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AGRICULTURAL NOTES. Oar experiences oF the of last few years have been far from pleasant, in I 1893 it was a period of excessive heat and drought, broken at the middle by a day or two of light rain- f«U that did little elsp. than aggravate the mischief. In 1894, on tbe 20rh of the month, occuired one of the most disasirous frosts of recent years, tlH-, effect of which was prac-ically to ruin the fruit crop. Last year, after an untimely foretaste of the dog days, the temperature during the third week of May fell so low that it seemed as if winter had returned, and yet before the month closed the heat again became o. intense as to bring with it the hottest day in May for nearly 30 years. The month, upon the last week of which we have now entered, can leave behind it no claim to graeful recollection on the part of agricuh urists. It has been dry, hot, and dusty, aud the atmosphere has been rendered harsh by the persistence of unseason- able winds. In the early days of hint week the drought was maintain d in full force, and the thermometer registered the highest readings of the year. If dense clouds at times obscured the skv they kept their contents to themselves, and there was no downpour such as had fervently been hoped lor. At the mi.Id;; of the week boisterous winds set in from the north, causing great discomfort to sheep that had just been relieved of their fleeces. For the remainder of the week only cloudv skies were the rule, and in many districts there were light falls of rain-the first for weeks. But there was no general break up of the drought, and no downpour on a generous scale of the much-needed rains, the absence of which is day by day becoming mere serious in its effects. Such transitory showers as visited manv localities last week serve only to malt" the see 1 that has been lying for weeks in dry and dusty I y seed beds; then, no more moisture being available either from above or from below, the young seed- lings forthwith perish. Mangel seed is at, best slow to germinate, so that it has come up verv irregu larlv. Meanwhile, the fields have become smothered with surface weeds, amidst which the drill-rows are so imperfectly defined by the mangold seedlings that it is impracticable to set the hoes to work. Hay- making-" seeds" and upland meadowâwas in pro- gress in several districts last week, and this week sainfoin is being mown. The crops are but shadowy realizations of the abundant promise they held out six weeks ago, but in the proverbial uncertainties of our climate there- is always room for the hope that the weather may undergo an entire change, and a big aftermath growth would follow a spell of heavy rains. The wheat plant is holding on bravely, but barley, especially that sown after the broken weather of March, is making poor progress, and the same is the case with oats. With field crops merely marking time, we must look elsewhere for evi- dence of continued earliness of the season. In the hedgerows the dog-rose, the maple, and the elder are in bloom, and the flat head of ilowers of the guelder rose is to be seen side by side with the fast-ripening fruits of the related shrub, the way- faring tree. On the wind-swept downs, instead of the soft cushion of fine green grass which would now be seasonable, are bright carpets of the yellow lotus and of the lemon-coloured hawkweeds, with clumps of the wiry rock-rose, of the variously- tinted polygalas, and of the slender stocks of the purging flax. The sheep's scabious, moreover, is in flower unusually early. By streamsides the yellow flag and the snakeweed, in meadows the white oxeye and the flaunting sorrel, and on arable lands the field scorpion grass and the blue sheradia are in bloom, and, as is usual in droughty seasons, are expediting the production of seed. Of grasslands, only water meadows are doing well; pastures which should now be filling up with the grand flush of grass that normally comes with June have received a check from which, excepting in specially- favoured localities, they cannot be expected to fuller recover this season, even if the weather should change for the best. The pastoral outlook is dimmed to an extent which a few weeks ago seemed barely possible, and purchasers of store stock who fully expected to have to rise to sellers' demands again find themselves in a position in which they can dictate terms. In the week ended May 16th there were 140 out- breaks of swine fever in Great Britain. The num- ber of animals slaughtered as diseased or as having been exposed to infection was 1,856, made up of 1,797 in 38 counties of England, 22 in two counties of Wales, and 37 in six counties of Scotland. INSECT PESTS. A month ago we called attention to the early abundance of insect pests, and referred to various methods for checking their attacks upon crops. Recent observations serve to show that the mis- chief has been much aggravated during the spell of bright droughty weather, which has since prevailed. The last two winters, antagonistic as they were in character, were alike favourable to the preserva- tion of insect life. It is the fairly open winter, with frequently recurring intervals of sharp frost, that is especially fatal to insects. A few days' sunny warmth in January or February will lure the small creatures from their hiding places, and one night's sudden and severe frost suffices to destroy them. In a winter like that of 1894-95 they are not to be enticed out of their snug retreats; in a winter like that of 1895-96 there is no need for them to remain in concealment. Wide fluctuations of temp2rature and frequent alternations of freez- ing and thawing are the winter conditions most inimical to insect life, and the last two winters have not furnished these conditions. The results may now be seen in field and garden and hedgerow. The newly-seeded cruciferous crops turnips, swedes, rape-have scarcely made any show yet or they would probably have suffered as much from attack of fly above ground as other crops have from the ceaseless ravages of wireworms and simi- lar subterranean pests at the roots. Where condi- tions have permitted of germination the surface caterpillers or cut-worms "âthe larvae of certain night-flying moths-have made short work of the seedling plant by biting through the neck oif collar âa procedure as fatal in effect as it is simple in execution. Hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, and other hedgerow shrubs are disfigured by swarms of leaf-rollers and web-spinners, the presence of which renders the foliage filthy and repulsive. In gardens neglected gooseberry trees have been stripped of their loaves more thoroughly than a sheep is shorn of its fleece, the culprit in this case being the grub of the sawfly-Nemutus ribesii. Apple and pear trees are the involuntary hosts of a variety of uninvited guests whose depredations demand a prompt resort to repressive measures. Strawberries and roses are smothered with aphis, but here again cultivators who will take the trouble may reap the reward of their exertions. An eye should be given to the asparagus beds, which are just now infested by the handsome httle cross- bearer beetle, Crioc-eris asparagi, and the female is laying her eggs, according to her fashion, with almost geometrical precision upon the shoots. The slender eggs are glued at one end to the plant, from the surface of which they stand out perpen- dicularly in the most conspicuous manner. The olive-coloured larva; will shortly be emerging from these eggs, and a syringing with warm water fol- lowed by a sprinkling of soot on the ground where the grubs havel fallen may be oonducive to the welfare of the asparagus bed. It is some years since there was such a general abundance of insect pests, and it is desirable to keep a sharp eye upon crops of all kinds-mere superficial observation is useless. LUCERNE. The dry seasons we have had have brought many farmers to look mere favourably on luncerne as a forage crop. Apart from the fact of dryness, it is quite evident that lucerne is not grown in the United Kingdom anything so extensively as it merits. With dry seasons it would be extremely valuable. It is a plant which does not need much rain in fact, where there is a heavy rainfall it is not at all a suitable crop. Although the best time for sowing lucerne is April, it may be got in during any month up to September. The general way is to "sow lucerne with wheat or some other cereal crop, but the practice is not good it is better to sow it alone, because the crop can be easily cleaned, and it is necessary this should be well done, for in its early goowth it will soon be overrun with weeds and practically destroyed. In seasons when red clover would be entirely burnt up, luceinn will stand and thrive, and it has the advantage of mak- ing excellent bay if care is taken in the operation. Those who may contemplate growing this crop will be glad to know that it is a plant which will with- stand low temperatures, and in this country it would rarely suffer from the frosts we experience. The stems of lucerne vary in height from one to three feet. They are branched, and provided with abundant foliage, the leavss being compound and trifoliate, and the flower blue or violet coloured. The stout underground stock, or rhizome, has no btolons, all the branches ascending directly into the air. It is this character which prevents lucerne from covering the ground completely, and so leaves space in which weeds make headway, to the detri- ment of the lucerne. When the stem is cut the stump dies, but the buds on the rhizome formed when the stem was growing in the air begin to shoot and become new branches. During the first year of growth the root penetrates the loose soil to the depth of about two feet; in a rich soil full per- fection is reached in the second year, and if the soil is poor only in the third. Generally speaking land after lucerne should be broken up after a ley of the Continent th 're are lucerne plots which are at j ioudv a quarter ot a century o<u. But generally j speaking, the ,ield gr.»uiy diminishes after the snorter time mentioned. The crop commences at the end of April or the beginning of Mav, and it. is important to cut some lime before flowering. otherwise the stems harden and in that condition are not s.) readily eaten by stock. TOP DRJ>SINGS. Nitrate of soda is very often applied in quantities far too large for the healthy growth of the crops and it is this o.'erdressiug which creates the dis- satisfaction felt by those who use it iiJjudiciouBly .and unsatisfactorily. When a culcularion is abolit to be made with regard to the quantity of nitrate which should be given to a field of wheat, it ought to be remembered that 2 cwt. per acre will supply all the nitrogen the crop can take up advanta- geously. This quantity would be sufficient if the land had been cropped with vheat continuously for a number of years, and during the whole time had received no manure. Few field, even in these hard times, will be found in such an exhausted condition, as, if no farmyard manure has been spread upon it, there will have been such restorative crops as seeds, or roots will have been fed on the land, with | or without cike. Not half of this quantity is required on an average where an ordinary comple- ment of stock is raised. On strong clav, lewt. to H 2 cwt. can be used without the wheat going down, and on light soils cwt. There is, how- ever, another point worth remembering, that the application of nitrate beyond a certain point does harm rather than good the profit which will follow if a moderate quantity is applied is not found in a further increased crop when more than is necessary is used. Frequently, iewt of nitrate is sufficient to make all the difference between a medium and a first rate yield, and the money ex. pended is paid four-fold. In a general way from ew. to cwt is the safest dressing, it thus forming the necessary auxiliary to the manurial quantities already in the land. Men who restrict themselves to a judicious use of this manure rarely condemn it, for they have substantial reasons to be highlv satisfied with its results on the other hand, men who employ it with too great freedom spea.- badly of it, and blame the manure instead of themselves. The above remarks also apply to nitrates on barley, except that, as tho quality of the latter is more easily destroyed, it is still more necessary to keep close to a normal growth. Oats may be treated with more freedom, as they can develop when libeially manured. For several mouths there has been little rain, and the nitric acid which formed during the autumn has not been washed out of the soil, as being very soluble, it does in wet winters. Therefore, there is a considerable quantity of nitrates in the land available for the crops, and the application of such food should necessarily be less heavy. PRICES OF FARM PRODUCE. There appears to be a general impression that the agricultural position has been much improved by the slow advance to present prices of wheat when compared with the value that prevailed some I two years ago. Reference, however, to the figures which record cereal prices a year ago will (not create any considerable satisfaction. At the present time English wheat is worth only 25s 7d per qr., which is not more than 2s 9d improvement on the year, and the figure is still below the line of profitable cultivation. Barley shows a trifle advance on the year-6d per quarterânow standing at 21s. Oats, on the other hand, are worth Is 2d per quarter less than at this period of 1895. When we turn to the meat market we find that beef and mutton are Jd per lb. less in valaes on the week, 2 and lambs Id per lb. The prices of other farm produce also show diminishing values, so it is clear that, far from the depression being removed, it is being more accentuated through a lower range of prices. Taking a rough balance of the higher and lower prices of farm produce as a whole, it will be found that the British farmer is actually in a worse position at tne present moment than he was a year ago. And the large supplies of grain and meat which are being sent to this country make it very unlikely that the position will be improved. It may be noted in connection with the imports that prices keep falling, and it is announced that the freight of meat from Canada has been con- siderably reduced. The following table shows the farmers' deliveries during the week, together with average prices (season 38 iveeks) Averago Average Av, 39 Wheat price Barley price Oats prices, Averago Average Av'ag Wheat priee Barley price Oats prices Qr s d Qr s d Qr s d This week 36,896 25 6 3,359 21 8 6,673 14 6 1 ast weck 37,245 25 7 4,471 21 0 9,288 14 5 This season 1,28 ,920 25 1J 3,K47.509 23 6j 639.321 13 loi Last â 1,767,978 20 1 3.126.032 22 0 629,771 14 3 -â 0