How to supply Humus, Texture, and Fertility by the Aid of Deep-Rooting Grasses
by William Lamin
Royal Agricultural Society of England, 1915
Extract from a report by Professor C. S. Orwin and the late K. J. J. Mackenzie on Bottom House Farm
Farm prize competitions -- Arable farms: Class I
Four hundred acres or over
The second prize in this class went to the only other competitor, Mr. William Lamin, of Bottom House Farm, Bestwood Park, Arnold (Notts). The farm lies to the west of the Nottingham-Mansfield road, about six miles north of the former, and eight miles south of the latter town. The situation is the highest in the locality, and colliery chimneys meet the eye in almost every direction, whilst the air is rarely free from smoke. Here is a large tract of land, running right away from the road, composed of a blowing sand filled with pebbly stones, which in many places would go derelict, but which in the hands of a very energetic and capable, man, is contributing its full share to the country's food supply. The homestead is unfavourably placed at one end of the farm, and the buildings are none too good, neither are they well planned. There is a second set on the western side. The house is very pleasantly placed.
Mr. Lamin follows no strict rotation; the arable land extends to 601 acres, and was cropped this year as follows:
60 acres roots
130 acres potatoes
76 acres barley
146 acres seeds
189 acres oats
The management may be said to be based upon a long seed-ley of deep-rooting plants, which supplies the humus in which this soil is so deficient, and helps to fix the loose sand. Fertility is further kept up by heavy dressings of artificials and frequent
limings. The seeds are followed by light but regular crops of corn, and by potatoes. The tenant attributes the whole possibility of success to his seeds. These are a sort of Elliot's mixture, consisting of cocksfoot, 9 lb.; tall fescue, 4-1/2 lb.; tall oatgrass, 3 lb.; crested dogstail, 1 lb.; burnet, 6 lb.; chicory, 4 lb.; sheep's parsley, 1/2 lb.; yarrow, 3/4 lb.; giant perennial white clover, 1-1/2 lb.; bird's foot trefoil, 1-1/2 lb.; Gartons' perennialized red clover, 4 lb.
It might be expected that the chicory would get too strong, but this seems to be prevented by the vigorous growth of the clover in the first year. The first cut is hayed, and in this great industrial district hay is evidently a good thing to go for, whilst the heavy dressing of artificials not only prevents the exhaustion of the soil through selling off hay, but actually adds to the fertility. Stock do well on the aftermath from this mixture which holds a sward for four years and is then broken up for oats. The difficulty which might be expected from the turf fibre is overcome by ploughing so as to bury it completely, and by cultivating with chisel-pointed harrows. Mr. Lamin also follows the practice of ploughing round and round, so that there is no opening and finishing to be done. The oats are quite a paying crop, an average of about eight quarters being expected, and they generally receive about 11 cwts. sulphate of ammonia, 4 cwts. dissolved bones, and 1 cwt. muriate of potash. Potatoes follow the oats, the turf being then thoroughly rotted. They receive 10 cwts. ground lime, 2 cwts. sulphate of ammonia, 8 cwts. of dissolved bones, 10 cwts. kainet (or 2 cwts. muriate of potash), but no farmyard manure if there has only been one corn crop since seeds. If two corn crops have been taken before potatoes, or if the land.seems to need it, about 10 tons of dung are added.
Mr. Lamin used to bring back large quantities of town manure, but abandoned the practice on account of the weeds introduced with it. The farm is, indeed extraordinarily clean, even annual weeds being entirely absent. This is doubtless due to the practice of working the stubbles, a very vital matter on this light land, for the conservation of moisture. The tenant has proved that sheep are not essential in the management of very light land, as is commonly held. Indeed, it would be difficult for any sheep farmer on such a farm to show a turnover approaching Mr. Lamin's. There are no sheep at all on this farm, and all the roots are carted off, and fed to bullocks on the grass. The mangolds are fed, during the summer, to bullocks on the seed leys, a rather unusual practice, but one more remarkable still is the custom of feeding 'pig' potatoes to them likewise.
On this large arable farm, live stock occupy a place of subsidiary importance. About sixty bullocks are fed during the winter, most of them brought in, but, as already stated, no sheep are kept, nor any pigs.
In this great industrial centre, the labour question might well appear alarming, but Mr. Lamin has studied the organization of farm labour and his success in this direction raises the suspicion that the difficulty so commonly complained of (speaking, of course, of pre-war times) may be due as much to lack of study and organization on the part of the farmer, as to an actual shortage. Mr. Lamin does not spare himself, for during the potato harvest, he 'gangs' his men in person. Some threshing results for oats on his farm seem worth recording, for during one and a half days on 21st and 22nd August, 1914, he threshed 218 quarters exclusive of tail corn. 'The oats were threshed straight out of the field.
In his wife, Mr. Lamin has a most enthusiastic partner, and Mrs. Lamin has a knowledge of the science and practice of agriculture which must contribute in no small degree to their joint success.
Next: Appendix 2
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