General Observations on Green fodder Crops—would prevent Losses of Cattle in Seasons of Drought—One Acre equivalent to Fourteen Acres of the best Pastures—Indian Corn, or Maize, cultivated in France, and at the Cape of Good Hope, as Cattle Fodder—Its produce at St. Helena, in less than Four Months from the Period of Sowing, was Thirty Tons per Acre. Remarks on the Culture of Kidney Beans—Green fodder Crops of these recommended.
THE introduction on this island of green crops of fodder, for the sustenance of cattle of all kinds, is a subject I have frequently adverted to in several papers that have been issued from the St. Helena press. I have there shewn the great advantages that would be derived from imitating a practice—which has been long and successfully established in almost all countries in the world—but which, until lately, had never found its way to this island.
I shall not recapitulate what may be found in those papers—it is indeed unnecessary : for the facts I am now to relate, without any reference whatever to my former statements, ought to be sufficient to impress on every unbiassed mind, the importance of green-fodder crops, which I trust every cattle breeder here will duly consider : their introduction upon an enlarged scale would undoubtedly be the very best means of securing his own interest and of promoting the general welfare of the island.
By the introduction of cattle crops, I have formerly shewn how easily those evils which had frequently occurred, might have been alleviated—if not wholly prevented. It is well known what heavy losses in cattle have been sometimes sustained in seasons of drought: but, as it has been ascertained, that corn, when once fairly established (even during unseasonable or scanty rains) soon covers and shades the soil from the sun's heat, and from the drying winds—and that it advances to maturity, even in the driest weather; it would be absurd to say that the common precautions used in other countries to provide food for cattle, and to avert calamities among them when the pastures fail, would not succeed equally here as elsewhere. Nay, I have no hesitation in declaring my opinion that this species of husbandry, as well as every other would succeed ; and prove even more profitable to St. Helena cultivators than it is to English farmers—who can have only one crop in the year : because, as vegetation here is never obstructed by frost and severe winters, two certain crops may be secured annually, if due attention be paid to the proper seasons of putting them in the ground.
Confident as I feel in those opinions, which are founded upon the basis of the most accurate experiments, I have been not a little astonished at the pains which I find have been lately taken to impress on the minds of several gentlemen in the direction for the affairs of the East India Company, the total impossibility of introducing agriculture at St. Helena. Those who have declared such sentiments could have known but little of the ample returns, and unexampled profits, which have been derived here, from lands brought into cultivation. There are now in England two gentlemen (Lieutenant Colonel Greentree and Mr. Dunn), who can readily correct such erroneous assertions. They have both had considerable experience in improving their lands—and they assured me, as I stated, in a letter to the Court of Directors, dated the 10th of October 1809—“that in bringing land into cultivation they have been always reimbursed the whole expense by the first year's produce.”
Is it possible to imagine, in any country, a greater incitement to industry, and to extensive agriculture?—Or can there possibly be a stronger proof of the fertility of the soil, and of the certain advantages that are within the reach of every industrious landholder? It has long been my belief that nothing but common exertion, and a proper system of farming, are wanting to make St Helena productive of almost every necessary of life for its inhabitants. There ire at least two or three thousand acres of excellent land capable of the highest degree of improvement, which might be appropriated to this laudable purpose ; and as I have already observed, that two crops a year are attainable from those lands, they would he in fact equivalent to almost double that extent in the northern climates. The following detail of experiments will tend to illustrate these observations.
Green fodder from Oats.
On the 5th of February last, some oats of a long thin sort, received from the Cape of Good Hope, which weighed no more than 31 pounds per bushel, were ploughed in upon about two acres of some good land at Plantation-house, at the rate of two bushels per acre. They were later in coming up than usual, on account of there having been very little rain—for it was not until the 20th that a good many of the young plants appeared. Some fine showers however, early in March, succeeded by heavy rains during the remainder of that month, speedily gave the crop a very exuberant appearance:—By the 6th of April a few ears were seen ; and on that day, after a lapse of two months from putting the seed in the ground, we began to cut the crop for the purpose of green fodder. Mr. Breame, an experienced Norfolk farmer, who manages the Company's farms here, declares he never beheld in so short a time after sowing, so weighty a crop. It was my intention to have ascertained the weight at two months ; but on account of drizzling rains, which would have added to the weight, I postponed it until the 9th of April ; when the crop was dry and in presence of Doctor Baildon, Mr. Breame, and some others, a square rod was accurately marked out—the produce of which weighed exactly 200 pounds avoirdupoise ; this is at the rate of 32,000 pounds, or 14¼ tons of fine green fodder per acre. This, in the short period of 64 days from sowing the seed, is a large produce; although probably not so much as it may weigh when farther advanced. It is my intention to ascertain the weight of the produce of this crop of green fodder, at three and at four months growth, conceiving that such trials might lead to useful deductions.
In order to form a comparison with the produce of grass land at the present time (and immediately after the most favourable rains since my arrival in 1808) 1 marked out a square rod on the lawn in front of the Plantation-house, which is as good as most of the best pastures, and had the grass mowed—the produce weighed only 12½ pounds—or at the rate of 2000 pounds, or less than one ton per acre. Consequently one acre of green fodder corn in 64 days from the seed, is equal to the produce of 14 acres of the best pastures. But this is not all—a crop of green fodder may be secured almost at any season ; whereas, it sometimes happens, in the months of November and December, our driest and hottest season, that one hundred acres of pasture lands would not yield a, single ton of grass. Compare also the short time required, for a beast to take his full feed of green corn, with the many hours necessary in vainly attempting to fill himself on parched and bare pasture lands. In the first case the animal would soon be satisfied, and might go to sleep : but in the second he must necessarily waste the whole day in wandering over many acres, until he is wearied—and after all lie must lay down almost famished : this is the fate of many poor neglected animals on St. Helena ; who are left to provide for their own wants ; and of which but too many indeed often perish for want of assistance, and sufficient sustenance.
Indian Corn, or Maize.
It appears by the Statistique generale et particuliere de la France, that this grain is cultivated in several of the departments with a view to fodder the cattle—and, when ripened, it is used for feeding poultry, &c. Lord Caledon informed me, when he visited this island in July 1811, that lie always used it at the Cape of Good Hope for his carriage horses, and had found it to be extremely nourishing. At that time I had a small patch, measuring 44 by 33 feet, which was then grown to the height of about eight feet—and in seed. It had been dibbled three inches deep, and three seeds in each hole (as many of the seeds were bad) on the 6th of April 1811 . On the 17th it had come up well, and afterwards grew luxuriantly. On the 30th of July I ascertained the produce of one square rod to be 425 pounds, which is 68,000 pounds, or 30 tons per acre. The seed had been 115 days in the soil ; and although the lower parts of the steins were at this age rattier hard, the whole was greedily devoured in the hoggery. But, as a green fodder for horses, or cattle, or for hogs, it would he better to cut it after two or three months from the time of sowing—when the stems will be soft, and more tender and juicy. In this state it would prove a very nutritious fodder—and I should suppose the produce might then be betwixt 20 and 25 tons per acre.
Black speckled Kidney Beans.
St. Helena formerly abounded with “bean grounds,” of which traces are still to be seen : out of late years they have occupied only a place in the gardens. Their culture appears to me worthy of attention. Their growth is rapid—they are not liable to be infested with vermin of any kind—they thrive in almost all soils. In their young state they yield a very thick foliage, but not exceeding 18 or 20 inches in height from the ground—and they have abundance of long pods, fit for table use, or for cattle, hogs, &c. When ripe the bean produce is very great—exceeding ninety bushels per acre.
On the 31st of October last, observing that some black speckled beans, in the Plantation-house garden, (which the gardener had left for seed) had an extraordinary number of pods, I was induced to ascertain what might be the actual produce of an acre from. such a crop, if sown in rows at one foot asunder. Accordingly on that day, 33 feet of rows were measured, and the beans carefully gathered, and taken out of the pods. I kept them in a dry place until the 20th December; when they were weighed ; the 33 feet of rows yielded sixty six and one half ounces.
Now as an acre planted in the above manner, would contain 43560 feet of rows, the extent of 33 feet is the 1320th part—consequently this sum multiplied by 66½ ounces gives the produce 87780 ounces, or 5486 pounds, per acre.
Having found a jug, that held 30¾ ounces of wheat, to contain exactly 30 ounces of beans, the weight of a bushel of those beans may be rated at 59 pounds; by which dividing the 5486 pounds, the produce thus deduced is 93 bushels per acre.
This crop was sown on the 27th June 1811, and therefore had been 126 days in the soil. The drills in which the seeds were planted were three feet asunder ; and the seeds were so close as to touch each other. This appeared to me injudicious—because the intervals between the rows exposed too much naked surface to the sun's rays, and the young plants coming up too thick must rob each other of nourishment, and consequently retard their growth. I therefore directed the gardener to prepare a bed for a different mode of culture.
I have found by experience that on this island, it is of much importance to make a crop cover the ground as speedily as possible. When this is effected, as the soil is shaded, the moisture cannot he easily exhaled—and every passing shower, as well as dews, are of great service ; because they descend to the roots, and promote vegetation. On the contrary, the dews or light rains falling upon a naked interval, produce no effect upon the crop ; for they are immediately taken up in the day by the sun's heat, and by the drying winds. This is the case even on those days when occasionally several drizzling rains, or light showers have fallen : and that these are of no real benefit may be observed by the pastures, where no improvement is seen until they have been well soaked by heavy rains.
In the bed, which was prepared, drills at 15 inches asunder were opened about three inches deep ; and the beans put in at three inches from each other ; they were then covered with the soil.
This experiment was begun on the 9th of January 1812 . On the 19th the young plants were finely come up ; and on the 20th of February there were some in blossom. They were uncommonly exuberant and strong—and had much larger leaves, and were in every respect greatly superior to an adjoining crop, sown nine days earlier—and treated according to the old practice here of crowding the seeds in the rows, and having wider intervals.
This new mode succeeded beyond my expectation. The crop in 42 days after sowing completely covered the soil, and was in excellent condition as a fodder for cattle. That cattle and horses and bogs will eat it has been ascertained—and it may he interred they are even fond of it: for some cattle having lately broken into an enclosure, at Long Wood, devoured the whole of a small crop of this sort of bean.
On the 13th of March it is noted in my Journal “that many of the kidney beans sown on the 9th of January are now fit for gathering.” At this age (about two months) they resemble French beans in the state they are used at tables in England , but are much larger. On the 9th of April (that is three months after sowing) the leaves of a great part of the crop had fallen off, the pods had withered, and the beans were full grown. This experiment proves that from black speckled kidney beans a weighty crop of green fodder might be obtained in six weeks from the period of sowing ; and that in two months the pods and leaves had become an excellent and nutritious fodder ; whilst the pods in their green state might supply abundantly the fleets that touch here with a vegetable at a. moderate price, which would keep some time, and be highly conducive to the health of seamen after their long voyages.
The following is a concise view of these two crops of beans, and of three others that are now in progress.
EXPERIMENT, No. 1.
1811, June 27.—Sowed black speckled kidney beans—rows 3 feet asunder, and seeds very close in the drills.
October 23.—Cut 33 feet of rows—and collected the pods—their contents weighed 66½ ounces—this, if the rows be one foot asunder, is at the rate of 5486 pounds, or 93 bushels per acre. The beans in this state appear to be proper food for horses, or for feeding hogs ; but being bard should be soaked in water or bruised.
EXPERIMENT, No. 2.
1811, Dec. 31.—Sowed several rows of beans very thick in the drills.
1812, Feb. 19.—The crop about 15 inches high, and in blossom, in 50 days.
April 12.—Not so well advanced at this time as No. 3, which was sown 9 days later : this proves the superiority of placing the seeds at some distance in the drills.
EXPERIMENT, No. 3.
1812, January 9.—Opened drills 15 inches asunder—beans sown 3 inches apart in the drills ; and 3 inches deep.
January 19.—Finely come up.
February 20.—Blossoms appearing : this is 42 days after sowing.
March 13.—Many pods in a green state—fit for gathering in 64 days.
April 9.—Leaves withered and falling off—many pods fully ripe and fit for gathering in three months after planting.
EXPERIMENT, No. 4.
1812, February 22.—Sowed six rows 4 feet asunder: 3 inches from bean to bean in the drill.
April 4.—In blossom—luxuriant crop—18 inches high in 42 days.
April 10.—Observed a good many young pods in 48 days.
April 12.—Cut 33 feet of rows—Produce 26 pounds. This being the 1320th part of an acre (if rows be one foot asunder) is at the rate of 34320 pounds, or 153 tons of excellent green-fodder per acre, in 50 days after sowing the seed. During the growth of this crop, the season was unusually favourable—7 3/10 inches of rain fell during the month of March.
EXPERIMENT, No. 5.
1812, March 3.—Sowed several rows of black speckled kidney, and several rows adjoining with the negro or black bean.
April 12.—Some of the black speckled are in blossom ; in 40 days—the negro beans are not so strong nor so forward—season favourable—copious rains.
Since I closed the preceding statement of the five Experiments in the culture of kidney beans, I have this day (the 16th of April) ascertained the final result of No. 3, which was begun on the 9th of January last.
The leaves having entirely fallen, the pods being dry, and in a state of ripeness, 33 feet of rows were measured. The produce in clean beans weighed 54 ounces; which being from the 1320th of an acre, give the produce (rows one foot asunder) 71,280 ounces; or 4455 pounds, or very nearly two tons per acre. It will be perceived that the same length of rows in No. 1. produced, on the 23d of October, 1811 , 66½ ounces :—but it must be observed that in No. 1. the quantity of seed sown was six or eight times greater than in No. 3. A jug that contained 30 ounces of No. 1. crop, contained very nearly 32 ounces of No. 3. crop, weighed at the time it was gathered : but No. 1. was not weighed until two months after being gathered. It is therefore probable, when No. 3. is also dried, that the same measure of beans will be of the same weight as the other.
I found that 49 beans of No. 3. weighed one ounce—this is 784 beans to a pound: and, the produce of the 33 feet of rows being 54 ounces, must of course be 2736 beans.
Now, as an acre planted in rows one foot asunder, will contain 43,560 feet of rows, and as tour beans are required to a foot (if placed in the rows three inches asunder), the number of beans required to plant an acre, in that manner, is 174,240, which divided by 784 beans in a pound is 222 pounds two-tenths, or very nearly four bushels. If a reference he made to the deduced produce, 4455 pounds, from No. 3, the return has been no more than 20 from 1 of seed beans. This indeed is greatly inferior to barley wheat, which, by dibbling, yielded a return of 405 for one!
From the preceding results it is clearly demonstrated that the most profitable culture of kidney beans is in green fodder crops. On the 12th instant, experiment No. 4, gave 34,320 pounds per acre of nutricious fodder, from seed sown in the proportion of 222 pounds two-tenths per acre ; which is a return, in weight, of 150 fold ; and this in the short period of 50 days, after putting the seed in the ground.
Mr. Jennings, the Company's gardener at Plantation-house, who has, for several years, cultivated beans of various sorts, assures me that the black speckled are superior to any other ; they bear sooner, and yield a more weighty crop. At Lemon Valley , a warm and well sheltered place, not much above the level of the sea, he has obtained six crops in the course of one year, from the same spot of land. A reference to the preceding experiments will spew that this is very possible : but, supposing only four crops a year from the same land, and to be used as green fodder in the state of experiment No. 4, when it was cut on the 12th of April, and yielded 153 tons per acre in 50 days, the total annual produce would be 60 tons, or 134,400 pounds from one acre of land. Now, if 50 pounds a day were allotted to each beast, there would be 2688 rations, or sufficient to teed seven beasts during the year, from one acre of beans.
Deductions of this kind are so far useful that they point out capabilities ; and, in the present case, clearly chew whit might be accomplished at St. Helena , whenever a proper spirit of industry shall have been excited, and the practice of husbandry generally introduced. Many people here may possibly assert that such things are impossible, “because they have never seen them:” but unbiassed minds, when they see facts opposed to bare assertion and opinion, can never be at a loss in deciding upon points of this nature.
When to the preceding details, respecting green-fodder cops. are added all that may be seen in the Laws and Ordinances. Goat Papers, and St. Helena Registers, upon my experiments in the culture of corn, and particularly of barley wheat, a judgment can easily be formed, whether or not it be practicable to succeed in agriculture on this island.
16th April, 1812.