Familiar Letters on Chemistry eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 119 pages of information about Familiar Letters on Chemistry.

We can thus ascertain precisely the quantity, quality, and composition of animal excrements, without the trouble of analysing them.  If we give a horse daily 4 1/2 pounds’ weight of oats, and 15 pounds of hay, and knowing that oats give 4 per cent. and hay 9 per cent. of ashes, we can calculate that the daily excrements of the horse will contain 21 ounces of inorganic matter which was drawn from the fields.  By analysis we can determine the exact relative amount of silica, of phosphates, and of alkalies, contained in the ashes of the oats and of the hay.

You will now understand that the constituents of the solid parts of animal excrements, and therefore their qualities as manure, must vary with the nature of the creature’s food.  If we feed a cow upon beetroot, or potatoes, without hay, straw or grain, there will be no silica in her solid excrements, but there will be phosphate of lime and magnesia.  Her fluid excrements will contain carbonate of potash and soda, together with compounds of the same bases with inorganic acids.  In one word, we have, in the fluid excrements, all the soluble parts of the ashes of the consumed food; and in the solid excrements, all those parts of the ashes which are insoluble in water.

If the food, after burning, leaves behind ashes containing soluble alkaline phosphates, as is the case with bread, seeds of all kinds, and flesh, we obtain from the animal by which they are consumed a urine holding in solution these phosphates.  If, however, the ashes of food contain no alkaline phosphates, but abound in insoluble earthy phosphates, as hay, carrots, and potatoes, the urine will be free from alkaline phosphates, but the earthy phosphates will be found in the faeces.  The urine of man, of carnivorous and graminivorous animals, contains alkaline phosphates; that of herbivorous animals is free from these salts.

The analysis of the excrements of man, of the piscivorous birds (as the guano), of the horse, and of cattle, furnishes us with the precise knowledge of the salts they contain, and demonstrates, that in those excrements, we return to the fields the ashes of the plants which have served as food,—­the soluble and insoluble salts and earths indispensable to the development of cultivated plants, and which must be furnished to them by a fertile soil.

There can be no doubt that, in supplying these excrements to the soil, we return to it those constituents which the crops have removed from it, and we renew its capability of nourishing new crops:  in one word, we restore the disturbed equilibrium; and consequently, knowing that the elements of the food derived from the soil enter into the urine and solid excrements of the animals it nourishes, we can with the greatest facility determine the exact value of the different kinds of manure.  Thus the excrements of pigs which we have fed with peas and potatoes are principally suited for manuring crops of potatoes and peas.  In feeding a cow upon hay and turnips, we obtain a manure containing the inorganic elements of grasses and turnips, and which is therefore preferable for manuring turnips.  The excrement of pigeons contains the mineral elements of grain; that of rabbits, the elements of herbs and kitchen vegetables.  The fluid and solid excrements of man, however, contain the mineral elements of grain and seeds in the greatest quantity.

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Familiar Letters on Chemistry from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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