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The Farm That Won't Wear Out by Cyril G. Hopkins

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The Farm That Won't Wear Out

By Cyril G. Hopkins



WAS FIRST published serially in THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, the privilege
having been granted the author of subsequent publication. It is now
issued in book form in response to numerous requests coming
especially from the Central, Eastern, and Southern States.



_"Population must increase rapidly, more rapidly than in former
times, and ere long the most valuable of all arts will be the art of
deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of

_"It is not the land itself that constitutes the farmer's wealth,
but it is in the constituents of the soil, which serve for the
nutrition of plants, that this wealth truly consists."--Liebig._


CHAPTER I: What Goes To Make Up Permanent Fertility

CHAPTER II: The Nitrogen Problem And Its Economical Solution

CHAPTER III: Phosphorus: Thke Master Key To Permanent Agriculture

CHAPTER IV: Permanent Soil Fertility: Its Relation to Profits and
Future Values



IT IS an old saying that "any fool can farm," and this was almost
the truth when farming consisted chiefly in reducing the fertility
of new, rich land secured at practically no cost from a generous
Government. But to restore depleted soils to high productive power
in economic systems is no fool's job, for it requires mental as well
as muscular energy; and no apologies should be expected from those
who necessarily make use of technical terms in the discussion of
this technical subject, notwithstanding the common foolish advice
that farmers should be given a sort of "parrot" instruction in
almost baby language instead of established facts and principles in
definite and permanent scientific terms. The farmer should be as
familiar with the names of the ten essential elements of plant food
as he is with the names of his ten nearest neighbors. Safe and
permanent systems of soil improvement and preservation may come with
intelligence--never with ignorance--on the part of the landowners.

When the knowledge becomes general that food for plants is just as
necessary as food for animals, then American agriculture will mean
more than merely working the land for all that's in it. This
knowledge is as well established as the fact that the earth is
round, although the people are relatively few who understand or make
intelligent application of the existing information.

Agricultural plants consist of ten elements, known as the essential
elements of plant food; and not a kernel of corn or a grain of
wheat, not a leaf of clover or a spear of grass can be produced if
the plant fails to secure any one of these ten elements. Some of
these are supplied to plants in abundance by natural processes;
others are not so provided and must be supplied by the farmer, or
his land becomes impoverished and unproductive.

Foods That Plants Live On

Two elements, carbon and oxygen, are contained in normal air in the
form of a gas called carbon dioxid, and this compound is taken into
the plant through the breathing pores, which are microscopic
openings located chiefly on the under side of the leaves. Some
plants have more than a hundred thousand breathing pores to the
square inch of leaf surface.

When plants or plant products are burned or decomposed the carbon of
the combustible material--grass, wood, coal, and so forth--unites
with the free oxygen of the atmosphere to re-form the carbon dioxid,
which thus returns as a gas to the air. Even the food taken into the
animal system, after being digested and carried into the blood, is
brought, into contact with the oxygen of the air--which also passes
into the blood through the cell walls of the lungs--and a form of
combustion takes place, the heat generated serving to warm the body
while the carbon dioxid passes back into the lungs and is exhaled
into the open air.

By these circulation processes the supply of carbon dioxid in the
atmosphere is renewed and maintained without any special effort on
the part of man. Hydrogen is one of the elements of which water is
composed. Water is taken into the plant through the roots, carried
through the stems to the leaves, and there, under the influence of
chlorophyll, sunlight and the life principle, the carbon, oxygen and
hydrogen are made to unite into some of the most important plant
compounds, such as the sugars, which are later transformed into
starch and fiber.

Though these three elements constitute the larger part of the mature
agricultural plant they are no more necessary for plant growth than
the seven which are supplied by the soil. Iron is one of the
essential elements of plant food; but the amount required by plants
is so small and the amount contained in the soil is so large that
soils have never been known to become deficient in iron. Though
sulfur is found in plants in very appreciable amounts and is known
to be essential to plant growth, it is evident that plants do not
need so much sulfur as they often contain, some of it being taken up
and merely tolerated, as is the case with all of the sodium and
silicon found in plants, neither of these being required for normal
growth, although commonly found in plants in very considerable
amounts. The supply of sulfur in normal soils is not large; but,
with the combustion and decay of organic materials--coal, wood,
grass, leaves, and so forth--sulfur passes into the air and is
brought back to the soil dissolved in rain or absorbed by direct
contact of soil and air. Thus under normal conditions the supply of
sulfur naturally provided is ample to meet the needs of the staple
farm crops, although there are some plants, such as cabbage, for
example, which may possibly be benefited by fertilizing with sulfur.

But there are five other essential elements of plant food, and these
require special consideration in connection with permanent soil
fertility. They are potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and
nitrogen. There are also five important points to be kept in mind in
relation to each of these elements: (1) the soil's supply, (2) the
crop requirements, (3) the loss by leaching, (4) the methods of
liberation, and (5) the means of renewal.

The neglect of one or more of these important points in relation to
one or more of these five elements has reduced the fertility of most
cultivated soils in the United States, has greatly impoverished the
older farm lands, and has brought agricultural abandonment to
millions of acres in the original thirteen states. On the other
hand, intelligent attention to these same factors will bring
restoration and high productive power to such lands.

England's Best Lesson in Farming

Where these five elements were supplied regularly to land on the
Rothamsted Experiment Station the average yield of wheat for the
thirty years, 1852 to 1881, was 35.9 bushels an acre, while 13.6 was
the average yield of similar unfertilized land; and during the next
thirty years--1882 to 1911--the corresponding average yields were 38
bushels an acre on the fertilized land, and 11.7 bushels where no
plant food was applied. These statements are not mere opinions, but
determined facts whose accuracy stands unquestioned.

On another field at Rothamsted, England, the average yield of barley
for the same sixty years was 43 bushels an acre where nitrogen,
phosphorus and calcium were regularly applied, 42.6 where all five
elements--including potassium and magnesium--were added, but only
14.3 on unfertilized land.

On still another Rothamsted experiment field, where a four-year crop
rotation of turnips, barley, clover (or beans) and wheat has been
practiced since 1848, the yield of turnips in 1908 was 717 pounds an
acre on unfertilized land and 35,168 pounds where the five important
elements of plant food had been regularly applied once every four
years--for the turnips only--since 1848. In 1909 the barley yielded
33.4 bushels an acre on the fertilized land, but only 10 bushels
where no plant food was applied. The yield of clover in 1910 was
8590 pounds an acre on the land fertilized for turnips, but only
1949 on the unfertilized land. The wheat following the clover with
no other fertilizer produced 24.5 bushels an acre in 1911, but 38
bushels where plant food is always applied for turnips grown three
years before.

These are the established facts from the longest accurate record,
and thus the most trustworthy data the world affords; and when one
hears promulgated the very pleasing doctrine that the rotation of
crops will maintain the fertility of the soil it is time to remember
that "to err is human."

Fertility in Normal Soils

Of the four important mineral elements, potassium is by far the most
abundant in common soils. Thus, as an average of ten residual soils
from ten different geological formations in the eastern part of
United States, two million pounds of subsurface soil were found to

Potassium 37,860 pounds
Magnesium 14,080 pounds
Calcium 7,810 pounds
Phosphorus 1,100 pounds

Even the depleted, and to some extent abandoned, gently undulating
upland "Leonardtown loam," which was farmed for generations and
which, according to the surveys of the Federal Bureau of Soils,
covers 41 per cent of St. Mary's County, Maryland, and more than
45,000 acres of Prince George's County--still contains in two
million pounds of surface soil--corresponding to the plowed soil of
an acre about 6-2/3 inches deep:

Potassium 18,500 pounds
Magnesium 3,480 pounds
Calcium 1,000 pounds
Phosphorus 160 pounds

The brown silt loam prairie soil of the early Wisconsin glaciation
is the most common type of the greatest soil area in the Illinois
Corn Belt. Two million pounds of this surface soil contain as an

Potassium 36,250 pounds
Magnesium 8,790 pounds
Calcium 11,450 pounds
Phosphorus 1,190 pounds

The older gray silt loam prairie, the most extensive soil of
Southern Illinois, contains in two million pounds of soil:

Potassium 24,940 pounds
Magnesium 4,690 pounds
Calcium 3,420 pounds
Phosphorus 840 pounds

These data represent averages involving hundreds of soil analyses,
and they emphasize the fact that normal soils are rich in potassium
and poor in phosphorus. This is to be expected, for most soils are
made from the earth's crust, and normal soils should bear some
relation in composition to the average of the earth's crust, which
contains in two million pounds 49,200 pounds of potassium and 2,200
pounds of phosphorus, as shown by the weighted averages of analyses
involving about two thousand samples of representative rocks,
reported by the United States Geological Survey.

Measuring Fertility Losses

The plant food required for one acre of wheat yielding 50 bushels,
one acre each of corn and oats yielding 100 bushels, and one acre of
clover yielding four tons, includes for the total crops:

Potassium 320 pounds
Magnesium 68 pounds
Calcium 168 pounds
Phosphorus 77 pounds

If only the grain, including a yield of 4 bushels an acre of clover
seed, is considered, the straw, stalks and hay being returned to the
soil--either directly or in farm fertilizer--then the loss per acre
from four years of cropping as above would be as follows:

Potassium 51 pounds
Magnesium 16 pounds
Calcium 5 pounds
Phosphorus 42 pounds

The average annual loss by leaching from good soils in humid
sections is known by the results of many analyses to be about as
follows per acre:

Potassium 10 pounds
Calcium 300 pounds
Phosphorus 2 pounds

The average annual loss of magnesium in drainage water from good
soils is probably 30 pounds or more an acre, but the data thus far
secured are inconclusive with respect to that element.

A careful consideration of the trustworthy data clearly reveals the
fact that potassium is very abundant in normal soils, while
phosphorus is relatively very deficient; and, all things considered,
calcium--and probably magnesium--is of much greater significance
than potassium, from the standpoint of the maintenance of usable
plant food in the soil. It should be noted, too, that certain crops
which are exceedingly important for economic systems of permanent
agriculture require very large amounts of calcium as plant food.
Thus a four-ton crop of clover hay takes about 120 pounds of calcium
from the soil, or the same amount as of potassium; while such a crop
of alfalfa requires about 145 pounds of calcium, but only 96 pounds
of potassium. When it is known that the abandoned "Leonardtown loam"
still contains in two million pounds of surface soil 18,500 pounds
of potassium and only 1000 pounds of total calcium, the significance
of these chemical and mathematical data must be apparent.

The Liberation of Fertility

Probably there has never been a greater waste of time and effort in
the name of science than in the endeavor to determine the
"available" plant food in soils. The almost universal assumption has
been that the plant food in the soil exists in two distinct
conditions, "available" and "unavailable," and that the
determination of the "available" plant food would reveal both the
crop-producing power of the soil and the fundamental fertilizer
requirements for the improvement of the soil for crop production.

After ascertaining the total stock of plant food in the plowed soil,
the next important question is not how much is "available," but
rather how much can be made available during the crop season, year
after year. In other words we must make plant food available by
practical methods of liberation, by converting it from insoluble
compounds into soluble and usable forms; for plant food must be in
solution before the plant can take it from the soil. For the
present, space is taken only to emphasize the value of decaying
organic manures in the important matter of making plant food
available; and attention is also called to the fact that the
decomposition of the organic matter of the soil--including both
fresh materials and old humus--is hastened by tillage and by
underdrainage, which permit the oxygen of the air to enter the soil
more freely, oxygen being a most active agent in nitrification and
other decomposition processes of organic matter, as well as in the
more common combustion of wood, coal, and so forth.

The Renewal of Fertility

In rational systems of general farming the supply of any element
which is normally very abundant may be renewed from the subsoil by
even the very slight erosion which occurs on all ordinary lands in
humid sections. This statement applies to iron and potassium, and
often to magnesium.

If two million pounds of normal surface soil contain 30,000 pounds
of potassium, one inch an acre would contain 4500 pounds of that
element; and if a third of this--1500 pounds--were removed by
cropping and leaching before its removal by surface washing, then
two-thirds of a century could be allowed for the erosion of one inch
of soil, with crop yields of 50 bushels of wheat, 100 bushels of
corn and oats, and 4 bushels of clover seed to the acre, provided
the stalks, straw and clover hay were returned to the land, either
directly or in farm manure. This amount of surface washing is likely
to occur on land sufficiently undulating for good surface drainage,
provided the land is plowed and cultivated as frequently as would be
required for a four-year rotation as suggested above. Where hay,
straw, potatoes, root crops or common market garden crops are sold,
very much larger amounts of potassium leave the farm than in grain
farming or live-stock farming, and in such cases potassium must
ultimately be purchased and returned to the soil, either in
commercial form or in animal manures from the cities.

Thirty Bushels for Potassium

There are some soils, however, which are not normal--soils whose
composition bears no sort of relation to the average of the earth's
crust; such, for example, as peaty swamp soil or bog lands, which
consist largely of partly decayed moss and swamp grasses. These
soils are exceedingly poor in potassium, and they are markedly and
very profitably improved by potassium fertilizers, such as potassium
sulphate and potassium chlorid--commonly but erroneously called
"muriate" of potash.

Thus, as an average of triplicate tests each year, the addition of
potassium to such land on the University of Illinois experiment
field near Manito, Mason county, increased the yield by 20.7 bushels
more corn to the acre in 1902, by 23.5 in 1903, by 29 in 1904 and by
36.8 in 1905; and the proceedings of the midsummer session of the
Illinois State Farmers' Institute for 1911 report that the use of
$22,500 in potassium salts on the peaty swamp lands in the
neighborhood of Tampico, Whiteside county, increased the value of
the corn crop in 1910 by $210,000, the average increase for
potassium being about 30 bushels of corn to the acre.

Some sand soils, particularly residual sands, which often consist
largely of quartz-silicon dioxid--are very deficient in potassium;
consequently the experiments or demonstrations conducted by the
potash syndicate at Southern Pines, North Carolina, show very marked
increases from the use of potassium salts on such soil, although the
result ought not to be used to encourage the use of such fertilizers
on normal soils, which are exceedingly rich in potassium.

Even in soils abundantly supplied with potassium temporary use may
well be made of soluble potassium salts when no adequate supply of
decaying organic matter can be provided. For this purpose,
kainit--which contains potassium and also magnesium and sodium in
chlorids and sulfates--is preferred to the more concentrated and
more expensive potassium salts. About 600 pounds an acre every four
years is a good application. The kainit will not only furnish
soluble potassium and magnesium but will also help to dissolve and
thus make available other mineral plant food naturally present or
supplied, such as natural phosphates. When the supply of organic
matter produced in crops and returned either in farm manure or in
crop residues becomes sufficiently abundant, then the addition of
kainit may be discontinued on normal soil.

Thus, as an average of 112 separate tests covering four different
years, on the Southern Illinois experiment field on worn, thin land,
at Fairfield, the use of 600 pounds an acre of kainit once in four
years increased the yield of corn by 10.7 bushels where no organic
manure was used, and by only 1.7 bushels when applied with eight
tons of farm manure.

Liming the Soil

In the form of ashes, marl or chalk, lime has been used as a
fertilizer for thousands of years. It serves two very important
purposes: to correct the acidity of sour soils and to supply calcium
and sometimes magnesium as plant food. Burned lime has also been
much used, but in more recent years the development of machinery for
crushing and pulverizing rock--especially in cement manufacture--has
made possible the production of pulverized natural limestone, and at
much less expense than for caustic lime made by burning and slaking.
Where ground limestone can be easily procured it takes the place of
burned lime, and it produces better results at less expense, even
though 1-3/4 tons of ground limestone are required to equal 1 ton of
quicklime in calcium content and in power to correct acidity.

Furthermore, ground limestone can be applied in any amount with no
injurious results, while caustic lime destroys the organic matter or
humus of the soil, dissipates soil nitrogen, is disagreeable to
handle, and may injure the crop unless applied in limited amounts or
several months before the crop is to be planted.

The most valuable and trustworthy investigation on record in regard
to the comparative value of burned lime and ground limestone has
been conducted by the Pennsylvania Experiment Station. A four-year
rotation of crops was practiced, including corn, oats, wheat and hay
(clover and timothy) on four different fields, each crop being
represented every year. After twenty years the results for the four
acres showed that the land treated with ground limestone had
produced 99 bushels more corn, 116 bushels more oats, 13 bushels
more wheat and 5.6 tons more hay than the land treated with about an
equivalent amount of burned lime. At the end of sixteen years the
analysis of the soil showed that the burned lime had destroyed 4.7
tons of humus and had dissipated 375 pounds of nitrogen to the acre,
as compared with the ground limestone, this loss being equivalent to
37-1/2 tons of farm manure.

Other trustworthy experiments by the Maryland and Ohio Experiment
Stations confirm the Pennsylvania results in showing better crop
yields when unburned lime carbonate was used; and more extensive
experiments by the Tennessee Experiment Station also agree with the
Pennsylvania data in regard to the destruction of organic matter and
loss of soil nitrogen from the use of burned lime. If dolomitic
limestone is used, magnesium as well as calcium is thus added to
the soil.

Limestone need not be very finely pulverized. If ground so that it
will pass through a ten-mesh sieve it is amply fine, assuming that
the entire product is used, including the finer dust produced in
grinding, and it is very possible that final investigations will
show that the entire product from a quarter-inch screen is even more
economical and profitable in permanent systems.

Limestone is quite easily soluble in soil water carrying carbonic
acid. It is thus readily available; in fact, it is too available to
be durable if very finely ground; and in humid sections the loss by
leaching far exceeds that removed by cropping. In practical economic
systems of farming about two tons an acre of ground limestone should
be applied every four years, or corresponding amounts for other
rotation periods.

The essential facts relating to potassium, magnesium and calcium and
to the use and value of different forms of lime have been stated
above, and they may be accepted with confidence for use in economic
systems of farming on normal soils.




IN THE previous chapter emphasis has been laid upon the fact that
plants as well as animals must have food, and that the neglect or
ignorance of this factor in American agriculture has led to soil
depletion and land ruin on vast areas, especially in the older

It has been shown that of the ten essential elements of plant food,
five are provided by natural processes without the intervention of
man; that, of the remaining five, potassium is the most abundant in
normal soil, but requires liberation by good systems of farming;
that ground natural limestone is the ideal material with which to
supply calcium and to prevent or correct soil acidity; and that if
dolomitic limestone be used magnesium is also supplied in suitable
form for plant food, Thus only nitrogen and phosphorus remain for

Keeping in mind that systems of permanent profitable agriculture in
America must be founded upon an intelligent understanding of the
foundation principles involved, let us pray for strength to
acknowledge the truth and cease trying to deceive ourselves. The
truth is that by soil enrichment alone the average crop yields of
the United States could be doubled, with the same seed and seasons
and with but little more work than is now devoted to the fields; and
we should cease trying to deceive ourselves in the hope or belief
that the fertility of our soil will be maintained if we continue
year after year to take crops from the land and fail to make
adequate return.

Nitrogen is both the most abundant agriculturally and the most
expensive commercially of all the elements of plant food; and yet
there is a method by which it can be secured not only without money
but with profit in the process. The percentage of nitrogen in normal
soils decreases with depth, so that subsoils are almost devoid of
nitrogen. This would be more generally understood if it were known
that the supply of soil nitrogen in humid countries is contained
only in the organic matter.

This organic or vegetable matter consists of the partly decomposed
residues of plants, including the roots and fallen leaves which may
accumulate naturally, and the green manure crops, crop residues and
farm manure which may be supplied in farm practice. Thus the
nitrogen of a soil is measured approximately by its content of
organic matter; and, vice versa, the percentage of nitrogen is an
approximate measure of the organic matter, because nitrogen is a
regular constituent of the organic matter normally contained in
soils. Consequently if the organic matter of a soil is reduced the
supply of nitrogen is also reduced.

In the most depleted soils nitrogen is usually the most deficient
element, although it may not be the only deficiency. Thus in the
depleted "Leonardtown loam," which occupies such extensive areas of
land in Southern Maryland, near the District of Columbia, and which
has been to a large extent agriculturally abandoned after one or two
centuries of farming, only 900 pounds of nitrogen are found in the
plowed soil of an acre--that is, in 2,000,000 pounds of surface
soil, corresponding to about 6-2/3 inches an acre. This total amount
if made available would be sufficient for only six such crops of
corn as are actually produced on our best land in good seasons, and
yet it is four times as much as is contained in an equal weight of
the subsoil.

The average prairie land of the Corn Belt contains only 5000 pounds
of nitrogen in the plowed soil of an acre 6-2/3 inches deep, whereas
a 100-bushel crop of corn removes 150 pounds of nitrogen from the
soil. A simple computation shows the supply in the plowed soil to be
sufficient for only 33 such crops. Even the 100-bushel crop of corn
per acre is known to have been produced in many places on
exceptionally rich land, and yet the ten-year average yield in the
United States is only 25 bushels to the acre.

200 Per Cent for Nitrogen

On Broadbalk Field at Rothamsted, England, wheat has been grown on
the same land every year for about two-thirds of a century. As an
average of the sixty years, 1852 to 1911 the yield was 12.6 bushels
an acre on unfertilized land, 14.6 where mineral plant food was
annually applied, 20.3 where nitrogen salts alone were used, and 37
where both nitrogen and mineral plant food were applied.

During the thirty years, 1882 to 1911 the average yields were 11.7
bushels an acre on the unfertilized land, 14 with minerals, 18.7
where only nitrogen salts were used, and 38 where both nitrogen and
minerals were regularly supplied.

These absolute data from the oldest agricultural experiment station
in the world should help us to understand why the ten-year average
yield of wheat is 33 bushels an acre for all of Great Britain,
37-1/2 for England alone, and only 14 for the United States.

The application of nitrogen increased the yield of wheat by 24
bushels an acre--from 14 to 38 bushels--as an average of the last
thirty years, following an average increase of 26.3 for the nitrogen
applied during the previous thirty years. It is true that the cost
of the fertilizers used exceeded the value of the increase in yield;
but let us bear in mind that this truth does not destroy the other

Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. It is a good
fact that 1218 bushels of wheat were produced by the application of
nitrogen to an acre of land during a period of sixty years, over and
above the produce of another acre which differed only by not
receiving nitrogen; whereas the total produce from an acre of
unfertilized land was only 756 bushels during the same sixty years.
It is a good fact that the increase alone from the nitrogen applied
is more than twice the total yield of the unfertilized land during
the last thirty years, and he does well who holds fast this fact.

It is also a good fact that as an average of sixty years the yield
of barley was increased by 21.6 bushels an acre by nitrogen; that
nitrogen increased the yield of hay on permanent meadow land at
Rothamsted by 1-1/2 tons an acre as a fifty-year average; and that
nitrogen increased the average yield of potatoes by 88 bushels as an
average of twenty-six years; while the average of the unfertilized
land was only 51 bushels an acre, these increases in barley, bay,
and potatoes being obtained over and above the yields where minerals
alone were used.

Where Is Nitrogen?

If nitrogen has such enormous power to increase the yield of our
great staple farm crops then we may well inquire, Where is nitrogen,
and how can it be secured economically and utilized profitably in
practical agriculture?

The weight of the atmosphere is 15 pounds to the square inch. This
means that a column of air 1 inch square taken to the full height of
the terrestrial atmosphere weighs 15 pounds. More than three fourths
of the air is nitrogen. Since there are 43,560 square feet in one
acre, it follows that the nitrogen in the air above each acre of the
earth's surface amounts to 70,000,000 pounds, or nearly 500,000
times the 150 pounds of nitrogen required for a hundred-bushel crop
of corn. The leaves of the corn plant are blown about by the wind
carrying 75-1/2 per cent of nitrogen, but cannot utilize an ounce of
this supply.

Many people know that clover and other legumes have power, through
the bacteria which inhabit their root tubercles, to feed upon the
inexhaustible supply of atmospheric nitrogen which freely enters the
pores of the soil; but who knows how much nitrogen is taken from the
air by a given crop of clover? Not one in a thousand can answer this
question; and meanwhile our continued agricultural and national
prosperity depends in large part upon the possibility of wide
dissemination and practical application of a quantitative knowledge
of the nitrogen problem.

As a rule the so-called "practical" farmer is a theorist. He first
believes that the virgin soil is inexhaustible, even though cropped
continuously. Later he clings to the popular theory that the
rotation of crops will maintain the productive capacity of the land;
and it is safe to say that a large majority of the farmers of the
United States gladly hold to the erroneous theory that clover grown
once every three to five years will increase and permanently
maintain the fertility of the soil.

The fact that clover was grown for generations on the lands of the
older Eastern states until the clover crop itself finally failed on
millions of acres now agriculturally abandoned is overlooked or
forgotten by present-day farmers, especially by the descendants of
those who have gone West and settled on new, rich lands.

Six Facts and a Question

The following six facts will furnish a comprehensive basis for the
solution of the nitrogen problem in practical general agriculture:

(1) To produce 100 pounds of grain requires about 3 pounds of
nitrogen, of which 2 pounds are deposited in the grain itself and 1
pound in the straw or stalks.

(2) In live-stock farming one-fourth of the nitrogen in the food
consumed is retained in the animal products--meat, milk, wool, and
so on--and three-fourths may be returned to the land in the
excrements if saved without loss.

(3) When grown on soils of normal productive capacity legumes secure
about two-thirds of their total nitrogen from the air and one-third
from the soil.

(4) Clover and other biennial or perennial legumes have about
two-thirds of their total nitrogen in the tops and one-third in the
roots, while the roots of cowpeas and other annual legumes contain
only about one-tenth of their total nitrogen.

(5) Hay made from our common legumes contains about 40 pounds of
nitrogen per ton.

(6) Average farm manure contains 16 pounds of nitrogen per ton.

Question: How many tons of average farm manure must be applied to a
40-acre field in order to provide as much nitrogen as would be added
to the soil by plowing under 2-1/2 tons of clover per acre? Answer:
400 tons.

Either method will furnish about as much nitrogen as would be taken
from the soil by a 50-bushel crop of wheat, a 75-bushel crop of corn
or a 100-bushel crop of oats per acre. The decision by the
individual between live-stock farming and grain farming should be
based upon preference and profit rather than upon the erroneous
teaching that farm manaure is either essential or sufficient for the
maintenance of soil fertility in this country.

Bread is the staff of life, and many must sell grain. I do not
advise all grain farmers to become live-stock farmers; but I do
advise both grain farmers and live-stock farmers to enrich their
soils by practical, profitable and permanent methods. Both classes
of farmers may secure new nitrogen--that is, they can positively
increase their nitrogen supply by sufficient use of legume crops.

How to Supply Nitrogen

The cotton-grower who sells cotton lint at 10 cents a pound and the
market gardener who sells from $100 to $300 worth of fruits and
vegetables from one acre may well make liberal use of commercial
nitrogen at 15 or 20 cents a pound; but if after deducting the cost
of harvesting, threshing, storing and marketing the average farmer
receives only 1 cent a pound for his grain and if 40 per cent of the
commercial nitrogen applied is lost by leaching, then the total crop
of grain would bring only enough money to pay for the nitrogen
required to produce it, at 20 cents a pound. We may sometimes advise
the American grain-grower to buy water with which to irrigate his
crop, but not to buy nitrogen with which to fertilize it.

If the grain farmer grows 40 bushels of wheat to the acre, clover
having been seeded on the same land in order to plow under the
equivalent of 1-1/2 tons of hay as green manure the following
spring, and follows this by a 60-bushel crop of corn and a 50-bushel
crop of oats, and this the fourth year by two crops of clover
aggregating 3 tons an acre, including 2 bushels of seed, he can thus
secure from the air about 180 pounds of nitrogen in the 4-1/2 tons
of clover. Moreover, if the first cutting of clover the fourth year
is left on the land and the threshed clover straw from the seed crop
and likewise all straw and stalks are returned to the soil, only 154
pounds of nitrogen an acre would leave the farm if the total grain
and clover seed were sold. With 80 cents a bushel for wheat, 50
cents for corn, 40 cents for oats and $8 for clover seed, the total
returns from the four acres would amount to $98.

On the other hand the live-stock farmer may grow two 60-bushel crops
of corn, followed by 50 bushels of oats and then 3 tons of clover
hay containing 120 pounds of new nitrogen. The four crops would
contain 350 pounds of nitrogen; and if the grain and hay and half
the corn-stalks are used for feed, with the straw and the remainder
of the stalks for bedding, it is likewise possible to replace the
230 pounds of nitrogen required for the grain crops, provided not
more than one-seventh of the manure is lost before being returned to
the land. The important weakness on the common live-stock farm lies
in the enormous waste of manure.

If 10 pounds of feed produce 1 pound increase in the live-weight of
the animals fed, and if they bring 6 cents a pound on the hoof, the
gross returns aggregate $107.50 from the four acres, barring losses
from accidents, animal diseases, and so on.

Thus, with a few established facts in mind, one can easily determine
how to maintain or even to increase the supply of nitrogen in the
soil, and without the purchase of nitrogen in any form; and it is
just as possible and just as necessary thus to provide the nitrogen
needed in grain farming as in livestock farming. When we consider
that animals destroy two-thirds of the organic matter in the food
consumed we find that as between the two systems above described the
organic matter or humus of the soil will be better maintained in the
grain system outlined.

Live-Stock or Grain Farming

For those who believe that live-stock farming must be adopted for
the maintenance of fertility on all farms, attention should be
called to the fact that there are 900,000,000 acres of farm-land in
the United States and only 90,000,000 head of live-stock equivalent
to cows, including all farm animals. Will the manure from one cow
serve to enrich 10 acres of land?

It should also be known that a hundred bushels of grain will support
five times as many people as could live for the same length of time
on the meat and milk that could be made by feeding the grain to
domestic animals. It is because of this fact that the consumer may
sometimes boycott meat or other animal products, while he never
boycotts bread; but let us hope that permanent systems will become
generally adopted in America, for the production of both grain and
live stock, so that high standards of living may be maintained for
all classes of people in this country.

The oldest direct comparison between these two systems of farming,
so far as the writer has learned, is on the experiment fields of the
University of Illinois, where as an average of six years the yield
of corn has been 87 bushels an acre in grain farming and 90 bushels
in live-stock farming, the same crop rotation being practiced. Where
wheat was introduced the average yield for six years was 43.1
bushels in grain farming and 43.5 in live-stock farming.

No nitrogen was purchased in any form in either of these systems;
but clover is grown in the rotation to secure nitrogen from the air
and then the crop residues or farm manure is returned to the soil to
provide sufficient nitrogen for the grain crops. In all cases
phosphorus was used for these yields.

Even more encouraging than these six-year average results from
Illinois are the results of sixty years from Agdell Field at

Where mineral plant food was regularly applied, and where all the
manure produced by feeding the turnips was returned to the soil, in
a four-year rotation of turnips, barley, clover (or beans) and
wheat, with no other provision made for supplying nitrogen, the
yields per acre were as follows:

Turnips, 24,724 lbs. in 1848, and 26,410 in 1908.

Barley, 42.8 bushels in 1849 and 22.1 in 1909

Clover, 5586 pounds in 1850 and 7190 in 1910.

Wheat, 32 bushels in 1851 and 37.8 in 1911.

Here we have data which span a period of sixty years and which show
that where mineral plant food has been provided the clover in
rotation and the manure produced by the feeding of only one of the
four crops have maintained the yield of all crops except the
barley-the third crop after clover-and without the application of
nitrogen in any other form. If the clover and straw had been
returned to the land either directly or in farm manure the
additional nitrogen thus provided would have been sufficient both to
maintain the yield of barley and to prevent the moderate decrease
which has occurred in the nitrogen content of the soil.




THE greatest economic loss that America has ever sustained has been
the loss of energy and profit in farming with an inadequate supply
of phosphorus. Phosphorus is a Greek word which signifies
"light-bringer"; but it is a light which few Americans have yet
seen, else we should not permit the annual exportation of more than
a million tons of our best phosphate rock, for which we receive at
the mines the paltry sum of five million dollars, carrying away from
the United States an amount of the one element of plant food we
shall always need to buy, which if retained in this country and
applied to our own soils would be worth not five million but a
thousand million dollars for the production of food for the oncoming
generations of Americans.

For five million dollars we export to Europe each year enough
phosphorus for 1,400,000,000 bushels of wheat, or twice the average
crop of the entire United States. Meanwhile our ten-year-average
yield of wheat is 14 bushels an acre, while Germany's yield has gone
up to 29, Great Britain's to 33, England's to 37-1/2 and Denmark's
to more than 40 as the average for a decade.

Potato Yield Twice Doubled

There is only one place in the world where we can go for the results
of soil improvement for more than a quarter of a century in
connection with the growing of potatoes. Of course this place is
Rothamsted, England, where as an average for twenty-six years the
yield of potatoes was 51 bushels an acre on unfertilized land and
exactly 102 bushels where only a phosphate fertilizer was applied.
Where the same amount of phosphorus--29 pounds of the element per
acre per annum--was used in connection with other minerals--300
pounds of potassium sulfate and 100 pounds each of the sulfates of
magnesium and sodium--the average yield of potatoes was 109 bushels.
Where 86 pounds of nitrogen was applied in sodium nitrate the
average yield was 79 bushels; but where the nitrogen, phosphorus and
other minerals were all applied the average yield for the twenty-six
years was 203 bushels.

At 50 cents a bushel for potatoes, the investment in phosphorus
alone paid 600 per cent net profit; and even the complete
fertilizer, including 392 pounds of acid phosphate, 550 pounds of
sodium nitrate and 500 pounds of alkali salts, aggregating 1442
pounds, and costing at moderate prices $24.28 an acre per annum,
paid back $76 a year as a twenty-six year average, thus making 300
per cent even on an investment of nearly $25 an acre a year.

Phosphorus Helps Good Farming

There is also but one place in the world where we can learn the
results secured from the application of phosphorus for a period of
thirty-six years in a good system of farming; and again this place
is Rothamsted.

In 1848 Sir John Lawes and Sir Henry Gilbert began investigations on
Agdell Field. The Norfolk rotation, already known at that time as
one of the best rotation systems, was turnips, barley, clover, and
wheat; and in these practical field experiments the turnips were fed
on the land and the animal fertilizer thus produced was returned to
the soil, which was well supplied with limestone.

During the next thirty-six years $29.52 worth of phosphorus per acre
was applied to one part of the field; and in comparison with another
part of the same field cropped and managed similarly, except that no
phosphorus was applied, the $29.52 worth of phosphorus produced
$98.02 increase in the value of the turnips, $37.45 in barley,
$48.93 in clover (and beans) and $45.99 in wheat.

The total value of the crops grown on the land not receiving
phosphorus during the thirty-six years was $432.43 an acre, while on
the phosphated land the crop values amounted to $662.82, an increase
of $230.39 from an investment of $29.52, the turnips being figured
at $1.40 a ton, barley at 50 cents a bushel, clover hay at $6 a ton,
beans at $1.25 a bushel, wheat at 70 cents a bushel, and phosphorus
at 12 cents a pound. As a general average at these conservative
prices, the investment of $3.28 an acre every four years paid back
$25.60 in the four crops.

In most states the legal rate of interest is 6 per cent but here is
an investment that paid the principal and 680 per cent interest
every four years. And these investigations show that the phosphorus
was used with profit for the production of markedly different crops,
including potatoes and turnips, barley and wheat, clover and beans.

But the soil at Rothamsted is no poorer in phosphorus than is the
average soil of the United States; and these results are given here
not only because they are the oldest and most trustworthy the world
affords, but because they are strictly applicable to the production
of common crops on vast areas of agricultural land in our own

The Form of Phosphorus to Use

The unfertilized soil at the Rothamsted station contains, in
2,000,000 pounds--corresponding to about 6-2/3 inches to the
acre--1000 pounds of phosphorus and 35,000 of potassium, while an
acre of plowed soil of the same weight at State College,
Pennsylvania, contains 1100 pounds of phosphorus and 50,700 of

In a word, normal soils are deficient in phosphorus, and the
application of phosphorus in good systems of farming produces marked
and profitable increases in crop yields. But what form of phosphorus
shall we apply? This is a very important question in agricultural
economics, for we have many different kinds of fertilizing materials
that contain phosphorus, and one may cost ten times as much as
another as a source of phosphorus. Thus 250 pounds of phosphorus in
a ton of finely ground natural rock phosphate can be purchased at
the mines in Tennessee and delivered at the farmer's railway station
in the heart of the Corn Belt for $8. Or the ton of raw phosphate
may be mixed with a ton of sulfuric acid in the fertilizer factory,
and the two tons of acid phosphate may be sold to the same farmer
for $32. Or the fertilizer manufacturer may mix the two tons of acid
phosphate with two tons of "filler," containing a little nitrogen
and potassium, and then sell the same farmer the four tons of
so-called "complete" fertilizer for $80; and the farmer gets no more
phosphorus in the four tons of "complete" fertilizer for $80 than in
the one ton of natural phosphate for $8.

The Pennsylvania State College conducted an experiment for twelve
years--1884 to 1895--in which $1.05 an acre was invested in ground
raw rock phosphate with a rotation of corn, oats, wheat and hay
(clover and timothy), and the value of the increase produced by the
phosphorus amounted to $5.85 as an average for the twelve years, and
to $8.41 as an average for the last four years. Thus the profit was
from about 560 to 800 per cent on the investment, counting corn at
35 cents a bushel, oats at 30 cents, wheat at 70 cents, and hay at
$6 a ton. These figures represent the increase produced by
phosphorus over and above the value of the crops grown without
phosphorus fertilizer. In this case no farm manure was used on
either part of the field; but commercial nitrogen and potassium were
applied alike on both parts, and clover was grown in the rotation.

Acid phosphate was also used in direct comparison; and, in answer to
the question whether the general farmer should apply liberal amounts
of finely ground natural rock phosphate, or whether he should pay
four times as much for phosphorus after the fertilizer manufacturer
has mixed one part of the raw rock with one of sulfuric acid and
thus produced two parts of acid phosphate, these Pennsylvania
experiments tell us that the yearly average for the twelve years
gave a gain per year of $2.45 from the raw phosphate and 48 cents
from the acid phosphate, at the prices used by the Pennsylvania
Experiment Station. But we must not draw general conclusions from
this one experiment, even though it covers twelve years.

In 1895 the Maryland Experiment Station began field experiments with
different forms of phosphorus; and, as an average of six tests every
year for twelve years, $1.965 invested in ground raw rock phosphate
produced increases in corn, wheat and hay that were worth $22.11, at
35 cents a bushel for corn, 70 cents for wheat, $6 a ton for hay,
and 3 cents a pound for phosphorus in the ground natural phosphate.
How would you like 1000 per cent profit as the result of mixing
brain with brawn, in connection with the improvement of your own
business, thus keeping the investment under your own control?

Mind you, this does not prove that farming is profitable, but only
that the intelligent use of phosphorus in farming is profitable. In
other words the admixture--brains--is profitable.

In commenting upon his investigations the director of the Maryland
Agricultural Experiment Station states that the raw phosphate
produced a higher total average yield than acid phosphate, and at
less than half the cost.

The Rhode Island Experiment Station began a series of experiments
with different forms of phosphorus in 1894. If we add together all
the hay and grain crops grown during the decade following the first
year of these experiments, we find that the increases per acre were
14,580 pounds for raw phosphate and 14,550 pounds for acid
phosphate, on unlimed land; while lime and raw phosphate produced
27,030 pounds, and lime and acid phosphate 29,690 pounds, of
increase; and the acid phosphate cost three times as much as the raw

In commenting upon these investigations the director of the Rhode
Island Experiment Station states that the raw phosphate gave very
good results with such farm crops as oats, peas, crimson clover,
millet, soy beans, and so forth, but very poor results with such
garden crops as turnips, rutabagas, cabbage, beets, lettuce, squash,
and so forth, and its use for these garden crops is not advised.

In 1890 the Massachusetts Experiment Station began investigations
with different phosphates applied in equal money value, and in his
report for 1900 the director states that the raw rock phosphate
ranks above the acid phosphate both as an average for the entire
period and as an average between 1895 and 1900, during which time
the land to which no phosphorus was applied produced only 55 per
cent as much as where raw phosphate was used--a result worth every
farmer's consideration.

More Bushels and Tons

The Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station has reported investigations
covering sixteen years in which raw phosphate was compared with acid
phosphate costing twice as much per acre. As an average of all
results secured, 320 pounds of raw phosphate applied with manure on
clover sod produced 8.4 bushels more corn, 4.7 bushels more wheat,
and 0.49 ton more hay per acre than where manure alone was used, and
320 pounds of acid phosphate, costing twice as much money but
containing only half as much phosphorus, applied with the same
amount of manure, produced 7.5 bushels more corn, 5.1 bushels more
wheat, and 0.46 ton more hay than where the manure alone was used.

Now I have presented the averages or summaries of all investigations
that have been reported covering ten years or more where equal money
values of raw phosphate and acid phosphate have been used, or where
any apparent provision was made to supply some organic manure,
whether as farm manure, green manure or merely as clover grown in
the rotation; and I invite the reader to mix his own brains with
these data and not to expect me to state whether he should use the
relatively cheap ground natural phosphate rock or the more costly
manufactured acidulated phosphate in the improvement of his own soil
in systems of permanent profitable agriculture.

Making Phosphate Available

If the natural rock is used it should be ground so that at least 90
per cent will pass through a sieve with 10,000 meshes to the square
inch, and of course its content of phosphorus (from 12 to 15 per
cent) or of so-called "phosphoric acid" (from 27 to 34 per cent)
should also be guaranteed. Moreover it should be used liberally and
in connection with plenty of decaying organic matter. People
sometimes ask, "How much of the phosphorus in raw phosphate is
available?" The best answer to this question is, "None of it; and,
if you are not going to make it available, don't use it."

On my own farm I use about one ton per acre of raw phosphate once
every six years, thus adding at least 250 pounds of phosphorus at a
cost of less than $8; whereas 200 pounds of the common "complete"
fertilizer per acre yearly would cost $12 every six years, and would
supply only 40 pounds of phosphorus. I do not use "complete"
fertilizers, because there is plenty of nitrogen in the air and
plenty of potassium in the soil; and because, by growing and plowing
under plenty of clover, I not only secure nitrogen from the air and
liberate potassium from the soil but also liberate the phosphorus
from the raw rock phosphate applied to the soil. In beginning the
use of raw phosphate where the supply of organic manures is limited,
I apply one ton of phosphate and 600 pounds of kainit in intimate
connection, turn them under, preferably with organic matter, then
add ground limestone if needed, and thus prepare to grow clover.

By far the most important agencies under the farmer's control for
the liberation of plant food are the decomposition products of
fermenting or decaying organic matter, such as green manures, crop
residues and ordinary farm manures. In the decomposition of these
organic materials sour or acid products are formed. Thus vinegar,
containing acetic acid, is formed from the fermentation of apple
juice, hard cider being an intermediate product. Sweet, chopped,
immature field corn becomes sour silage in the silo, lactic, acetic,
carbonic and other acids being formed. By a similar process cabbage
is turned into sauerkraut. Likewise sweet milk becomes sour, with
the formation of lactic acid. Oxalic, citric, tartaric, succinic,
malic, gallic and tannic are other well-known organic acids. Some of
these are contained in the sap or juice of certain plants, and these
or others are formed when crop residues are decomposed in the soil.

In the ultimate decomposition of organic matter the carbon appears
in the form of carbon dioxid which when combined with water forms
carbonic acid. Though this is a very weak acid, its solvent action
is very important.

But, in addition to the various organic acids and carbonic acid, we
have also to consider the formation of nitric acid in connection
with the decomposition of organic manures. Nitric acid is one of the
strongest known, and in solvent power it is excelled by no single
acid. The nitrogen contained in crop residues and other organic
manures is chiefly in chemical combination with carbon, oxygen and
hydrogen, much of it in insoluble protein compounds. Normally this
organic nitrogen is transformed in the soil, first into ammonia
nitrogen, next into nitrite nitrogen, and lastly into nitrate
nitrogen, these three transformations being effected by biochemical
action produced by different kinds of living microscopic organisms
called bacteria. Though detectable amounts of free nitric acid do
not accumulate during this process of nitrification, the soluble
nitrate or final product is formed by the action of nitric acid upon
a mineral base, such as calcium, magnesium, or potassium, which may
have been in the soil in insoluble form, so that the nitrogen must
pass through the form of nitric acid in the transformation into

While the organic matter applied to the soil contains about twenty
times as much carbon as nitrogen, and while corresponding amounts of
carbonic acid and important amounts of intermediate organic acids
must be formed, it is of much interest to know that even the nitric
acid formed in the transformation of organic nitrogen to nitrate
nitrogen in sufficient quantity for a given crop is seven times as
much acid as would be required to convert raw rock phosphate into
soluble phosphate to furnish the phosphorus required for the same
crop. A knowledge of this definite quantitative relationship should
help us to appreciate the possibilities of decaying organic manures
in the important matter of making plant food available, including
potassium, calcium and magnesium as well as phosphorus and nitrogen.

The value of rye, rape, buckwheat and other non-legumes when used as
green manures is very largely due to the liberation of plant food by
their decomposition in contact with the natural phosphates, potash
and other minerals contained in the soil. The farmer has no more
important business than that of making plant food available,
especially by supplying liberal amounts of decaying organic matter.

The following suggestions are offered to the land owner:

To enrich the soil apply liberal amounts of limestone, organic
manures and phosphorus.

To enrich the seller apply small amounts of high-priced "complete"
commercial fertilizers.

Thus the average of seventy-three "Cooperative Fertilizer Tests on
Clay and Loam Soils," extending into thirty-eight different counties
in Indiana (Bulletin 155), shows 13 cents as the farmer's profit
from each dollar spent for "complete" fertilizers used for corn,
oats, wheat, timothy, and potatoes, if valued in the field at 40
cents a bushel for corn, 30 cents for oats, 80 cents for wheat, 50
cents for potatoes, and at $10 a ton for hay, over and above the
extra expense for harvesting and marketing the increase, and of
course the soil grows poorer, because the crops harvested removed
much more plant food than the fertilizers supplied.



Its Relation to Profits and Future Values

THOUGH intelligent soil improvement is the most profitable business
in which an honest man can engage, ordinary farming is not a highly
remunerative occupation, and to a large extent the fortune of the
farmer is bound up with the increase or depreciation in the market
value of his land. There are at least three important factors of
influence which induce people to continue farming:

First, the farmer is his own employer. He controls his own job, is
his own boss and has no superior officer to lay him off because of
disagreement, dull business or political preferment. Farmers
constitute by far the largest class of citizens who own their own
business, and are thus "independent."

Second, the farmer is able as a rule to make some sort of a living
for his family very largely out of the produce of the farm, so that
he gets some return for his labor in terms of food, even when there
is no profit in farming as a business; whereas the wage-earner of
the city, as soon as his wages stop and his savings and credit are
exhausted, must see his family supported by charity or starve. This
is not fiction, but fact.

Third, land is usually considered a safe investment, in which one
may hold a perfect and undivided title to his property; and people
will retain possession of a farm even when it pays a low rate of
interest, rather than sell and invest the proceeds in some other
enterprise which they cannot control as individuals or which may
suddenly depreciate in earning power, fail or be utterly destroyed.

Is Land a Safe Investment?

Though it is true that farm land does not pass out of existence in a
day, nevertheless it is by no means a safe investment, as witness
the numerous abandoned farms in the older agricultural sections of
this new country. It is easily possible for one of means to become
land-poor--to have investments in land which will not pay the taxes
and upkeep of buildings, fences and so forth. At prevailing prices
for farm produce and labor there are vast areas of land in the older
states far past the point of possible self-redemption; and, as a
matter of business, one might better burn his money and save his
energy than to expend all his resources in half-paying for such
depleted land, depending upon the immediate income from it to raise
a mortgage covering the unpaid balance.

Intelligent optimism is admirable, but fact is better than fiction;
and blind bigotry paraded as optimism is dangerous and condemnable.
Some one has said that such a bigot is not an optimist but a
"cheerful idiot." To purchase rich, well-watered land at a low price
and become wealthy by merely waiting till the land increases in
value tenfold, while making a living by taking fertility from the
soil, has been easy and common in the great agricultural states
during the last half-century. But, paradoxical as it may seem, land
values have increased while fertility and productiveness have
decreased and, with shorter days for higher priced and less
efficient farm labor, with more middlemen absorbing the profits
between the producer and the consumer, it is now difficult indeed to
buy land with borrowed money and pay for it from subsequent farm
profits. If continued soil depletion is practiced, ultimate failure
is the only future for such investments.

That vast areas of land once cultivated with profit in the original
thirteen states now lie agriculturally abandoned is common
knowledge; and that the farm lands of the great Corn Belt and Wheat
Belt of the North-Central states are even now undergoing the most
rapid soil depletion ever witnessed is known to all who possess the
facts. Unless this tendency is checked these lands will go the way
of the abandoned farms.

Some Broad Facts

The United States Bureau of the Census reports that the total
production of our five great grain crops--corn, wheat, oats, barley
and rye--amounted to 4,414,000,000 bushels in 1899, and to
4,445,000,000 bushels in 1909, an increase of less than one per
cent. Furthermore, if we assume the average production reported by
the United States Department of Agriculture for the three-year
periods 1898 to 1900 and 1908 to 1910 as the normal for 1899, and
1909, respectively, and compare these averages with the production
actually reported by that department for 1899 and 1909, we find that
as an average of all these crops 1909 was a slightly more favorable
season than 1899, which indicates that with strictly comparable
seasons the increase from 1899 to 1909 was less than 1/2 per cent in
the production of these five great grain crops of the United States.

On the other hand, the Bureau of Census reports that during the same
decade the acreage of farm land in the United States increased by
4.8 per cent, and that the acreage of improved farm land-that is,
farmed land-increased by 154 per cent. Thus the census data plainly
show reduced yield per acre. In addition we have actual records
which show that during the decade our wheat exports decreased from
210,000,000 to 108,000,000 bushels, and that our corn exports
decreased from 196,000,000 to 49,000,000 bushels, in order to help
feed the increase of 21 per cent in our population. And yet the
people complained of the high cost of plain living and many have
been forced to adopt lower standards for the table. Meanwhile the
value of the farm land in the United States increased by 118 per cent
during the ten years--from $13,000,000,000 to $28,500,000,000--as
reported by the Bureau of Census.

The Value of Land

The great primary reason why land values have increased so markedly
during the last thirty years is that America has no more free land
of good quality in humid sections. Civilized man is characterized by
hunger for the ownership of land. Our population continues to
increase by more than 20 per cent each decade, but all future
possible additions to the farm lands of the United States amount to
only 9 per cent of the present acreage, and most of this small
addition requires expensive irrigation or drainage.

If it cost $4 an acre to raise corn, 5 cents a bushel to harvest and
market the crop, 9 cents a bushel to maintain the fertility of the
soil, and 1/2 per cent on the value of the land for taxes, then, if
money is worth 5 per cent, land that produces 20 bushels of 40-cent
corn is worth $21.81 an acre. On the same basis, what would land be
worth that produces 40 bushels of corn and equivalent values of
other crops? At first thought one might say, $43.62; but this answer
would be far from the correct one, which is $116.36.

And, if we again double the yield, making it 80 bushels an acre, the
value of the land becomes not $87.24, and not $232.72; but easy
computation will show that the gross receipts from an 80-bushel crop
will pay $7.20 an acre for soil enrichment, $4 for raising the crop,
$4 for harvesting and marketing, $1.53 for taxes and 5 per cent
interest on a valuation of $305.45 an acre.

The average yield of corn in the United States is only 25 bushels an
acre, and the average net returns even from the farms of the Corn
Belt will not pay 4 per cent interest on their present market value.
But the intelligent investment of $2 an acre annually in positive
soil enrichment will increase the crop yield by two bushels of corn
each year--or by equivalent amounts of other crops grown in the
rotation--and will maintain this increase for at least a dozen years
on the average land now under cultivation in the United States; and
no other safe investment can be named that will pay so great
returns. Of course, the cost is $1 a bushel for the first year's
increase, and even the second year the 4 bushels of corn cost $2;
but what is the cost per bushel of the increase the tenth year? It
is 10 cents; and the twelfth year the 24 bushels of increase cost
only 8-1/3 cents a bushel, with a return of nearly 500 per cent on
the annual investment in soil improvement.

And this is not based on mere theoretical considerations. The
average Corn-Belt land is producing only 40 bushels of corn to the
acre; while a six-year average yield of 90 bushels has been produced
on the common Corn-Belt land with proper and profitable soil
treatment. Thus is it too much for any farmer to adopt a definite
system based upon established practical scientific information which
makes it possible for his yield to increase from 40 bushels to an
average of 64 bushels an acre? But let him make sure that the system
he adopts is cumulative and truly permanent, and not merely
stimulating and temporary.

What Phosphorus Did on One Farm

On his 500-acre farm near Gilman, in the heart of the Illinois Corn
Belt, Mr. Frank I. Mann has produced a 70-bushel average yield of
corn for a five-year period, and with 200 acres of land in corn
annually. It cost him only $1 an acre a year in fine-ground natural
rock phosphate to produce increased yields of 16 bushels more corn,
23 bushels more oats and 1 ton more clover than the average yields
secured without adding phosphorus.

But this progressive, practical farmer is only putting into
profitable practice the results of the long-continued careful
investigations with raw phosphate conducted by such public-service
institutions as the agricultural experiment stations of
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio and
Illinois. He knows also that on four different fields of typical
Corn-Belt land in McLean county, Illinois, the total crop values per
acre for a period of ten years were $148.75 $151-30, $149.43 and
$149.96, respectively, and that on four other adjoining or
intervening fields, which differed only by two liberal additions of
phosphorus during the ten years, the respective crop values for the
same time were $229,37, $221.30, $229.20 and $225.57.

Of course, Mr. Mann does not buy nitrogen, but be takes it from the
inexhaustible supply in the air by means of clover and alfalfa or
other legumes. He does not buy potassium because he knows how to
liberate it from the inexhaustible supply contained in the soil, and
because he knows that in the Illinois investigation just cited the
crop values from four different fields not receiving potassium were
$148.75, $151.30, $229.37 and $221.30; while four other adjoining
fields, which differed only by liberal applications of potassium,
produced during the same ten years $149.43, $149.96, $229.20 and
$225.57, respectively.

Thus, as a general average, phosphorus increased the crop values by
$76.50 an acre, which amounts to more than 300 per cent on the
investment, and at the end of the ten years the soil on the best
treated and highest yielding land was 10 per cent richer in
phosphorus than at the beginning; while the crops from the
unfertilized land removed an amount of phosphorus equal to nearly
one-tenth of the total supply in the plowed soil. But a similar
general average shows that potassium produced increased crop values
worth only 86 cents, or 3 per cent of its cost.

What other results should be expected from land containing in the
plowed soil of an acre less than 1200 pounds of phosphorus and more
than 36,000 pounds of potassium?

"Working" the Land

If there is one agricultural fact that needs to be impressed upon
the American people it is that the farmers of this country have been
living, not upon the interest from their investments, but upon their
principal; and whatever measure of apparent prosperity they have had
has been taken from their capital stock. The boastful statement
sometimes made, that the American landowner has become a scientific
farmer, is as erroneous as it is optimistic. Such statements are
based upon a few selected examples or rare illustrations, and not
upon any adequate knowledge of general farm practice. Even to this
date almost every effort put forth by the mass of American farmers
has resulted in decreasing the fertility of the soil.

The productive power of normal land in humid climates depends almost
wholly upon the power of the soil to feed the crop; but the American
farmer does everything except to restore to the soil the plant food
required to maintain permanently its crop-producing power. These
ought be to have done, but not to leave the other undone. Thus, tile
drainage adds nothing to the soil out of which crops are made, but
only permits the removal of more fertility in the larger crops
produced on the well-drained land. More thorough tillage with our
improved implements of cultivation is merely "working the land for
all that's in it." The use of better seed produces larger crops, but
only at the expense of the soil. Even the farm manure is so limited
and is spread so thinly with manure-spreaders made for the purpose
that it adds but little to the soil in comparison with the crops
removed and sold in grain and hay as well as in meat and milk.
Clover, as commonly produced and harvested, adds little or no
nitrogen to the soil.

The ordinary high-priced, manufactured, acidulated, so-called
"complete" commercial fertilizers, in the small amounts that farmers
can afford to use, and do use quite generally in the older states,
serve in part as soil-stimulants and commonly leave the land poorer
year by year; and if the farmers of the great Corn and Wheat Belts
are ever to adopt systems of permanent agriculture, it must be done
in the near future, or they too will awake to find their lands
impoverished beyond self-redemption.

Even in the state of Massachusetts, where a most active campaign has
been waged for forty years by the mixed commercial fertilizer
interests, urging and persuading many farmers to use their
high-priced artificial soil stimulants, very large areas of land are
being agriculturally abandoned. Thus the following statement appears
in the report of the United States Bureau of Census in regard to the
farm land of Massachusetts:

"The area of improved land decreased without interruption until in
1910 it was only about one-half what it was in 1880."

It should not be forgotten, however, that market gardeners often
sell from $100 to $300 worth of produce from an acre and they can
well afford to use large amounts of soluble commercial plant food
(acid phosphate, nitrates, etc.) as well as animal manures from the

Is the Soil Inexhaustible?

It is not the fault of the farmer alone that soil-robbing and land
ruin have followed his work in America. Neither the average farmer
of today nor any of his ancestors received any agricultural
instruction in the schools; and the greedy fertilizer agent has
persuaded him to buy his patent soil medicine and has taken $100 of
the farmer's money and given him in return only $10 worth of what he
really needs to buy; and even the Bureau of Soils of the Federal
Government has for several years promulgated the erroneous and
condemnable theory expressed in the following quotations:

"From the modern conception of the nature and purpose of the soil it
is evident that it cannot wear out; that, so far as the mineral food
is concerned, it will continue automatically to supply adequate
quantities of the mineral plant foods for crops." (United States
Bureau of Soils, Bulletin No. 55, p. 79.)

"There is another way in which the fertility of the soil can be
maintained: namely, by arranging a system of rotation and growing
each year a crop that is not injured by the excreta of the preceding
crop: then when the time comes round for the first crop to be
planted again, the soil has had ample time to dispose of the sewage
resulting from the growth of the plant two or three years before."
(United States Farmers' Bulletin No. 257, p. 21.)

"The soil is the one indestructible, immutable asset that the nation
possesses. It is the one resource that cannot be exhausted; that
cannot be used up." (United States Bureau of Soils, Bulletin No. 55,
p. 66.)

And these are only samples of the false teaching spread abroad by
this bureau of theorists, even though the congressmen of the United
States can not enter the capitol of the nation from any direction
without passing depleted and agriculturally abandoned lands. Is it
not in order to ask the Congress or the president of the United
States how long the American farmer is to be burdened with these
pernicious, disproved and condemnable doctrines poured forth and
spread abroad by the Federal Bureau of Soils?

It is true that these erroneous teachings have been opposed or
ridiculed in Europe; they have been denounced by the Association of
Official Agricultural Chemists of the United States, and rejected by
every land-grant college and agricultural experiment station that
has been heard from, including those in forty-seven states; and yet
this doctrine, emanating from what should be the position of highest
authority, is the most potent of all existing influences to prevent
the proper care of our soils.

The Values in Land

It was Baron von Liebig who taught, both in Germany and in England,
that-"it is not the land itself that constitutes the farmer's
wealth, but it is in the constituents of the soil, which serve for
the nutrition of plants, that this wealth truly consists." And it is
in the application of this teaching, completely verified by sixty
years of investigation and demonstration by Lawes and Gilbert at
Rothamsted, that England has been able to raise her 10-year average
yield of wheat to 37-1/2 bushels an acre, while the average for the
United States stands at 14 bushels.

In Illinois, where the agricultural college and experiment station,
the state farmers' institute and the agricultural press have been
working in perfect co-operation in teaching and demonstrating the
need and value of soil enrichment as well as of seed selection and
proper tillage, the 10-year average yield of wheat is already 3
bushels higher and the 10-year average yield of corn is 7-1/2
bushels higher than the averages for the 25-year period ending with
1890, before the definite information from Illinois investigations
began to be widely disseminated; and yet it must be confessed that
on the average Illinois is producing only 16 bushels of wheat and 36
bushels of corn to the acre, which is less than half a crop,
measured by the possibilities of our soil and climate.

But what shall we say of Georgia, both an older and a larger state,
and with far better climatic conditions for corn, yet with a 10-year
average yield of less than 12 bushels of corn to the acre,
notwithstanding the yearly expenditure of $20,000,000 for more than
2000 different brands of commercial fertilizers that have been
bought by Georgia farmers? The facts are that while some profit can
be secured from the use of high-priced mixed commercial fertilizers
for cotton with lint at 10 cents a pound, they scarcely pay their
cost when used for corn, even at Georgia prices.

Working Mind and Muscle

But Georgia spends money enough for fertilizers to double the
average crop yields of the entire state within a decade if wisely
invested in positive soil enrichment in rational permanent systems
of agriculture.

Why should not the farmers of Georgia and other Southern states be
brought to understand and to apply the results of those most
valuable investigations conducted by the Louisiana Experiment
Station on typical worn upland soil of the South, which show that
the use of organic manures produced upon the farm-farm manure,
legume cover-crops and cottonseed meal--re-enforced by liberal
additions of phosphorus, increased the crop yields from 466 to 1514
pounds per acre of seed cotton, from 9.4 to 31.4 bushels of corn,
and from 16.4 to 41.8 bushels of oats, as the averages for nineteen

This experiment occupied 6 acres of land, but when the results are
applied to a 60-acre farm it is found that the gross returns from
the untreated land would amount to $595.76, while the net returns
from the soil treatment amount to $956.08 annually, both the value
of produce and the cost of fertilizer being computed at the prices
that were used by the Louisiana Experiment Station.

Thus the combined _gross_ earning power of both land and labor is
less than $600 a year; while the brain work applied to the
improvement of the soil on the same farm brings a net return of more
than $950. Once in three years 50 pounds an acre of kainit was also
applied. This would contain only 5 pounds of potassium, or less than
would be required for one 7-bushel crop of corn.

These are the oldest experiments in the United States in which
organic manures have been re-enforced with phosphorus, and the only
addition suggested for the profitable improvement of this system is
ground limestone on acid soils. These results only emphasize the
fact that the average farm yields small returns upon the capital and
labor invested, but the statement may well be repeated that the
intelligent improvement of his soil, in systems of permanent
agriculture, is the most profitable business in which the farmer and
land owner can engage.


The following generous statements are quoted here only because of
the hope and earnest desire that those who have read the preceding
pages may continue their study of the soil--the foundation of all
agriculture--until they master the subject, and make their own the
existing knowledge of the fundamental principles of permanent soil

"Another Great Sermon"

Have you read it? It is "The Story of the Soil," by Doctor Cyril G.
Hopkins, and not since the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin has any
writer in the world produced a book of such tremendous importance to
present and future generations. This sermon is in harmony with 20th
century ideals. H. A. McKEENE, _Secretary Illinois State Farmers

"The Story of the Soil:" from the basis of absolute science and real
life. This is an odd book. It has a love story running through it,
and it has an index, not a usual appendix to a novel. And yet it is
not really a novel, but a scientific book on agriculture. There is
just enough story to entice the less willing reader to absorb some
of the latest results of soil analysis. The young man of the story
visits Virginia and New England, with a view to purchasing a
worn-out farm and building it up. He finally buys such a farm, and
by the methods carefully explained restores it to fertility and
profit. This requires dialogs and letters on scientific husbandry,
even in the love-making, and one who reads and digests it will make
a better farmer.--_The Independent,_ New York.

"The Story of the Soil" has proven an inspiration to many of our
California farmers. We wish for the book a widespread circulation.
--_California Cultivator._

I doubt if a dozen people in the country would believe that it is
possible to write a novel about the soil--these big soil problems
handled so ably, so plainly that any person can understand. Here is
a book that certainly every man in the land should read.--Editor
CHARLES W. BURKETT, _of American Agriculturist and of Ginn &
Company's Country Life Education Series._

I must say that I think the book is destined to do more good, stir
more thought, encourage more upward effort among the farmers of this
country, than any other publication that has yet appeared. It was a
happy thought making a human story of it.--Ex-Gov. W. D. HOARD,
_Editor of Hoard's Dairyman, Fort Atkinson, Wis._

When Dr. Cyril Hopkins sets out to write a book we know we are in
for something unconventional, but this time he has excelled himself
in unconventionality, and has essayed a task that no author has
attempted for the last sixty years,--to tell the story of the soil
in the form of a chronicle. The result is remarkable; a clear
account is given of the soil in relation to the crop, and the
interest of the subject is broadened by skillfully weaving in the
threads of a mild novel. Light reading the book certainly is, as the
author intended, but it has depth and permanent value.--DR. E.J.
Russell, _Director of the Rothamsted Experiment Station,
England,--from "Nature."_

In this book Dr. Hopkins has embodied in the shape of an interesting
story, dealing with life on a farm, the science of soil fertility
and permanent agriculture. He has demonstrated how the most badly
run-down soil can be restored to more than virgin fertility, and
with profit in the doing of the work.--Editor J. F. JACKSON, _of the
Southern Planter, Richmond, Va._

I wish that every farmer and farmer's family in the land could read
"The Story of the Soil," for it gives in a nutshell the results of
years of patient study and investigation upon the most vital
question that now confronts the farmer: How shall he conserve his
soil? I have read it with great pleasure and profit.-FRED L. HATCH,
_Farmer, Spring Grove, Ill._

In the form of a story--a real, live, interesting story--the book
develops a very large number of highly important facts in connection
with soils and farm fertility. We have not seen anything like it
before and owing to the hold it gets upon the reader it will be a
power in carrying soil and fertility facts to many who would not
read the purely scientific works. The author is a leading authority
and the statements in the book are reliable.--_Ohio Farmer._

"The Story of the Soil," by Cyril G. Hopkins, Professor of Soils and
Crops, University of Illinois, a practical farmer and a scientific
soil investigator; a book of 360 pages printed on heavy wove white
paper, in strong and durable binding; illustrated with photographic
reproductions of actual results secured in profitable systems of
permanent soil improvement; with comprehensive index and glossary.
Price $1.00 Can also be obtained from the publisher for $1.12

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