If the grain farmer grows 40 bushels of wheat to the acre, clover having been seeded on the same land in order to plow under the equivalent of 1-1/2 tons of hay as green manure the following spring, and follows this by a 60-bushel crop of corn and a 50-bushel crop of oats, and this the fourth year by two crops of clover aggregating 3 tons an acre, including 2 bushels of seed, he can thus secure from the air about 180 pounds of nitrogen in the 4-1/2 tons of clover. Moreover, if the first cutting of clover the fourth year is left on the land and the threshed clover straw from the seed crop and likewise all straw and stalks are returned to the soil, only 154 pounds of nitrogen an acre would leave the farm if the total grain and clover seed were sold. With 80 cents a bushel for wheat, 50 cents for corn, 40 cents for oats and $8 for clover seed, the total returns from the four acres would amount to $98.
On the other hand the live-stock farmer may grow two 60-bushel crops of corn, followed by 50 bushels of oats and then 3 tons of clover hay containing 120 pounds of new nitrogen. The four crops would contain 350 pounds of nitrogen; and if the grain and hay and half the corn-stalks are used for feed, with the straw and the remainder of the stalks for bedding, it is likewise possible to replace the 230 pounds of nitrogen required for the grain crops, provided not more than one-seventh of the manure is lost before being returned to the land. The important weakness on the common live-stock farm lies in the enormous waste of manure.
If 10 pounds of feed produce 1 pound increase in the live-weight of the animals fed, and if they bring 6 cents a pound on the hoof, the gross returns aggregate $107.50 from the four acres, barring losses from accidents, animal diseases, and so on.
Thus, with a few established facts in mind, one can easily determine how to maintain or even to increase the supply of nitrogen in the soil, and without the purchase of nitrogen in any form; and it is just as possible and just as necessary thus to provide the nitrogen needed in grain farming as in livestock farming. When we consider that animals destroy two-thirds of the organic matter in the food consumed we find that as between the two systems above described the organic matter or humus of the soil will be better maintained in the grain system outlined.
Live-Stock or Grain Farming
For those who believe that live-stock farming must be adopted for the maintenance of fertility on all farms, attention should be called to the fact that there are 900,000,000 acres of farm-land in the United States and only 90,000,000 head of live-stock equivalent to cows, including all farm animals. Will the manure from one cow serve to enrich 10 acres of land?
It should also be known that a hundred bushels of grain will support five times as many people as could live for the same length of time on the meat and milk that could be made by feeding the grain to domestic animals. It is because of this fact that the consumer may sometimes boycott meat or other animal products, while he never boycotts bread; but let us hope that permanent systems will become generally adopted in America, for the production of both grain and live stock, so that high standards of living may be maintained for all classes of people in this country.