As Byron has well said, there is nothing so difficult in poesie as a beginning, except perhaps an ending, a remark which applies to many subjects, and I confess I am rather at a loss to know how far to go back in my treatment of this subject. Those who wrote on agriculture long ago, and undertakings connected with it, generally seemed to aim at a remote start, and we accordingly find that the writer of the article on agriculture in The Complete Farmer, or a General Dictionary of Husbandry in all its-Branches, the fourth edition of which was published in 1793, claims for the art of agriculture 'the precedence of all others in point of antiquity, it having been the sole employment of our first parents in the delightful garden of Eden', and continues by observing that 'Adam instructed his children in this most necessary art, both by example and precept'. And it may also be noted that Mr. William (afterwards, Sir William) Dugdale went back a point further in his book on Draining and Imbanking -- work which he traces to a Divine origin, seeing that -- and he supports his statement by quotations from Genesis -- the Creator began with these most necessary undertakings, having found that nothing could be done with the world till it had, first of all, been drained and embanked. While another writer, when alluding to Poa aquatica (reed, or sweet water meadow grass), has suggested that, from its feeding qualities, it was probably on this grass that Nebuchadnezzar subsisted when he was turned into the wilderness, and so carries back his observations on this plant to a remote probable use of it. I think, however, that the reader will rest satisfied with my having, in the preceding chapter, alluded to some of the works of those who lived in the last century, and begin the subject of laying down land to grass by referring to an interesting paper which appears in the appendix of Dr. Keith's Agriculture of Aberdeenshire. (A General View of the Agriculture of Aberdeenshire by George Skene Keith, D.D., Aberdeen. 1811.) But before doing so, it may be interesting and useful to allude to some opinions as regards rye grass which Dr. Keith quotes from Dr. Anderson's Original Report of Agriculture in Aberdeenshire.
After remarking on the value of ryegrass in the case of rich lands, Dr. Anderson observes that, 'Upon poor soils it is perhaps one of the worst grasses yet known. Its leaves there are not more abundant than those of dogstail grass; and so dry and rigid that cattle are not fond of it. Its stalks spire forth very early, and, being unmixed with leaves, they are tough as wires, so as to be disrelished by all beasts; and are all allowed to get into seed, when they become brown and sapless, and good for nothing. On poor fields no practice can be so bad as that of sowing ryegrass. It extirpates all other grasses, and this is worse than any of them.' (The value of ryegrass is further discussed in Chapter 6.)
Dr. Horne, in his Principles of Agriculture and Vegetation, Edinburgh, 1757, p. 65, says: 'Ryegrass is especially injurious from its effect in binding together, and so hardening the soil.'
It is not a little remarkable that this grass, which, for poor lands at least, was so justly condemned in former times, should be a grass still so much used in Scotland on poor lands; but this, of course, is to be attributed to the ignorance of the farmers as regards other and more suitable grasses, and Dr. Keith, though he does not, as I strongly do, recommend the starting of Government experimental farms, goes far in this direction when he suggests:
'That a publication which might, by the Board of Agriculture, be rendered both a cheap and useful one, is much wanted, not only in this county, but in every county in Great Britain. This is a book, neither voluminous nor couched in learned phrases, which would point out all the bad practices in the different districts which ought to be abandoned and avoided, and all those good practices in husbandry which ought to be universally known and generally imitated.'
Let us now turn to the short paper to which I have alluded, and which, we are informed by Keith, was contributed by a gentleman of Aberdeenshire, who did not wish his name to be made known.
The paper in question is entitled 'Observations on British Grasses', and, though only consisting of six pages, contains as full and exact an account of the principles by which we should be guided when laying down land to grass as could be desired. He begins by animadverting on the poor qualities of ryegrass, and then describes the results which follow from its use when laying down light lands to grass. He shows how, in the second and third year, the clovers and ryegrasses decline; how the blanks are filled with weeds and bad grasses; and how, at last, the whole land is covered with a thick, but coarse, herbage; and how any attempt -to arrest this natural course of things by top dressing will only end in disappointment and loss. He then proceeds to observe that in all such cases there is a deterioration of the soil, which gradually consolidates, as is evidenced by the flattening of the ridges and the firm texture of the soil when turned up by the plough. This solidity, he observes, is very different from the tenacity of clay, and resembles more that which is observable in flower-pots whose earth has been kept too long unchanged. He then dwells on the disappearance of vegetable matter from the soil (the evils of which I have previously remarked on), and comes to the conclusion that such light lands, if worthy of cultivation at all, should either be brought under the plough more frequently, and refreshed with manure, or laid down with some of the hardiest grasses. He then enumerates various grasses, which, in his opinion, would be suitable for such soils; but I do not propose to dwell upon the kinds mentioned, as my object is to call attention to the fact that the principle of putting down a mixture of grasses suitable to the soil, and without any admixture of ryegrass, was recognized so many years ago, and that attention was also called to the decline of vegetable matter in the land, to the consequent consolidation of the soil, and its being turned into a bad physical medium, or a bad nest for the plant. But why should this consolidation of the soil not have been prevented by putting down a mixture of plants which would at once permeate it to a great depth, and furnish it with abundance of vegetable matter? It is singular that a writer so evidently intelligent as the author of the, paper should have failed to point to the obvious solution of the difficulty, and it is also remarkable that Arthur Young, though he used a mixture calculated to effect this purpose when he recommends chicory, burnet, and the free use of cocksfoot and yarrow, should have failed to point out their great value in disintegrating and aerating the soil, and filling it with vegetable padding. After carefully examining his work, from which I have taken so many extracts, I can find no allusion to the important physical effects arising from the use of these plants. But the reader has now heard probably enough of this branch of my subject -- enough, I trust, to impress him with those principles which should guide him in the selection of plants, either for temporary or permanent pastures -- namely, that a selection should be made which will at once provide the most food for stock, keep it in healthy condition, and maintain a good physical condition of soil.
I now pass to a consideration of the various methods of laying down land to permanent pasture.
My readers will remember that in the previous chapter I have given, from Arthur Young's great work, his own opinion as to the various methods for laying down land to grass, and also those of other agriculturists whose systems are recorded by him. My present system here, after the trial of several different methods, is to lay down in spring with a light seeding of barley or oats -- a system which I have found, to answer well, both as regards grass and the requirements of the farm, and which, I may observe, was condemned by Arthur Young as being the worst; while the late Mr. John Wilson, Berwickshire, for years adopted a system, to which I shall afterwards allude, which is very different from any practised elsewhere, as far as I can learn. (With a seeding of slightly under a bushel of barley we have obtained a heavy crop -- or, at least, a very good one; and that, too, without injuring the grass, which would have suffered had the crop been obtained with the aid of a full-seeding of barley. In the first case a number of barley shoots are thrown out from each stem, and this has the effect of letting more light into the ground, while, in the event of the crop being laid, the shoots on the upper side of the prostrate stem remain more or less erect, and certainly raised above the ground, and thus do not lie on the grass. A heavy crop of barley from a full seeding gives many stems, with few shoots to each, and both stems and shoots are of a weak character from crowding; hence, if laid, the crop goes down like a thatch on the young grass, and, in any case, the young grass plants are overshadowed, and thus weakened in character.)
After carefully weighing the merits of the various systems, I have come to the conclusion that, in consequence of the variety in both soil and climate, and the varying circumstances and requirements of the farmer, no general rule can be laid down as to which is the best method, and that this should vary according to the circumstances of each particular locality. And here I am left to grope in the dark, for, from the non-existence of the Government experimental farms which ought to exist in each locality, there is really no means of writing on the subject in a satisfactory manner; in other words, there is no means of proving what courses are most suitable for the varying climates of these islands. For instance, after studying the methods recommended by Arthur Young, I am strongly inclined to agree with him in thinking that to lay down with buckwheat, after taking a crop of winter vetches, would probably be the best plan; but though this would evidently be, from Young's experience, a suitable plan in the eastern counties of England, I have no means of knowing whether it would be profitable to lay down in the south of Scotland with this plant. At almost every point, then, connected with this subject the writer is sure to be confronted with difficulties arising from the want of that information which might, and should, be provided by local experimental farms. But though the means for writing positively for the various localities do not exist, it is clear that success may be attained in various ways, and it will be useful to enumerate them here in one group.
There are, to begin with, the methods of Arthur Young, who, as we have seen in the preceding chapter, approves of sowing the seeds alone in August as being the best method; secondly, of sowing them in July with buckwheat; thirdly, with rape in August, on soils not liable to bind with treading; fourthly, of sowing them with wheat early in September; and lastly, the worst method in his opinion, sowing them with spring corn. Of the agriculturists whose opinions are quoted by him one sowed with beans, which he found more successful than any plan he had tried; while another sowed his grass seeds amongst turnips in the spring as they were fed off by sheep, and found that the grass 'flourished beyond any other'. Then there is the system successfully practised by the late Mr. John Wilson in Berwickshire for many years, and of which he gave a full account in the North British Agriculturist of 21st January 1885. His original practice was, after turnips, to sow up with two bushels of Koenigsberg tares, two bushels of oats, half a bushel each of Italian and perennial ryegrass, 4 lb. each of alsike, white clover, and trefoil, and 2 lb. of cow clover. His later practice was to diminish the ryegrass, and substitute 4 or 5 lb. of cocksfoot and timothy. He cut the crop before it reached the full blooming stage, and made it into hay. In the case of very rich land he omitted the tares, and sowed three bushels of oats, and cut the crop for hay whenever they were fully shot, and before the grain had formed. The late Mr. Faunce de Laune's experience was -- and a very extensive experience he had -- that grass may be grown equally well with or without a crop, and after any crop, excepting clover, for, sown after clover, he found that the grass most conspicuously failed. I now turn to a consideration of that most important of all points connected with laying down land to grass -- the subsequent treatment of the pasture.
Some years ago, when discussing the whole question of grass with a fanner who is most skilful in laying down, and still more so in managing, his pastures, he said that the management of the pasture is even of more importance than the selection of the seed and the preparation of the land. This remark I am particularly anxious to impress upon all those who are inexperienced in laying down land to grass, because it is from the too common, careless treatment of young pastures that such a number of complete and partial failures occur. Farmers who have hitherto been in the habit of only laying down grass to lie for a year, or two years, and treating it in the way such grass is usually treated, are too apt to treat in a similar manner land laid down to permanent pasture, or that is to lie for five or more years before being again ploughed. And it is of the more importance to dwell on this point, because the mixtures which ought to be used for five or six years' lays, or for permanent pasture, are so much more expensive than those usually sown in land to lie for a short time.
It is of great importance to leave a long stubble when cutting corn with which seeds have been sown in spring, to shield the young plants from frost and sun, and cold winds; also to prevent the topping of the clovers and grasses, which, of course, bleeds them, and should this topping be followed by frost -- by no means an impossible thing in some seasons -- serious injury would be caused. One of the worst errors usually committed by farmers who have sown out either with or without a crop is to turn lambs into the young pasture the moment there is a supply of grass for them. By doing so they acquire a slight gain, which is sure to be followed by a loss that far outweighs the trifling advantages obtained; for many of the young grass plants, having obtained but a slight hold of the ground, are pulled up. by the roots (I have watched this cheering process), others have their roots ruptured, and so are easily thrown out by frost, while others -- very small plants from seeds that have germinated late -- are injured, and perhaps stamped out of existence if the weather is wet; others, again, are injured by the urine of the sheep, and by being lain upon; and, lastly, all the plants are injured by being cropped at that early period, as the root growth is checked, and they are therefore hindered from establishing themselves as deeply in the ground as they otherwise would. For all these reasons, then, it is obvious that, as a rule, stock should not be allowed to enter a young grass field during the year in which the seed is sown. If, however, from any cause, the barley should be short and scanty, while the growth of the grasses and clovers is luxuriant, and likely to be injured from the grass being laid; or, as in the case of the Bank field experiment (vide Appendix 3), where it was desired to restrain the growth of the chicory and the strong-growing grasses, then the field may be lightly grazed with lambs and calves after harvest, without any bad effect. But it is important to remember that before any stock is admitted to the fields the land should be rolled so as to prevent any injury to the grasses, many of which are sure to have but a slight hold on the ground. It is important to remember that rolling in warm weather makes the land warmer, and in cold weather, colder.
The next error, and one which is often committed, is that of failing carefully to roll the land in the beginning of winter and the spring following, for, in consequence of this neglect, the plants are liable to be thrown out by frost, and also to suffer from drought in the spring. And when I say carefully I mean that the land should be rolled with careful regard to the weather and the state of the land, which is very apt to be too damp or too dry, and I have had land of my own injured by being rolled when in too damp a state. Having the land well rolled enables a shower of rain to be much. more effectual than it would otherwise be. When the soil is not rolled, and therefore loose, the water of a shower would quickly evaporate and be easily carried away by the wind, whereas the rolled soil would cause a shower to go much further in supplying the plants with moisture. Rolling would sometimes have the effect of keeping plants alive which would otherwise die. When my steward mentioned to a farmer visitor the importance of rolling, he said: 'Oh, we have no time for rolling.' But if the farmer seems often to have no time to spare for the valuable, and indeed most important work of rolling, he seems to have no difficulty in finding time for the harmful practice of raking the stubbles of his young grass fields. This is most objectionable, as the teeth of the rake sometimes pull up, and sometimes rupture, the roots of the tender grass plants, and the stamp of the horses must often destroy late spring seeds, which not infrequently germinate close to, or immediately after, the time of harvest.
A third, and very important error, is commonly committed by overstocking the land early in the spring following the year in which the grass seeds have been sown, for Sinclair 'found, on repeated trials, that cropping seedling grasses before they had produced flowers had the effect of retarding and weakening the aftergrowth of the plant for that season very much'. And on my referring the point to Mr. Carruthers -- botanist of the Royal Agricultural Society of England -- he replied as follows:
'The aftergrowth of grasses depends on the strength of the plant, and especially on the hold it has on the ground. Up to flowering the plant is making itself above and below ground. Flowering and fruiting are exhaustive processes, and while this goes on the plant does not extend itself; but the aftergrowth of the plant will be improved by its growing as long as it can up to flowering.'
And it is for these reasons that I prefer to take a crop of hay in the first year, and this seems to be the usual practice, if I may judge by the opinions collected on the subject by the Royal Agricultural Society, and which appeared in the Journal of April 1888. Of the agriculturists consulted (of whom I was one) sixteen mow the first year, three do not mow, one may mow first year, one mows sometimes, and one mows and grazes alternately. (Our subsequent experience shows that, though in the case of the grass seed mixtures formerly used it was considered advisable to take hay the first year, and not to graze the pasture in the spring of the first year, pastures sown with the Bankfield or other Clifton Park mixtures can either be grazed in the first year up to the 15th or 20th May, and hayed afterwards in the same year, or grazed throughout the first year and hayed in the second year, or any subsequent year that may suit the plans of the farmer. The Bowmont-side field -- seventeen acres -- for instance, was sown in 1904, grazed throughout 1905, and hayed in 1906, when it gave certainly more than two tons an acre of hay, and the aftermath afforded fine grazing, and this year (1907) the grazing is most satisfactory. Farmers, then, who desire to keep the first year's grass entirely for grazing, instead of, as customary, haying the first year, can, if my mixtures are used, reserve all their first year's grass for their ewes and lambs.)
But besides the obvious advantages of not cropping the seedling grasses either in the autumn or spring* following laying down, and, allowing the plants to begin to flower before cutting them for hay, there is another great advantage from adopting this course, as it gives a good opportunity for re-seeding vacant places; for, however carefully land may be laid down, it will be found that there are always many vacant spots, and though those may not seem, at first sight, to amount to a considerable area, let any one take a rake and some seed, and do the work himself (as I have), and he will soon find that they are far more than one would be inclined to suppose. (The steward at Clifton has sown several large fields without any vacancies, but these were fields of light soil where the seeds were less liable to fail.) (The subsequent adoption of the Bank field mixture (vide Appendix 3) calls for a modification of this remark in consequence of the use of such a large proportion of the strongest grasses, which would, if not kept back by grazing to a late period in the spring, give a coarse hay. For the benefit of the subsequent grazings, and the pasture generally, we have also found that a crop of hay, if more than two tons an acre, is a disadvantage. We have also found that by grazing in spring the chicory is so suppressed as to cease to be an objection in the hay crop.)
It is true that these gaps would eventually be covered over, but it is important to remember that our fields, like our minds, are liable to be filled with weeds if vacancies are left for their growth, and I consider it, therefore, of great importance to re-seed vacant places, though they be only a few inches wide. To do so, I have found, will cost about a shilling an acre for labour. Two women, or boys, should go together. One should have a rake and scratch the ground, and the other put down the seed, and these operations should be carefully superintended. When the Duke of Wellington was once asked by Lord Mahon (afterwards the Earl Stanhope) what was the principal cause of the success of his campaigns, the Duke replied: 'The real reason why I succeeded in my own campaigns is that I was always on the spot. I saw everything, and did everything for myself.' Farmers should apply this anecdote to themselves, and the proprietor, too, if he wishes his fields to be so well filled with good grasses that there is no room for weeds and bad grasses; and do not let the latter rely on his farm manager or steward, or both. I have both, but, on looking into the work on one occasion, I found that, partly from carelessness and partly from wind having sprung up, the seed was largely landing, not on the vacant spots for which it was intended, but on the adjacent grass.
I have remarked on the importance of filling up the ground with the view of keeping out weeds and bad grasses, but there is another enemy which must not be lost sight of -- moss, which will speedily reappear in the vacant places, and spread from them. And as regards moss, it is the same in the case of earth in a pot should the plant which occupies it be in an unhealthy condition, and so not only decline above, but make little root growth below. The soil thus soon becomes solidified, or, in other words, loses its good physical condition, and then it begins to grow moss. And the springing up of moss in a field is really owing to the exposure of the land to the elements, and, besides, to its not being sufficiently kept open by the roots of plants. I was particularly struck with this fact in the case of a field in an alluvial flat which I had laid down to permanent pasture. On one side of the field there was a knoll of about six or seven acres, and, after sowing the whole field with the grass mixture suitable for such land, I added, to the land of the knoll, burnet, chicory, sheep's parsley, ribgrass, yellow suckling clover, and kidney vetch. These not only aerated the land, but filled it up closely with plants, and the result was that the poorer land of the knoll surpassed the land of the rest of the field, and was quite free from moss, which soon began to appear on the land sown with the ordinary mixture suitable for the soil. This is a point to which I shall again allude when treating of the quantity of seed which it is desirable to sow, but I may add here that I was lately struck, in the case of a very mossy field, by the effect thistles have, evidently from their aerating the soil, in suppressing moss. On our hill pastures the barest places have always most moss, and such bareness is really owing to the almost exclusive close grazing of pastures with sheep. It seems to me quite clear that by increasing cattle and diminishing sheep you would certainly lessen moss, and much improve the pastures, as letting up the grass has a tendency to keep the ground more open, and the land therefore better aerated (vide Appendix 3).
We are often told that the requirements of the farmer impel him to manage his pastures badly, but, from my own experience in the case of an excellent tenant of my own, I can see that it is more often owing to a mixture of carelessness and want of skill that pastures are mismanaged, and the tenant in question, from his attention and judgment in judiciously shifting his stock, has at once more stock and more grass on his land than any farmer in this part of the country. I was particularly struck with this point in the case of one of my grass parks, which was let to him for two consecutive seasons. It consisted of grass in the third and fourth years -- the proverbially trying fourth year -- and yet he kept more stock on it than has been kept on my best old pastures, which were let to tenants, while all the time the field had an ample supply of grass.
I turn, lastly, to the consideration of the subject of the management of pastures, so as to obtain from them the greatest amount of winter and early spring food, so that we may be able to maintain our flocks in the most satisfactory manner, and with the smallest possible assistance from root crops; for, as Sir John Lawes has pointed out, if we deduct the litter and food required for horses, grass land can produce more stock than arable, and it must always be remembered that the cheapest food we can grow for stock is grass. The last is a fact that seems to have been long ago perceived, and the bearing of it on our present agricultural conditions, and the deduction that should be drawn from it, are of the utmost importance.
I have said, in a previous chapter, that the rapid production of a good turf is the key to all our agricultural difficulties, so far as these can be solved by the wit of man; but it must be considered that this method of solution can only be fully successful if the cheapening of production, which we can alone attain through the agency of turf, is developed all along the line. I have shown how, by the agency of turf, in the case of lands to be kept in arable, good crops of roots and cereals may be produced at the lowest possible cost. It remains to show how grass lands should be managed so as to aid still further in lessening the cost of production by reducing the area of the root crop, and therefore the area under plough, to the lowest possible limits. This is a point our ancestors successfully grappled with, and we can only do so, as far as I can see, by following their example. Let us, then, revert to the methods they practised, and which have been alluded to in the last chapter, and one of which, as we shall see, is still practised in south Wales.
And first of all, let us consider the value of what, in Arthur Young's days, was termed rouen -- a word which I have been unable exactly to trace; the nearest approach I can find to it is roughings or rowings (aftermath), a south-country word given in his Provincial Glossary by Francis Grose: London, 1811 -- which seems to have been particularly applied to aftermath preserved for spring use. As it is a short word, it may be as well to use it, and more especially as it will probably be even more used in the future than it was in Arthur Young's days.
The practice of relying on rouen for spring use seems to have been a very ancient one, and I may remind the reader that Arthur Young speaks highly of it after an experience of twenty-five years of its value, and that he states that he 'scarcely knew a person that tried it who ever gave it up'. He complains of turnips as being expensive, and liable to be injured by frost, while after his experience of the winter of 1794-5, which he speaks of as the hardest ever known, he was able to declare that rouen was as safely to be relied on in severe winters as during the milder ones in which it was tried. The grass, it was pointed out by another agriculturist quoted by Young, is much more early and productive if, after mowing, no stock is turned in till spring, as the dry herbage shelters the young grass shoots, and thus promotes their growth.
But there is another ancient practice which Young, as we have seen, alludes to under the term fog, given, he states, in south Wales to the growth of the whole year kept till the ensuing winter and spring -- a practice, he tells us, 'commonly found nowhere else'. Stock of all kinds, he says, were fed on it during these seasons, and the system was found to kill moss, and improve the grass by the quantity of seed produced; he further states that an acre of fog will support more cattle than one acre of hay. I have made special inquiries, and have obtained the following information from reliable sources:
'The custom you refer to', writes my informant, 'is still in existence in parts of Cardiganshire, Carmarthen, and Pembroke. It is generally termed "fogging the land". Owing to the proverbial wet weather prevailing in south Wales, many farmers, rather than run the risk of a poor hay crop, prefer leaving certain fields ungrazed from July till about February, when the milch cows are turned thereon, then some young cattle generally follow, and the horses get the last bite. Much of the grass having withered, with some green intermixed, it is considered very beneficial as preparatory to the stock being turned into green pastures. The system has also its disadvantages, as by allowing the grass on the land, it tends to destroy the most tender and nourishing grasses, and ultimately the quality of the pasture becomes very much coarser. (This seems to show that the land should only be hained once, say, every four years, as an occasional haining could, I should say, do little harm to the smaller grasses.) The fogging of land certainly tends to destroy moss, and many of the fallen seeds will, of course, vegetate. Mr. Young is right with regard to one acre of fog being of more value than one acre of hay, provided it is a mild winter, with but little frost and snow, and in a sheltered locality.'
I would here observe that the reader must not suppose that the disadvantages alluded to by my correspondent must occur always; on the contrary, they need never occur in the case of well laid down pastures, and I had an interesting proof of this when, on 7th June 1884 1 visited, in company with some landlords and tenant-farmers, Mr. Faunce de Laune's pastures at Sharsted Court. In one case my friend had allowed a pasture in its fifth year to grow up, intending to cut it for hay, but for some reason or another he changed his mind, and turned sheep into it, which were kept on the pasture in the autumn, winter, and spring following. The result extremely astonished one of the oldest, most experienced, and intelligent graziers present, who could not at all account for finding on June 7th such clean, level, close turf, with grasses as fine as those on a lawn, following on the letting up of the pasture the year before. But the explanation is simple. Ordinary pastures, if so treated, would certainly show deterioration, because they usually have a considerable proportion of weeds and inferior grasses -- holcus especially. Were such pastures, then, allowed to flower, and then grazed with sheep, they would pick out the good kinds of grasses, and reject the bad grasses and weeds. Then the large grasses, being thinly distributed in the ground (as they commonly are in most old pastures), would assume a coarse and hassocky appearance, and the stems in consequence of the large grasses being thinly distributed being very strong, would not be closely eaten by sheep. But when (as in the case of Mr. de Laune's grass under consideration) the land is full of large grasses they keep each other in subjection, or, in other words, fine; and as there are no weeds nor bad or coarse grasses to be rejected by the stock, the whole pasture, or what may be called the standing crop of hay, is grazed evenly over during the course of autumn and winter; on the arrival of spring you have a clean field, and up at once starts a fine and even pasture. The Bank field experiment (vide Appendix 3) has shown conclusively that as fine a pasture as could be desired may be formed from the largest grasses. In this case 14 lb. cocksfoot, 7 lb. each of tall fescue and tall oatgrass were used, and only one small grass, Poa trivialis. When such a combination is used you have all the drough-tresisting advantages of the large grasses, with the increased vegetable matter from their large roots when the pasture is ploughed up, and by grazing the pasture late in the spring -- say up to May 15th -- you can produce as fine hay as could be desired.
Another great advantage from letting a pasture up at intervals of several years is, as we have seen, that not only is it re-seeded, but the moss is destroyed, should there be any present. The latter is a point of great importance, and one which I have closely studied, and I am now satisfied that moss is usually caused by the consolidation of the surface soil, which commonly takes place where pastures are continuously and closely grazed, and not merely, as is commonly supposed, from chemical poverty. I was particularly struck with this in the case of a small enclosure I had made in a field with the view of testing the proportions of plants in a young closely grazed pasture in which moss had made its appearance, but when the grass was let up in the enclosed plot the moss soon disappeared, or nearly so, and a close observation showed that much of it had been dragged up by the rising grass; I could see it in some cases hanging to the seeding stems. The soil of the enclosed plot soon became comparatively soft, while that of the field was hard and, comparatively speaking, consolidated. I have also observed the same point in the case of pleasure grounds, part of which had been hayed for a great many year's past , while part had been kept as lawn. The latter was full of moss, while the former had hardly any, and the surface of the lawn was hard, while that of the hayed land was soft and open. Whenever, then, moss appears in a pasture it would seem to be advisable to let the pasture up in the summer, on the Welsh fogging system, and put on stock either in November or in the early spring. Many of our hill pastures -- in fact, most of them -- are heavily afflicted with fog, and if, say, fifty or a hundred acres were annually treated on this system, I think that the whole pasture could then be gradually improved, and that at no further expense than that of fencing off, with moveable fences, the pasture to be operated on.
It has been pointed out to me -- and, indeed, it is sufficiently obvious -- that in the case of pastures preserved for winter and spring use there would be a certain risk from snow, and, were the pasture composed of short grasses, this might be serious; but by using liberally the seed of the tall grasses this risk would be much reduced, and it is a risk that the farmer might easily provide against by keeping some hay in reserve for such a contingency. But in any case, it should be considered that the risk of relying on foggage for winter and spring use won I'd certainly be less than relying on turnips, which are not only liable to turn out a poor crop, but to be much injured by frost, and which, besides, are certainly not nearly so suitable a food for sheep as foggage.
In concluding this chapter, I may observe that I can see no better way of fighting our two great enemies, turnips and cereals, than by the adoption of a system of rouen and foggage, combined with a liberal use of oilcake whenever the prices of it are as low as they are at present. And in abolishing cereals as far as possible, and only growing enough for consumption on the farm, it is cheering to think that we shall be carrying out the principles of political economy, and all those trading laws which are so constantly pressed on our attention. We shall produce, what we can produce most cheaply, grass, and the inhabitants of other climates -- warmer ones with cheaper labour -- will produce for us all the grain we require.
Next: Chapter 6: Forage Plants
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