Thirty Years Farming on the Clifton Park System

How to supply Humus, Texture, and Fertility by the Aid of Deep-Rooting Grasses

by William Lamin

Appendix 4

The Author's Reply to the Grassland Expert

Mr. A. A. Johnson, the Ministry of Agriculture Grassland officer, states in his article that the Ministry of Agriculture is now embarking on a country-wide system of ley farming. He states there are some areas throughout England where the advantages and possibilities of ley farming are not at all clear.

In the drier areas to the east the useful benefits which can be derived by the use of a long-term ley in place of a one-year clover has yet to be proved, but it would seem the most logical way of exploiting this ley farming system would be to retain the present acreage of arable land in the normal rotation and to restrict the long-term leys to that area of the farm which is normally in permanent grass.

It would be wise at this point to emphasize that it is only on farms which have a fertile free working type of soil that this policy should be implemented.

Mr. Johnson's idea that the long leys would not be suitable for the dry eastern districts is erroneous, as these are the districts where the long leys will do the most good if they are seeded down with the right mixture of grasses.

The rye grass mixtures that most of our grassland advisers prescribe for the dry districts are entirely wrong. The rye grass mixtures are only suitable for one year in the dry districts and then the clover will make the bulk of the crop, especially if it is Montgomery Red.

R. H. Elliot's Clifton Park System of four years ley of deep-rooting grasses with chicory, burnet and yarrow, etc., all over the fields will disintegrate and aerate the soil. The herbs will also tap the subsoil for the minerals.

Sir George Stapledon has done agriculture an immense amount of good with his improved strains of cocksfoot, and if you will put more than as much again cocksfoot as the grassland advisers prescribe you will have plenty to eat whether it is wet or dry weather.

Cocksfoot and the deep-rooting grasses will make plenty of humus of which the soil is so short in the dry districts, which will hold the moisture and stop the land from blowing and being frizzled up in the dry weather.

This reseeding without a cover crop is a very good thing for the wet districts where they would get too much clover in a corn crop, but it is no good for the dry districts. You must have a cover crop for the dry districts as the sun and wind could easily frizzle all the seeds up. A thin seeding of barley is the best. When you have got a good take of four years ley don't plough it up until it has been down four years or longer if it suits you. This seeding down with rye grass and clover for two or three years is no good and the land is very little better for it. The rye grass makes no humus. Rye grass is only right for good land in the wet districts; where the grass is used up in the form of hay without cake it can rob the land like a corn crop.

Mr. Johnson's idea of reseeding the permanent pastures is very likely necessary for convenience and water for the cattle, but if you are trying to improve the arable land you must have the four years ley all round the farm in rotation.

A big man in the seed trade once told me in a letter it was possible to eliminate cocksfoot in three or four years and that rye grass was a much better grass. I suppose he did not know that we had been growing cocksfoot for many years and that it was news to me that you could eliminate it.

I should say, if you are in a wet district and you are seeding down with a lot of cocksfoot, don't graze it hard until it gets well established, as it takes longer to get hold of the ground than the rye grasses do, and the cattle are liable to pull it up by the roots if you graze it as soon as the Grassland Advisers recommend.

When taking the leys round the farm, water will be one of the chief obstacles, but if you have as many corrugated iron troughs as will hold a good big water cart full of water it'will not be a big job to keep the sheep supplied with plenty of water. But it would be too big a job to cart water for cattle, so most of the leys would have to be grazed with sheep.

Mr. Johnson's idea is that the benefit of the four years ley has yet to be proved, but I have proved it nearly forty years since, through farming on R. H. Elliot's Clifton Park System and stimulating the grasses with the judicious use of manures at the same time.

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