When my late friend, Mr. Faunce de Laurie of Sharsted Court, Kent, wrote, in 1882, his paper on 'Laying Down Land to Permanent Pasture' (Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, Part 1, No. XXXV. 1882. John Murray, London) -- a paper which initiated all the important results that followed it both in the seed trade and in the selection of seeds by agriculturists, as well as in the cleaning of seeds, which resulted in thistles and weeds being largely diminished -- the grass seed trade in this country was in a most extraordinary condition, and illustrates the need, to which I have repeatedly called attention, for agricultural schools. For, at the time my friend wrote, Mr. James Hunter points out that 'great ignorance of the permanent grasses prevailed both amongst seedsmen and agriculturists. Seedsmen knew little either of, the species of grasses or their seeds, and agriculturists still less. When land was laid down to permanent grass a "mixture" of seeds was ordered, and the agriculturist accepted whatever was supplied, as he had no knowledge to enable him to look after his own interest. Such being the case, adulterated seeds, and seeds of very inferior quality, were freely sold without any, complaint being made by the purchasers; and, as the price of different grass seeds varies considerably, the cheaper kinds were used in excessive quantity. Thus, ryegrass, which is always low-priced, was largely used in permanent grass mixtures, and it was also the adulterant of meadow fescue, cocksfoot, etc. It might happen, therefore, that owing to the low quality and inferior germination of the grass seeds used, and the large proportion of ryegrass (usually of good germination) in the mixture, nine-tenths of the grasses in a pasture might be ryegrass. To Mr. Faunce de Laurie is due the great credit of being the first to discover and draw attention to this great evil, and his. efforts have had most beneficial results, not only in directing attention to the proper species to grow, but in creating a demand for pure seeds, which is now fairly supplied. It must not, however, be supposed that the sale of bad seeds has been stopped. A perusal of the annual reports of the consulting botanist to the Royal Agricultural Society of England will show that this is still too common. But with ordinary care on the part of the buyer, there is now no difficulty in procuring pure seeds.'
Mr. Hunter then gives the following extract from his price-list, which offers an easy and safe method of obtaining good seeds:
'To enable purchasers to have their seeds analysed and tested before the time of sowing, any seeds required will be delivered carriage free to the purchaser, so that samples for analysis may he taken from the bulks while they are in the possession of the buyer. This method is more satisfactory than that of testing a sample received from the seed merchant before purchasing, as it excludes all doubt about the identity of the seed analysed. In the event of any kind of seed not fulfilling, in every particular, the guarantee of purity, genuineness, or percentage of germination stated in this catalogue, such seed may be refused, and returned at the expense of the seller, who will also in such a case pay the consulting botanist's fee.'
With such a system at the command of the purchaser, it is now his own fault if he does not put down good seed.
Mr. Hunter deprecates the use of such a large quantity of clover seed as is commonly sown with grass seeds. He says that it has been customary to sow about 9 lb. of clover, and a farmer in Scotland who has laid down much land to grass tells me that 12 lb. to 14 lb. are often sown. Mr. Hunter advises 5 lb. of the best seed, and says that equally good results will be obtained as from sowing a larger quantity. I generally use 5 lb. and find this ample; and, on showing a field of temporary grass sown with that quantity to a number of farmers, they could hardly believe that so little seed had been used.
As regards Sinclair's estimate of the number of seeds in a lb., Mr. Hunter observes that his figures cannot now be accepted, as better seeds are now available. 'The number of seeds', writes Mr. Hunter, 'in a lb. depends on the quality of the sample. Light undressed seed will give twice or three times the number of seeds to the lb. that perfectly dressed heavy seed will do. To insure accuracy in this matter, I had all the seeds in my table carefully counted, using only samples of heaviest weight and purest quality and my figures are now generally adopted.'
Next: Appendix 3
The Latest Experiences, up to the End of November 1907, Have Been Added to the Experimental and Other Notes in this Appendix
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