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THE WHEAT CROP OF 1893. BY SIR TOHN B. LAWB8. It would give me much pleasure to be able to record an abundant crop of wheat, LE in this the jubilee year of the Bothamsted Wheatfield, instead of which the crop is not only one of the worst which we have ever grown, but it will also, I fear, prove to be to the English farmer a crop of very low acreage value. The circumstances, however, under which our crop has been grown are very peculiar and somewhat obscure, and make it almost impossible to use the results as a basis for estimating the amount of wheat which the crop of the country will yield. It would have been in some respects more agreeable to me to omit the report altogether for this season, but after it has appeared annually for the last thirty years this would make it seem probable that no further report would be published. No doubt the majority of readers are chiefly interested in these reports as furnishing a sort of guide to the requirements of the country for imported corn, but there are others, and, I hope, an increasing number, who take some interest in what may be called the science of the subject, and wish to know the cause of the violent fluctuations in the yield of a crop which, both in regard to all the farming operations, and to the manures applied, is treated in exactly the same manner every year. Why, for instance, the three artificial manures which, in 1863, the first year of our annual report, gave each of them a crop of 55 bushels per acre, are this year giving a produce of a little over 20 bushels ? October, 1892, was a wet month, but the seed was got in just at the end of it under favourable conditions; November was fairly dry, with about an average temperature; December was a dry month, the first week was cold with a very low night temperature, this was followed by a fortnight of warm weather, the last week being exceedingly cold, the thermometer registering 17 and 18 degrees of frost. January this year was rather dry, but very cold, especially during the early part of the month; on the 4th, 5th, and 6th the thermometer never rose above freezing point, whilst the night tem- perature showed on one occasion 17 degrees of frost. February was a very wet month, with temperature above the average. March was very dry, but the temperature, although high for the month, was subject to great extremes the days being hot owing to the great amount of sunshine—198 hours being recorded-and the nights excessively cold. April was almost without rain, with a high day temp6rature owing to the large amount of sunshine, 271 hours being recorded. May was also a dry month, and very warm, destroying the prospects of the hay crop. June was both hot and dry. In July we had nearly three inches of rain, distributed fairly over the month, and the weather was hot, bringing in a very forward harvest. August was again dry and a better month than July, a temperature over 90 being recorded by us and in many other localities. The season is, therefore, one of a very peculiar character, and is the only instance in our experience in which a dry spring and summer has not produced an abundant wheat crop. The following table shows in the usual form the produce of wheat in 1893 on the [ selected plots in the field at Rothamatead which has now grown the crop for 50 years in succession, and it also gives for com- parison the average produce of the same plots for ten years, 31 years, and 41 years, 1852-1892 inclusive. Bushels of Dresaed Grain, per acre. »— C'I Artificial Manures o a* Sis a £ *o's u S* 51 Kot o ►§ ffci 3 Plot Plot 9 (or g goT« 7 8 16). a Sto Averages 204 21J 19* 21* (1) St !ti!« & St 3 41 years 1852-92 13 34| 33 36| 36* 35$i 27f (4) Weight per bushel of Dressed Grain, lbs. 1893- ¡ «2f 63$62* 62f 62 £ 6-'f 62* Averages. 10 years 1883-92 60 61* 61 61 60i 60! 601 31 years 1852-82 575 60 59$59* 58| 59 5s! J 41 years 1852-92f 58*j 60* 592 59iJ 59 59J 59* Total Straw, Chaff, &e., per acre, cwts. Avenge. 5* m U* VSi 1U 12* 12* 10 years 1883-92 8* 34* 31$38* 403 37i 31 years 1852 82 11* 32* 33| 40* S 381 2S 41 years 1852-92 10j 32* 33* 40* 41{| 38f 27* (1) Equal to 22* bushels at 60 lbs. Der bushel (2) Equal to 29* bushels at 60 lbs. ptr bushel (3) Equal to 2g| bushels at 60 lbs. per bushel. (4) Equal to 27* bushels at 60 lbs. per bushel. The figures in this table appear to con- firm in a general way the opinion of farmers respecting the crop of the country that the yield is bad, that the quality of the corn, as shown by the weight per bushel is exceed- ingly good, and that the straw is excessively short; all these features are brought out in the table. The permanently unmanured plot gives a produce of less than 10 bushels against an average of 12 £ bushels during the last ten years. The plot receiving farm- yard manure gives 84t bushels, or a decline 4 of 4 bushels from the average of the last 19 years. It is, however, in the produce of the three plots manured with artificial manures that the great falling off in the produce is shown. The mean produce of the three plots gives 20i bushels per acre against a mean produce of 37 bushels durin- the last ten years, and the plot which receives the largest amount of manure gives only 411 ousneis, or little more than one-half the average yield during the last ten years, which amounted to 38.1 bushels. AH the plots give wheat of very high weight per bushel, none being below 621b. and rising to 63 lb. Thfe quantity of straw is in every case remarkably small, not exceeding the weight of the grain. In some seasons when the yield of grain is very low the farmer has some compensation in a large produce of straw; such was tho case in 1879 when the grain grown upon the plot receiving the largest amount of artificial manure was nearly the same as it is this year, but instead of growing only 13i ewt. of straw it 8 grew nearly two tons. Farmers are said to grow wheat now quite as much for the straw as for the grain; the very small weight of straw grown this year must there- fore be a serious loss, coming as it does in a season when the hay crop is almost a failure. It is generally considered that dry springs and summers are favourable to wheat, and certainly up to the present year all^the dry seasons have resulted in large yields of wheat in one field. In the present year the drought began earlier and lasted longer than it did in the previous dry seasons. As, however, we had this year in the field ad- joining our wheat field a very abundant crop of barley, it is quite impossible to attribute the bad crop of wheat to the absence of moisture in the soil. The wheat was sown at the usual time—the last week in October; it came up well, and did not suffer from loss of plant during the severe, weather in December and January; in fact, there was up to the time the wheat began its spring growth, a sufficient plant to grow the largest crop all through the season. After the great rains of February had ceased, the artificial manures, consisting of salts of ammonia and nitrate of soda were applied in the usual manner. March and April were very dry months, and although the wheat plant looked healthy it was, noticed that it did not progress in the usual manner, and it was thought that there was some want of action in the manures. In one of our experiments the whole of the salts of ammonia are applied at the time the time the seed is sown, in order to measure the loss of manure by winter drainage, and in a season like this, when so little drainage took place, we should expect this plot to yield a crop of not much less than 40 bushels of wheat per acre, whereas it yielded less than 20. It was evident, therefore, that there was some cause which prevented the manure from acting in the usual manner upon the growth of the crop. Practical farmers are well aware of the fact that during sudden and violent changes of tem- perature the soil rises and lifts the wheat plant with it, tearing it from the lower roots. Several instances of these sudden changes have occurred this year during the growth of the crop. The beginning of February was warm and wet, but on the 5th there were seven degrees of frost, and on the following day eleven degrees. The first half of March was warm and almost without frost, but on the night of the 18th the temperature fell below freezing point, and also on each of the nine succeeding nights. On the nights of the 20th and 21st there were nine degrees of frost, with sunshine all day, and a high temperature. It is prob- able, therefore, that upon one of these occasions the separation of the plant from the root took place, and the absence of rain in March and April prevented the plant from sending down fresh roots. The men who reaped the wheat noticed that it had very little hold upon the ground. It is not difficult to see why the wheat growing upon land manured every year with farmyard manure should suffer less than that grown in the other parts of the field. Whether this explanation is correct or not, the fact remains that our crop is a very bad one, as will be seen when we apply the results to the crop of the country. The area under wheat in the United Kingdom was less than two million acre. (1,952,476). and if we take the yield of our crop in the usual manner, it amounts to 22t b 2 bushels per acre at 601b per bushel This will make the crop grown in the United Kingdom a trifle less than 51 million quar- ters, and, deducting two bushels per acre for seed, leaves a crop of five million quarters available for consumption. It is estimated that the average number of the population in the middle of the harvest-year (1893-4) will amount to about 38,644,190, and allow- ing a consumption of 6 bushels per head our requirements will be very close upon 29 million quarters. It is to be hoped that the wheat crop of the country may be much greater than my figures indicate, and I cer- tainly place no reliance upon my crop, grown under such exceptional circumstances: I can quite believe that while localities extremely large cror have been harvested, in OoL jield must be exceedingly op,p" ver the produce of the eoiw ihing is quite certain, thjo t jrth less to the English tanners th heat crop grown during the present ry. In the Malr" Lane Express of October if t is stated that t;, amount of imported wheELt in ware- ^C ases at the principal ports in the United Kingdom on October 1st amounted to over ^ur million quarters, while in the same paper IV ..as stated that there were nearly two—and—three- quarter milli)n quarters ithipped and on their way it-o his country. Under the influence of these enormous figures, the difference between a good and bad crop of wheat, however important it may be to the farmer of this country, can have no appreciable influence in the quan- tities which the world is prepared to send into our ports. During the present year not more tnan about seventeen out of every hundred of our population will be fed upon bread made from corn grown in the United Kingdom, and as the area to be sown with wheat will probably be further reduced, we may look for a still greater falling off in the consumption of home-grown wheat. «


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