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Cereal Grasses - Including Information on the Growing of Corn, Wheat, Barley and Oats

Cereal Grasses - Including Information on the Growing of Corn, Wheat, Barley and Oats

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Cereal Grasses - Including Information on the Growing of Corn, Wheat, Barley and Oats

173 pages
2 heures
Aug 26, 2016


This text comprises a comprehensive guide to cereal grasses, including information on growing corn, wheat, barley and oats. Full of statistical information, scientific explanations, comments on soil requirements, equipment, machinery, sowing techniques, and much more besides, this text constitutes an invaluable resource for farmers. It will also be of interest to those looking for general information on cereal production, and makes for a worthy addition to collections of agricultural literature. The chapters of this book include: 'On the Growth of Corn', 'Composition', 'Seed', 'Quality and Preservation', 'Product and Vegetation', 'Ripeness', 'On Wheat', 'Species', 'Soil', 'Pressing Machine', 'Seed and Sowing', 'Spring Tillage', 'Succession of Crops', 'Spring-Wheat', 'Produce and Qualities', 'Flour', etcetera. We are proud to republish this vintage volume, now complete with a new introduction on farming.
Aug 26, 2016

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Cereal Grasses - Including Information on the Growing of Corn, Wheat, Barley and Oats - Read Books Ltd.



THE plants of the description termed cereal grasses that are most commonly grown in this country are, wheat, rye, barley and oats; which partake of one common character, and admit of great similarity of culture. To these—which are used as bread-corn—we might add maize, buck-wheat, and millet, which are also extensively employed for that purpose throughout many parts of Europe and America, though here they are chiefly given to poultry; and maize, though long known in our gardens, is a plant of only recent introduction to our climate as a field-crop


The chemical composition of plants has, within these few years, been elucidated by numberless experiments, both in this and other countries. The subject is, however, too extensive to be minutely treated of in this work; we shall, therefore, merely quote a brief extract from the observations of Sir Humphry Davy, "that the compounds in vegetables really nutritive are very few: farina, or the pure matter of starch, gluten, sugar, vegetable jelly, oil, and extract. Of these the most nutritive is gluten, which approaches nearest in its nature to animal matter, and which is the substance that gives to wheat its superiority over every other grain. The next in order as to nourishing power is oil, then sugar, then starch, and last of all, gelatinous and extractive matters. Sugar and farina, or starch, are, however, very similar in composition, and are capable of being converted into each other by a simple chemical process. All the varieties of substances found in plants, are produced from the sap, and the sap of plants is derived from water, or from the fluids of the soil, and it is attended by, or combined with, principles derived from the atmosphere*." They vary, however, in quantity and proportion, not only in the different kinds of grain, but also in those of the same species: the temperature of the season, the nature of the soil and manure, the degree of maturity which the crop has attained, and the weather at harvest, all give rise to distinct degrees of quality; and this occasions corn to contain more nutritive properties in some years than in others.

The weight of the different species of grain varies according to the quality; but the nutritive properties, though approximating to the weight, yet do not exactly accord with it. The common weights are—

It has been lately much recommended to sell corn generally by weight—as at present customary at Liverpool, and some other markets—and a Bill has been brought into Parliament to enforce the practice. This has given rise to much discussion, and we doubt whether, if the measure be carried, it will have any further effect than occasioning some temporary inconvenience to those farmers and dealers who adopt the plan of sale by measure; for every one must estimate the grain by its general qualities, and no man who understands his business will judge either by weight or measure alone.

It has been calculated by distillers, that certain weights of the various kinds of corn of average quality, produce the following quantities of proof spirits; namely—

This proves that the saccharine matter extracted from different species of grain is not exactly in proportion to their respective weights; but experience has shown that the increase is nearly in the same proportion in those of the same kind. We have, however, already seen, that their nutritive properties, however, do not depend wholly on the quantities which they contain of saccharine matter.


Seed of every kind should attain full maturity ere it be sown; for, although that which has not arrived at perfection may produce sound crops, when favoured by soil and season, yet there is always considerable risk in employing it. It was formerly, indeed, maintained by the late Sir Joseph Banks, that stunted seed not having lost the faculty of germination, might be sown with entire safety, and the opinion of that eminent naturalist, backed by that of some other writers, brought it for a short time into use. It is, however, evident that,—as the farina, or flour, contained in the corn constitutes the food of the embryo plant, until its roots are grown sufficiently large to absorb their own nourishment,—the vegetative powers must be increased in proportion to its quality: the nourishment can never be so abundant when the parent stock is lean and shrivelled, as when sound, healthy, and vigorous; and there can be little doubt that the plumpest grains are the most eligible. The universal experience of farmers has, therefore, convinced them that the employment of inferior seed is a dangerous kind of false economy, and the finest qualities of each species are now generally chosen for the land to which they are most appropriate*.

Instances of repeated occurrence might, in fact, be stated, in which, through the selection of seed from the finest ears of corn, crops of superior value have been raised†; and to that, as well as to the importation of the best qualities of foreign grain, is chiefly to be attributed the improvement which is perceptible in those in which that care has been taken. Were farmers, therefore, to pay some additional attention to the growth of seed for their own use—by choosing out a favourable spot of land, hoeing and earthing-up the plants until they attained a perfect state of maturity, and sowing only the finest portion of the crop—they probably would thus find advantages in the practice which would more than recompense them for their additional trouble.

There is a particular period at which each species of seed ought to be sown, in order to bring the plants to a perfect state of ripeness. This, however, depends so much upon soil and season, that it cannot be fixed by any general rule, and the farmer can only be governed by the state of the weather and the forwardness of his work; for, whatever may be his experience, his judgment may be deceived in the choice of time. The condition of the land is, in fact, the best guide; for, if it be in a mellow state, between drought and moisture, the seed may be put in with confidence. Some kinds, however, prefer a dry and warm soil; others, that which is more humid and tenacious: thus barley, rye, and buck-wheat, succeed best on the former; and wheat and oats on the latter. It has, indeed, been remarked that a certain state of the atmosphere—with which all country-men are well acquainted—is favourable to sowing. Some farmers place great confidence in the full and change of the moon; others, recommend barley to be sown late in the evening, and not to be covered in until the following morning, in order that it may have the influence of the dew: but if this have any good effects upon its vegetation, warm weather should be chosen; for a white frost may have a contrary effect.

The depth at which the seed of corn should be sown is a matter of some nicety. When a seed which is fully ripe is exposed in a certain state of humidity to a degree of heat much above the freezing point‡, it absorbs moisture through the pores of its outer covering; in consequence of which it swells with such force, that beans and peas, during this process, have been made to split hollow balls of considerable strength, which had been filled with them, and even to raise a weight of nearly 200 lbs. If the seed should have met with any accident to destroy its vital powers, it decays and becomes putrid. The same effect takes place if it be alive, unless it have the benefit of air; but if the seed be good, and the presence of both air and the requisite degree of heat and moisture be secured, the nutritive matter contained within it soon becomes fluid, milky in its appearance, as well as sweetish to the taste, and is carried off by the sap-vessels, first towards the root, and then to the stem of the plant. Wheat, for instance, has two sets of roots; one springing immediately from the seed, and another from the stalk. The latter, which are called coronal roots, may always be observed to form themselves immediately below the surface of the soil, whether the grain be sown deep or superficial; which is probably occasioned by the facility afforded by this position to the spreading of the roots, and their absorption of nutriment from that portion of the ground which is usually the richest. They are therefore subject to be chilled by an early frost; and, if the seed be not sown at a proper medium depth, the seminal roots may also be exposed to similar attacks: which forms a strong reason for early sowing*.

If the grain be too deeply buried, germination is impeded, and may be altogether prevented; while, if sown too shallow, sufficient moisture is not left in the surface to afford nourishment to the roots of the plant. The depth at which it ought to be placed must, therefore, be regulated by the nature of the soil. If stiff, more moderate covering should be used than if it be light and porous: wheat, barley and oats, also require more than rye or buck-wheat; but except in some few instances, from 1 1/2 to 3 inches is, in every case, the lowest to which it should be carried. Some farmers adopt the plan of sowing the seed at different depths, for the purpose of insuring the growth of some portion of it. With regard to autumn sowing, this only causes the unnecessary sacrifice of an additional quantity; but in the sowing of spring corn, it has the injurious effect of preventing the crop from becoming ripe at the same time. To promote equal vegetation, it is therefore desirable that all the seeds should be placed at an uniform depth.

With regard to the proper quantity of each species of seed, the practice depends upon whether it be sown broad-cast, drilled, or dibbled, and also in some measure upon the nature and condition of the land; but, as this will be considered under their different heads, we need now only remark, that, generally speaking, wheat is usually sown broad-cast at the rate of three—barley at that of four—and oats to the extent of four or five bushels, or even more, per acre†.

If the seed could be uniformly spread at a regular depth,—if it were not subject to destruction by birds, field-mice, and insects, as well as injured by being in some cases buried beyond the influence of the air, and in others too much exposed to the atmosphere, and that every grain might be presumed to produce a shoot—such quantities might be deemed excessive, for not one-fourth of them could find space for their roots. But as in the ordinary mode of sowing, such precision cannot be expected, nor can the germination of every seed, though duly deposited in the earth, be relied on, experience has shown the sum already stated to be necessary, and the experiments of those who have tried lesser quantities have not been generally successful. The just amount must, however, depend upon the goodness of the seed, the expertness of the sower, the state of the soil both in respect to manure, fertility, and the condition into which it has been brought by tillage; and lastly, by the earliness of the sowing. The latter point is, indeed, of such importance—particularly in autumn sowing—that some sorts of rye will produce a crop, if sown in July, with half the quantity of seed that is found necessary in October. Savings may, therefore, unquestionably be made; and the seed be further diminished by more careful attention to the different operations of sowing.

Among the general run of farmers there is a far greater disposition to sow profusely than to lessen the quantity of seed. This chiefly arises from their fear of throwing away the chance of a crop by not sowing enough; and the land is, therefore, very generally sown with more seed than it requires. The practice has also been advocated, though upon another principle, which we shall hereafter notice, by Mr. Coke, of Norfolk. Thick sowing certainly gives a finer appearance to a crop of corn, in the early period of its growth, than when the seed has been put in thin; but when thus crowded, the shoots exhaust each other, acquire a yellow, dusky tinge, and, if the weather be at all unfavourable, many of them perish: it may also be seen that the most vacant spots are precisely those on which the plants stood the thickest*.

Another motive for thick sowing exists in the idea that the growth of weeds is thereby prevented. It not improbably, however, has a contrary effect: for, if the corn be sown at proper distances, the spreading of the roots occasions them to interweave among each other, and form a tissue which may choke the weeds; but, if sown too thick, they strike downwards and do not prevent the weeds from springing. On this point we have the evidence of Von Thäer, who says, that, on some marsh-land upon the banks of the Oder, it is customary to sow oats at the extraordinary rate of nearly eight bushels per acre, with the intention of keeping down the rankness of weeds with which the ground is much infested. Yet it has not that effect; while he, who sows only half the quantity, finds his land quite as clean as that of his neighbours. He, indeed, states that the finest crops of any corn which he has ever seen contained only five or six plants to the foot square

It is commonly imagined that a change of seed is necessary, and therefore farmers generally choose what they purchase out of a different district from that in which they reside. There may be some truth in the opinion; for unquestionably a change has frequently proved beneficial to the succeeding crop, though it is contradicted by many men of sound judgment, who hold that the only advantage thus obtained is by the effect of superior quality being generally selected; and that, by paying equal attention to the choice of seed of their

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