There are several species of corn, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, millet, and rice, maize, or Indian corn, etc. each of which will be mentioned in its alphabetical order : we shall, there fore, in this pace, not enter into any particulars relative to its culture, con fining ourselves solely to such points as relate equally to the different species.
We cannot but animadvert upon the injudicious practice of cutting corn in cold autumns, before it is perfectly rips; as experience has proved, that, if left standing, the ears will continue to fill, and become heavier, even during the autumnal frosts. Were this latter method adopted, a much greater proportion of flour might be produced ; and the grain would neither shrink, nor shrivel, in barns or granaries: it. might, at the same time, be prevented from rotting, on account of its immaturity, and the softness or moisture which are the necessary consequence.
Notwithstanding the great care and attention which the husbandman may bestow on the cultivation of corn, his expectations of a plentiful harvest are often frustrated by a variety of disorders, and accidents, to which corn is peculiarly liable.
The first and most formidable is the smut, which is caused by vermin breeding in the grain, and thus destroying its substance.— (See vol. i. p. 170and 171). Their propagation, beside other causes, is evidently facilitated by laying on the soil too large a quantity of crude dung; which, becoming mouldy, promotes the generation of the smut-animals.
various experiments have been accordingly tried, to eradicate this noxious distemper, with different degrees of success; a few of which, dull enumerate. - In the greater part of the counties of Devon and Cornwall, on the. evening before the wheat is intended to be sown, it is laid on the floor in a heap, on which is poured a solution of lime, slacked with boiling water, and reduced . to the consistence of cream: both are then mixed, and left together till morning, by which, time the wheat is dry, and fit to be sown.
In other parts of the same counties, .the wheat is steeped either in fresh or salt water, for 12, 18, or 24 hours, when it is put to drain for an hour or two, after which, powdered lime is sifted over it, the whole being well mixed with a shovel: it is then thrown together in a heap, to dry previously to its being sown. Few farmers, however, soak it in brine, and a still smaller number of them, substitute animal urine, soap-boiler's lye, etc. In several other counties, there prevails a general practice of employing brine, strong enough to bear an egg, to which powdered lime is added, till it acquires an unctuous consistence. This composition is mixed with the wheat, the evening before it is committed to the ground. In Yorkshire, and several of the adjoining counties, arsenic is substituted for salt: some farmers render the solution thicker, by the addition of lime, while others either sprinkle the wheat with it, or steep and wash the former, then sift lime over it, and mix them as before.
Another method is, to put 70 gallons of water into a tub, at the bottom of which is a hole provided with a staff and tap hose, as in brewing; to this is to be added half a hundred weight of lime-stone, and the whole well stirred for half an hour, when it is suffered to stand about 30 hours. It should then be drawn off into another tub, and three pecks (42lbs.) of salt added, which, when dissolved, will make a strong pickle, fit for immediate use. But, if sea-water can be procured, half the quantity of salt will be sufficient. A basket of about 2 feet in diameter at the bottom, and 20 inches deep, should then be placed in the pickle, and the corn gradually immersed, in small quantities from one to two bushels ; care being taken to skim off the light grains, which ought not to be sown, because many of them are infected with the smut. As soon as this operation is completed, the basket should be drawn up, and drained for a few minutes over the liquor, when it may be repeated, as often as the quantity of grain to "be sown may require. This seed will be fit for the ground in 24 hours ; but, where it is to be drilled, it should stand for 48 : and, if the driller meet with any difficulty in performing his work, it will be necessary to make the pickle more astringent, by adding lime. Seed, thus prepared, may be kept for 5, 6, 7> 8, or even 10 days above ground, without any injury or inconvenience.
Another mode of preventing the smut in corn, was discovered by Mr. R. Treffrey, of Beer, in Flintshire; who, in a communication to Mr. Young, in the 21st vol. of "Annals of Agriculture," states, that having rubbed out a quantity of corn, he sowed part of it, unwashed. The remainder, about two bushels, was well winnowed, taken to a brook, and washed in the following manner: A gallon was put into a wire sieve, that had 8 bars to an inch ; it was first gently immersed a few times in the water, by which means every smut-ball, or animal, was easily discovered, and taken away ; next, the sieve was briskly agitated, for about a minute, when the whole, after being washed, and thrown into a tub with some water, was stirred round with a broom. It was then again put into the sieve, in the same proportion as before, and immersed in the brook, that the remaining particles might sink through the bottom of the sieve, and be carried away by the stream. This wheat was sown in the same field with the former, where no kind of manure could have the least tendency to produce smut-balls among either. The result at harvest proved, that the unwashed corn produced as many smut-balls as grains of wheat, while that which had been immersed in the brook, was almost entirely exempt from the disorder.
We venture to recommend the last-mentioned expedient; for the superiority of gradual washing over that of throwing the whole into a vessel and stirring it, is manifest. By this method, the infectious matter is not only loosened from the grains, but is carried away with the stream, while that, which is only washed in a tub, etc. cannot be totally cleared ; for the more ponderous particles sink to the bottom, and remain among the seed-corn after the water is poured off.
Corn is also liable to be grown, or sprouted, when it has partly begun to vegetate; for, if the whole of the grain were to bud, it would become unlit for being converted into bread. Hence it. is very difficult to preserve sprouted corn, as the opening of the bud occasions it to heat, and the moisture it retains, disposes it still more to undergo the process of fermentation. It is also more subject to be attacked by in-se6ts, on account of its being sweeter, more tender, and susceptible of heat, consequently more liable to receive their eggs. If left' to itself, sprouted corn heats, ferments, and contracts an unplea-sant smell, and a bad colour : it also acquires a disagreeably sharp taste, which is communicated to the flour and bread ; and, finally, grows mouldy and sour: in this state, it is fit only for the manufacture of starch. Farther, it is ground with difficulty, clogs the mill-stones, chokes the bolting-cloths, and yields but little flour ; which is soft and moist, and will not keep for any length of time, especially during warm weather.
We have entered thus largely into this subject, because, from the variableness of the climate of this country, considerable quantities of corn frequently become sprouted : we therefore extract, with satisfaction, the following interesting particulars, for remedying this seri-* Gas evil, from an ingenious pamphlet published in France.
Sprouted corn should by no means be stacked, but housed and threshed with the greatest exredition. Nor should it be put in a granary together with dry grain, as the latter will thus become moist. Care should also be taken to keep the piace well aired ; for, in the contrary case, even the latter cannot be preserved.
As soon as sprouted corn is threshed, it should be spread upon the floor, and frequently turned; a door, or window, being left open to give vent to the steam. Sometimes it will be necessary to dry the corn in an oven, after the bread is removed ; leaving the door half open, and turning the grain every ten minutes, to facilitate the evaporation of the moisture. When thus dried, it should be sifted, and not put into sacks, or in heaps, till it is properly cooled ; as it frill otherwise become mouldy.
Although some fastidious persons may object; to the trouble oc-casioned by this mode of curing sprouted corn, yet as eight or ten days Continual drying will preserve, it for a whole year; and Tender both the bread and flour of a better quality, it surely merits the atten-tion of every diligent husbandman, and will amply compensate his trouble and labour.
There is another disease that fre-quently attacks corn, which is usually termed burnt - grain, of which we have already spoken, vol. i. p. 398: To these may be added, what is called the spur, which affects both wheat and rye, but more especially the latter. The grains infested with it, are thicker and longer than the sound ones ; their outsides are either brown or black, and their surface rough. If a spurred grain be opened, a white-flour is perceivable in it, which is covered with another of a reddish or brown colour. The latter has some degree of consistence, but may be easily crumbled between the fingers. Naturalists are unable to ascertain, with precision, the cause of this distemper ; but it is supposed to be occasioned by the bite or sting of an insect, that turns the corn into a kind of gal;; a conjecture which is partly confirmed by the taste left on the tongue, after eating such grain. The ef-fects arising from the use of corn thus damaged, are said to be ma-lignant fevers and gangrenes, in consequence of which the extremities of the body sometimes mortify, and spontaneously separate, without any pain or effusion of blood. ... -V • .
Among the various insects which prey upon corn, none is more destructive than the corn-butterfly, which is generated in a manner similar to that of the common but-terflies. It settles on one grain, and after having totally consumed it, its existence is supposed to be prolonged by eating its own excre-ment. When it has attained its full growth, it is about one quarter of an inch in length, and half the thickness of the grain it has devoured. To exterminate this noxious insert, it has been recommended to prepare a very strong lye of wood ashes, to which, when it becomes yellow, as much quick-lime should be added, as will make it of a dusky white : while it is as hot as the hand can well bear it, the grosser part of the lime should be suffered to subside, and the lye poured off into a proper vessel; into which the corn is to be immersed by means of a basket, and quickly agitated; skimming off those grains which float on the surface. In the course of two or three minutes, it may be taken out, and the basket with its contents suspended on two poles, to drain 3 after which it should be spread on the floor of a granary to dry, while a second basket undergoes a similar immersion. This simple process not only preserves the grain from rotting, but at the same time destroys all those insects that may have penetrated its substance. An oven is also employed for drying the seed ; but, as it is difficult to ascertain the proper degree of heat, without injuring vegetation, and yet not always sufficient to extirpate the vermin, it is seldom practised.
With respect to the manner of preserving it, corn is very different from fruits; as, with proper care, it may be kept in granaries for several centuries. Far from wishing to support that execrabls system of monopoly, which is but too conspicuous at present, to the injury and oppression of the groaning poor, we shall communicate the following directions, with a view to avert any future scarcity, rather than to enable the avaricious corn-dealer to with-hold his stock from the public market. For this purpose, the grain should be well dried and cleaned before it is housed ; care being taken to introduce air-holes on the top, and openings to the north and east of the granary : during the first six months, the corn should be carefully turned, once a fortnight at the least, to prevent it from heating; after which time it will be sufficient to turn it every month, for about two years, when it will have exhaled all its igneous particles, and no apprehension need be entertained, unless from the air and adventitious moisture. Should it nevertheless heat, from any unforeseen accident, so that there is apprehension of its catching fire, such a misfortune may be easily prevented, by making a hole in the middle, down to the floor, which will serve as a kind of chimney, or flue, for carrying off the heat.
But, notwithstanding these precautions, it frequently happens that mites reduce the greater part of the grain 10 dust. This serious damage may be prevented by rubbing the adjacent places with fetid oils and herbs, such as garlic and dwarf-elder, the strong smell of which tends to expel them: be sides, they may be exposed to the rays of the sun, which immediately destroy them. - One of die most effeceffetual means of extirpating both the white and black corn-worm, as well as to secure the grain from the depredations of mice and rats, is that of covering the corn with the branches of the alder buckthorn, or black berry-bearing al-der, Rhamnus Frangula, L. The exhalations of tills plant are so offensive, to every kind of vermin, that they not only prevent their generation, but also effect the destruction of those which have been carried in with corn from the fields, or granaries. We state this fad on the authority of Mr. Hochheimer ; and as the experiment is not attended with any considerable ex-pence, it certainly merits the attention of the wholesale farmer.
Among the numerous suggestions of foreign writers, for preserving grain from the devastations of insects, we shall only mention those of smoking the store-houses with sulphur and tobacco (which, however, renders the corn unfit fur vegetation); of covering the heaps of grain either with thin sail-cloth or old sheets, rolling them together when the vermin are settled on the surface, and exposing them to the voracious appetite of poultry in the farm-yard; of brushing them off the walls with hard brooms; of introducing ants, their greatest enemies, into the granary; of exposing dead lobsters ; and, lastly, of ventilating the whole building, and frequently stirring the grain ; remedies which, of all others, are perhaps the most efficacious methods of averting damage.
For the information of those dealers who avail themselves of ar-senic, to destroy the rats and inice frequenting their corn-floors, we think it our duty to observe, that such a dangerous remedy ought never to be employed; as it has frequently produced the most fatal accidents, and as the excrements of the poisoned animals, where mixed with the grain, may likewise occasion disorders, the cause of which is not even suspected by physicians. Hence we advise those mercenary economists to substitute a remedy, which will be found equally effectual, and is perfectly safe: it merely consists in mixing two parts of pounded quick-lime with three parts of sugar, and placing at the side of it a separate shallow vessel with water. The heating nature of this composition very speedily excites thirst, and induces those depredators to drink eagerly: in conge,quence of which the lime is. slacked in their stomachs, and proves inevitably destructive.
When corn has been cleared of all impurities, in the manner above stated, it may be kept for a great number of years, nay, for ages, by depositing it in dry pits covered with strong planks : but the safer method is, to cover the heap with quick-lime, which should be gradually dissolved, by sprinkling over it a small quantity of water. This causes the uppermost grains to sprout to the height of two or three inches, and incloses them with an incrustation, through which neither air nor insects can penetrate. See Granary.
In order to ascertain the relative value of different species of grain, corn-dealers avail themselves chiefly of the combined criterion of weight and measure. In a commercial point of view, such a me. thod is doubtless the most accu-rate ; but as it cannot be explained without entering into a very diffuse detail, accompanied with numerical tables, we shall communicate to our economical readers only a few practical directions, by an attention to which, they may be sufficiently guided in the sale or purchase of corn in general :
1. Take a handful of grain from a heap, or sack, and compress it closely for a minute ; then pass it from one hand into the other, and attentively examine its flavour, whether it possess any peculiar smell, different from that which is natural to the species: in which case you may conclude that it has been repeatedly exposed to mois-ture, and undergone a slight degree of fermentation. The flour obtained from such corn, is deficient in measure, of an indifferent qua-lity, and affords neither nourishing, nor wholesome bread.
2. If, on pressure by the hand, the grains appear so solid and smooth that they in a manner glide through the fingers, without having any foreign smell or colour, in this case it may be pronounced perfectly dry, and in a good state of preservation.
3. Should, on the contrary, the corn feel rough, or, if a number •of grains, after compressing them by the dry hand, clog together and adhere to the ringers, it may be justly apprehended that such wheat, rye, etc. is damp, and possessed of all the bad properties before specified.
As the nature of the present work does not permit us to enter into a minute analytical account of the specific- gravity of different kinds of corn, and their relative proportion to each other (which properly belongs to the mercantile
Speculator), we shall supply this apparent deficiency, by the following comparative view.
Every attentive -observer will find, that frequently some species of grain bears a price in the market, far exceeding its relative value. or proportion to other kinds or grain, which, in many instances, may serve as excellent substitutes. From the prices which have prevailed in different countries, during a long series of years, we have derived the following result of numbers :
Wheat - - 41
Rye - - 32
Barley - - 23
Oats - - 14
Wbeat. Rye. Barley. Oats.
Wheat 1 1 5 4 4 3 1
It deserves, however, to be remarked, that these proportions occasionally vary, accordingly as the soil of different countries is more favourable to the production of one species of grain than to the other; and likewise as there is a greater or less demand for particular kinds of corn in the market, especially in barren or unproductive seasons. Thus, in Britain, the price of barley and oats is almost constantly disproportionate to that of wheat, and especially to rye, which may, consequently, be considered as the cheapest bread-corn. The immense quantities of malt-liquors brewed in this country, and the great number of horses kept for pleasure, are sufficient reasons why barley and oats are sold at prices comparatively higher than their intrinsic value, in relation to wheat and rye. But if the rates stated in the preceding table be adopted in the computation of prices, and the farmer, or corn-dealer, be desirous to know what proportion, for instance, the price of oats bears to that of rye, let him search in the horizontal line for oats, and in front of the perpendicular line for rye: the field, or partition whe re both meet, contains the numbers 7 : 16, namely, that the price of oats is in proportion to that of rye, as seven to sixteen ; and so forth, with respect: to the other species of corn here exhibited.
Corn. - A new method of preserving this valuable grain, is the following: Let a hollow cane or tube, about 3 feet 9 inches in length, be provided ; tapering gradually to a point downwards, in order that it may be more easily thrust to the bottom of the sack. About 150 holes, one-eighth of an inch in diameter, must be made on each side of such hollow cylinder, to the height of about 2 feet 10 inches from the bottom ; and, in order to regulate the perforation, it will be advisable to wind a pack-thread round the stick, in a spiral form; so that the holes may be about half an inch apart at the bottom, and be gradually at greater distances as they approach the top; being then one inch above each other; by which expedient a due proportion of air will be conveyed to the lower part of the corn. To the upper extremity of the cane, there should be fixed a leather pipe, 10 inches in length, and distended by means of two yards of spiral wire coiled up in it: to the upper end of such tube, a wooden fauset is to be fitted, for introducing into it the nozzle of a pair of bellows, in order to ventilate the whole sack.
If grain, when first deposited, be thus aired every second or third day, for 10 or 15 minutes, all moisture will in a short time be dissipated, and the corn will after-wards remain dry and sweet in the sacks, with very little additional trouble. - This simple practice may be advantageously adopted for the preservation of every kind of seeds and grain, excepting barley ; which if once separated from the ears, can by no means be prevented from fermenting.
Another method, lately discovered for the preservation of corn, is that of steaming it: this valuable fact was communicated by J. L. Banger, Esq. of Madeira, to Mr. MiddletoN, who has inserted extracts in his " View of the Agriculture of Middlesex." - Our limits not permitting us to detail his various experiments, we shall only state, that he steamed grain, which was much infested with the weevil, in January, and again in June. Three months after, it was in perfect preservation, being free from the depredations of that insect: and such mode of preserving grain is strongly recommended by this circumstance, that it not only yields, when ground, a larger proportion of flour; but it also retains its vegetative principle, and may be advantageously sown. Farther, as some able agriculturists attribute the smut to an insect which infests corn, Mr. BaNger conjectures that such distemper may be effectually prevented by steaming.
Different expedients have already been mentioned (vol. ii. p. 68), for securing granaries from the depredations of the Corn-Butterfly, or Weevil : - the following methods, however, are said to be practised with great success on the Continent; and we have been induced to subioin them, in order to furnish our readers with the most satisfactory information we have been able to procure on the subject. - Immerse pieces of hempen cloth in water; and, after expressing the fluid, • spread them on the infested heaps of grain: in the course of two hours, the weevils will be found adhering to the cloths, from which they must be carefully collected, to prevent the insects from escaping, and then immersed under water, in order to drown them. These vermin may also be expelled, by laying a branch of Hen-banE in the middle of a heap of grain : in such case, it will be necessary to watch them, so that they may be caught in the attempt of effecting their escape.
The last method of extirpating the Corn-butterfly, within the circle of our information, is that of distributing a number of large anthills throughout granaries and barns, in the month of June, when these magazines have been emptied of grain. The ants immediately attack and devour all the weevils: this expedient was suggested in a Paris paper; stating, at the same time, that no vermin of the latter description had appeared on the premises of a fanner, who had availed himself of those industrious insects.