It was Baron von Liebig who taught, both in Germany and in England, that-"it is not the land itself that constitutes the farmer’s wealth, but it is in the constituents of the soil, which serve for the nutrition of plants, that this wealth truly consists.” And it is in the application of this teaching, completely verified by sixty years of investigation and demonstration by Lawes and Gilbert at Rothamsted, that England has been able to raise her 10-year average yield of wheat to 37-1/2 bushels an acre, while the average for the United States stands at 14 bushels.
In Illinois, where the agricultural college and experiment station, the state farmers’ institute and the agricultural press have been working in perfect co-operation in teaching and demonstrating the need and value of soil enrichment as well as of seed selection and proper tillage, the 10-year average yield of wheat is already 3 bushels higher and the 10-year average yield of corn is 7-1/2 bushels higher than the averages for the 25-year period ending with 1890, before the definite information from Illinois investigations began to be widely disseminated; and yet it must be confessed that on the average Illinois is producing only 16 bushels of wheat and 36 bushels of corn to the acre, which is less than half a crop, measured by the possibilities of our soil and climate.
But what shall we say of Georgia, both an older and a larger state, and with far better climatic conditions for corn, yet with a 10-year average yield of less than 12 bushels of corn to the acre, notwithstanding the yearly expenditure of $20,000,000 for more than 2000 different brands of commercial fertilizers that have been bought by Georgia farmers? The facts are that while some profit can be secured from the use of high-priced mixed commercial fertilizers for cotton with lint at 10 cents a pound, they scarcely pay their cost when used for corn, even at Georgia prices.
Working Mind and Muscle
But Georgia spends money enough for fertilizers to double the average crop yields of the entire state within a decade if wisely invested in positive soil enrichment in rational permanent systems of agriculture.
Why should not the farmers of Georgia and other Southern states be brought to understand and to apply the results of those most valuable investigations conducted by the Louisiana Experiment Station on typical worn upland soil of the South, which show that the use of organic manures produced upon the farm-farm manure, legume cover-crops and cottonseed meal—re-enforced by liberal additions of phosphorus, increased the crop yields from 466 to 1514 pounds per acre of seed cotton, from 9.4 to 31.4 bushels of corn, and from 16.4 to 41.8 bushels of oats, as the averages for nineteen years?
This experiment occupied 6 acres of land, but when the results are applied to a 60-acre farm it is found that the gross returns from the untreated land would amount to $595.76, while the net returns from the soil treatment amount to $956.08 annually, both the value of produce and the cost of fertilizer being computed at the prices that were used by the Louisiana Experiment Station.