This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
We continue our extracts from the proceedings of this Society. The following is a continuation of the subject of Manures:
Stockhardt, in his field lectures, relates the experience of a Saxon farmer who had for many years made use of two marsh plants, reed mace and club rush, for manuring, the first of which l proved a powerful manure, and the second had no manuring energy at all.
Potash and Soda,
Lime and Magnesia,
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The organic, or humus-forming substances, and nitrogen, it is seen, are about the same in both plants, but, on the other hand, the reed mace contains sixteen times the quantity of alkalies, nearly four times more lime, and three times more phosphoric acid than the club rush. What is true of these two plants is also true of straw; its value lies chiefly in its minerals. Johnston gives the analysis of several fertile soils celebrated for yielding successive crops of corn without manure. These soils, as the analysis shows, are supplied by nature with all the minerals which plants require, though of course, from long cropping without manure, they are almost entirely destitute of humus. One of the most fertile Belgian soils contained only 0.447, or less than half per cent, of vegetable matter. Such a soil would continue to sustain crops without manure until some one or more of the mineral elements was exhausted, and then its fertility would be again restored by the addition of the specific ingredients wanted.
The Essay being concluded:
This subject had been proposed by me, as it was one of the most important topics connected with gardening or farming. A speaker at the course of Agricultural Lectures, last February, at New Haven, had opened his discourse by saying that the three great principles on which success in cultivation depended, were first, manure, second, manure, and third and lastly, manure. This, if correctly reported, seemed very crude, and no doubt was easily understood and appreciated by the reading public and his very popular audience; but without desiring to detract from the standing of the speaker as a farmer, I would say that this trite statement did not satisfy me. While manure is essential, it is not everything. We must have something in the shape of soil for the manure to act upon, and plants which are sustained by the soil and acted upon by the constituents of the soil in conjunction with manure. The Essay just read has so fully met my expectations, that a few remarks I had intended to offer are rendered superfluous; so entirely does the ideas of Prof. Stephens, as to the utility and value of barn-yard manure, when properly treated, agree with my own, that I am relieved from any anxiety on that head.
As to the meaning and signification of the term manure, which no less a personage than Baron Von Liebig regards as indefinite and proper to be discarded from the vocabulary of all intelligent farmers, I would say that it appears a good, useful, and expressive term, and worthy of being etained. I mention this because that, like the opinion or dicta of other great men, Liebig's ecommendation has already met with a seconder in Dr. John A. Warder, of Cincinnati, who, n presenting an official report to the Horticultural Society Of that city, concurs in Liebig's iews, and favors the idea that the term is not appropriate; providing always that he be correctly eported, and he claims to speak in a final manner, when he does speak. I am opposed to the ondemnation of this old Anglo-Saxon word, which comes to us with a good derivation, and is ne of the most useful terms in common use by the cultivator, and preferred by him to the more eientific terms, more in the line of the chemist, and with which he does not desire to interfere.
The French writers have a word equivalent to this; the term engrais, translated by our word lanure; while they have another for fermenting or barn-yard manure, famier, which is equivalent our word dung. The word muck has even a good foundation, as it will be seen by referring your dictionaries, meaning enriching matter.
It is very true, however, that in agricultural phraseology too indefinite a meaning has been conferred on the term manure. Chaptal, a reliable French writer, says, under the general head of manures are comprehended all those substances which, existing in the atmosphere or combining with the soil, can be drawn in by the organs of plants and contribute to the progress of vegetation. This definition agrees precisely with that laid down in the Essay just read. But CheptaL, at the same time, desires in host* the too extensive use of the word, for he adds: "The salts which also serve as manures, are imbibed by the nana of the plants, and serve to stimulate vegetation." "By comprehending all these substances under the fanaaie term of manures, too extensive a signification is given to the word".
He then divides these matters into nutritive and stimulating manures. Here he is again at issue with Liebig, who says: "The beneficial influence of gypsum, and many other salts, has been compared to that of aromatios which increase the activity of the human stomach and intestines, and give a tone to the system, but plants do not contain nerves. No substance can possibly cause their leaves to appropriate a greater quantity of carbon from the atmosphere when the other constituents required are wanting.'*
Now, as Professor Stephens has used the term stimulating in reference to guano, I shall be pleased to have him explain more fully his ideas whether there is a possibility of a plant being stimulated, as we generally understand that term.
If, however, the term manure be applicable to lime, potash, soda, and other such substances, it is equally applicable to burnt clay, water, and even to air itself. Salt also is spoken of as a manure, and gypsum. Salt, however, is used by practical men for its mechanical action in retaining moisture and counteracting the disastrous effects of drought. I shall not at this time enter into the field of the mineral theory, where organic and inorganic manures are contesting their claims. Liebtg'a theory has several able critics in this country, and time will doubtless throw ample light on the principles involved; in the meantime,with such appliances,as street refuse, stable dung, and cow manure, with a little muck, and compost prepared from refuse vegetable matter, the farmer and the gardener may perchance drive their legitimate, but precarious business, while Lawes and Liebig discuss their peculiar theories and experiments. We have in addition to these home products, guano, that wonderful deposit, worth $40 per ton, which is capable of manuring eight acres, and the supply of which is not yet at all exhausted.
Nor do we lose sight of our superphosphates, bones, and meat composts, pure ground bones, bones treated simply with sulphuric acid, manipulated guano, Swan Island guano, Leinau's fertilizer, Ta Feu, poudrette, phosphatic guano, and phuine, by the producer said to be ono of the best manufactured concentrated manures. Still more recently we have a grape fertilizer, professing to supply the special elements required for the grape plant; and from the great rage on the subject of grapes, we sincerely hope, for the credit of its introducer, that it may be equal to all that is professed of it. Time only can test this.
I should like to enter much more fully into a notice of these numerous matters now so freely manufactured for the cultivator, but their critical examination is not the work of a day or a year, and not, I regret, within the scope of a plain gardener like myself. I should offer an apology for my occupation of the time of the meeting, but the subject is one in which I felt some interest.