparently as impenetrable by the roots of plants as a piece of marble, and discovered to me at once the cause of the failure, in a great measure, of my crop of potatoes the year before. Having discovered what I supposed to be the cause of the failure, I set about devising measures to remedy it.
I had never seen a subsoil plough, there never having been one seen or made in this part of the country. I consulted my ingenious friends, Messrs. Prouty and Mears, and, at my request, they made an instrument of very cheap and simple construction, consisting of a wooden beam, about three inches square, and three feet long, with three tines or teeth of the common cultivator, placed in a direct line in the beam, extending about eight inches below the beam; to this handles were attached similar to the handles of a plough. On trying this by running after the drill plough, I found, in my hard, stony subsoil, it was quite inadequate to the business, being too light and of insufficient strength. I then had one constructed of similar plan, but much heavier and stronger. The beam five feet long, six inches square,
of white oak, well ironed, with three tines in nearly a right line, made of the best Swedes iron, one and a half inches square, extending twelve inches below the beam, with a spur at the foot, some less than that of the tine of the cultivator, with strong handles and an iron beam extending from each handle to the centre of the beam, by which the balance is easily preserved. This implement, drawn by two yoke of oxen, followed the drill plough in getting in carrots, and performed the work better than I had anticipated.
upper crust gave way, the resistance made by the hard gravelly bottom and smaller stones was readily overcome. The earth was loosened in most places twelve or fourteen inches from the surface, and though not so thoroughly pulverized as it probably would have been by a perfect subsoil plough, yet, in my very hard stony subsoil, I am inclined to believe, that for simple drill husbandry, this will be found to be a valuable substitute for the English subsoil plough. And considering the small price of the implement, and the greater ease with which it is worked, the friction being much lessened by dispensing with the sole, I shall continue to use this until I can find a better.
A part of my crop of carrots was sowed upon the same land, appropriated to that crop
year; no more manure was applied than in the previous year, and notwithstanding the very severe drought which greatly injured most of our root -crops, my crop on this piece of land was nearly double to that of last year. There is no known cause to which I can attribute this great increase of the produce, but the use of my new constructed substitute for a subsoil plough. The soil was stirred to the depth of fourteen inches, by this means the roots of the carrots were enabled to strike deep and thereby not only to find more nourishment, but to overcome, in a great measure, the effects of a very pinching drought. With great respect, your