William Thomas Ainsworth.

Practical corn culture, written especially for the corn belt farmers online

. (page 5 of 11)
Online LibraryWilliam Thomas AinsworthPractical corn culture, written especially for the corn belt farmers → online text (page 5 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sow eighty acres of the latter. Our reasons for giving sweet
clover a trial will be mentioned under "The Culture of
Sweet Clover."


Clover is the mainstay legume used in restoring nitrogen
and humus to over-cropped farms of the Corn Belt. It is
well adapted to the black prairie soils of the Corn Belt. It
not only adds one more year to the rotation, thus resting
the land from corn that much longer, but it actually enriches
the soil by adding nitrogen. What is just as important, it
makes available large amounts of phosphorus and potash in
the soil by the decay of its roots. (The supply of phos-
phorus and potash in the soil is not increased by growing
legumes, but that which is already there is rendered more
available by the acidity of the clover.)

In field tests extending over twenty-nine years on the
black corn land of central Illinois the experiment station
of this State found that at the end of that time corn grown
continually on the same land yielded twenty-seven bushels
per acre as an average for the last three years of the test.
Corn grown in rotation with oats yielded forty-six bushels
per acre, while corn grown in rotation with oats and clover
yielded fifty-eight bushels per acre without the aid of either
fertilizer or manure. (See Bulletin 125, Illinois Agricul-


tural Experiment Station.) These results have been verified
on thousands of farms throughout the Corn Belt.

There are three common kinds of clover of general impor-
tance to the farmer. They are, in the order of their im-
portance: the common red or June clover, mammoth or
sapling clqver, and the Swedish or Alsike. The common red
is the most extensively grown of these varieties. It will do
well on most of the common prairie soils of the Corn Belt.
It differs from the other two varieties in that it gives two
crops in one season, either two crops of hay or a crop of
hay and a crop of seed.

Alsike will do well on any soil that common red clover
will thrive on and in addition it will grow on soils that are
too wet for the common.

Mammoth clover is distinctly the clover for sandy and
other poor soils. It will get along on soils too thin and too
dry for either medium or Alsike to thrive on at all. This
is the best clover for soiling purposes. If a soil is very sour
and lacking in lime, it will not grow the clovers or other
legumes until these conditions have been remedied. Two
thousand pounds of limestone applied about once in every
four years will correct the acidity in most soils and make it,
not only possible, but easy to grow clovers and other legumes.
The application of limestone to the soils of Southern Illinois
has made possible the growing of clover on thousands of acres
that were too acid before the application of lime was made.
Clover has been grown successfully for years in central and
northern Illinois without the application of limestone, al-
though the soil would doubtless be benefited and the clover
crop helped by its application.


We always sow clover in a nurse crop of wheat or oats.
This is not only the profitable method, but it is best to have


the nurse crop in order to keep down the weeds until the
clover can get a start. "We prefer to seed about four quarts
of good seed per acre on winter wheat early in March and
let the frost work the seed into the ground, or to sow later
when the ground can be harrowed, and harrow the wheat
immediately after sowing the clover seed. This harrowing
will cover the seed and if the ground is not too wet it will
benefit the wheat.

If it is desirable to seed the clover with oats, the clover
may be seeded at the same time the oats are drilled. When
both are sown in one drill it is necessary to have a separate
attachment made purposely for seeding the clover. It will
not do to mix the clover with the oats since the clover will
be covered too deep. Besides, clover seed, being heavy, will
shake to the bottom and will not be seeded evenly. In gen-
eral the sooner the nurse crop is gotten off the clover the
better it will be for it.

Other things being equal, we prefer seeding clover with
wheat rather than oats since the oats often grow so rank as
to shade the clover and kill it.

Clover, to grow well, must have plenty of air, moisture,
and warmth. The first two seem to be more important than
the last, although young clover is often killed if a warm early
spring is followed by severe freezing weather.

Unless clover has made a rank growth the first fall, it
is not a good plan to pasture or cut it the first year. Gen-
erally speaking, the fall growth after the nurse crop is taken
off should be allowed to rot down and protect the roots
through the winter.


Soy beans are one of the most profitable crops that can
be grown on the farm. This crop has gained rapidly in pop-


ularity during the last five years. It is almost as efficient a
soil builder as clover and is a splendid crop for hay. The
seed sells for two and three dollars per bushel and the yield
is from eight to twenty bushels per acre. On our own farms
we are growing soy beans on -the ground that formerly went
in oats.

As stated in the chapter on rotation, soy beans will, one
year with another, grow as big a money crop as oats besides
building up the land instead of running it down. During the


last two years, we have grown one hundred and twenty acres
of soy beans and just enough oats to feed our horses. The
seed was threshed by the ordinary grain separator although
a regular pea or bean huller would be more satisfactory.
Our yields have averaged about ten bushels per acre and the
surplus seed sold at $2.50 and $3.00 per bushel.

When the grain separator is used the concave teeth should
all be removed and the speed of the machine reduced to about
one-half of that ordinarily used in threshing grain. The tail


of the machine should also be lowered to prevent choking.

Culture: Soy beans should be planted on the poorest land
on the farm. If it is possible to do so, it is well to break the
ground early and harrow it once, then leave it until after
the corn is all planted before working it in to a seed bed
and planting the beans. It is not hard to get a good stand
if the seed is good and the seed bed is moist and warm.
These last two conditions are absolutely essential.

The soy bean is just as susceptible to frost as garden
beans. Cold ground will rot the seed and a frost will kill
the plant after it is up. From the first to the middle of
June is a good time to sow the beans in central Illinois.
The soy bean can stand considerable dry weather after the
plant has attained the height of four or more inches. The
seed should never be planted in dry ground, since it will
swell and rot unless the drilling is followed by an early rain.
It is better to wait until the rain comes before beginning to

The se'ed bed should be prepared as for corn and all
weeds killed immediately before sowing. "We prefer to drill
the beans and use an ordinary grain drill. We sow about
one and one-half bushels and use all the holes in the drill.
If we get a good stand and have favorable weather the field
will be free from weeds, since the rank growth will smother
them out. Good results have been secured by planting less
than half the above amount of seed per acre. "We drill thick
in order to smother out the weeds. We have never tried
drilling in wider rows and cultivating since our time at this
season of the year is needed in the cornfields. With a good
seed bed, the seed should be planted about three inches deep.

We have grown mostly the "Medium Yellow" but this
last year we have tried the "Black Ebony" or "Medium
Black" as it is sometimes called. For some reason or other
the nitrogen-gathering nodules on the roots are larger than


on the "Medium Yellow." The "Black Ebony" grows more
rank and is about two weeks later than the "Medium

Inoculation: Like other legumes, soy beans utilize the
nitrogen in the air and add it to the soil by means of root
nodules. These nodules are caused by certain bacteria. Un-
less they are present, soy beans in most soils will make but
a weak growth; many will turn yellow and some may even
die. These bacteria are present in most soils of the South
but in the Corn Belt proper, the bacteria are not well distrib-
uted, which makes it advisable to inoculate.

Inoculation of a new field may be secured either by trans-
ferring the soil from a well inoculated soy bean field or by
using some of the pure cultures advertised. (We obtained
our first inoculated soil from the Illinois Experiment Sta-
tion at Urbana. The station sells soil at fifty cents per hun-
dred pounds and one hundred pounds is enough for twenty
acres if the glue process is used.)

We find the glue process the most economical as well as
the most effective. The method consists of sticking parti-
cles of the inoculated soil to the beans by wetting the beans
in glue water. The glue water is made by dissolving about
three pounds of glue in ten gallons of water. This is enough
water to wet fifty bushels of beans. (It is a good plan to
add about a gallon of flour paste as this gives the glue water
a little body.) A layer of beans about four inches deep is
thoroughly wet with the glue water and the inoculated soil
is sprinkled over them. The beans are then shoveled about
until particles of soil are sticking to all the beans. Then
another layer is treated in a like manner. The beans should
be shoveled over about every half hour until they are dry.
They will be dry enough to prevent heating in two to four
hours. Do not try to drill until the beans are dry and don't


expose the beans to the direct rays of the sun after the soil
is added. Sunlight will kill the bacteria in the soil.


Cowpeas and vetches are the main leguminous crops for
poor soils. Cowpeas have the power to extract plant food
from land that is too poor for the profitable growing of such
crops as clover, alfalfa or even soy beans. They will grow
without inoculation on new land which is something that
most legumes will not do. The bacteria of this legume seem
to be present in nearly all soils. While cowpeas will grow
on most soils they are better adapted to sandy types than to
heavier black soils. In other words, the cowpea will do for
light sandy soils what the soy bean does for heavier soils.
For this reason we have grown soy beans in preference to
cowpeas on our own lands, which are a black retentive loam.
The western part of Mason County is quite sandy. On this
soil cowpeas grow to perfection and find a place in the crop
rotation of all the well regulated .farms.

Cowpeas are largely grown in the Cotton States of the
South. It is safe to say that no one plant can add more to
the agricultural wealth of the South than the more exten-
sive growing of cowpeas. A common practice in the South
is to grow cowpeas between the rows of corn, thereby enrich-
ing the land and doubling the value of the stalk fields for

Culture: The seed bed for cowpeas should be prepared
in the same manner as for soy beans. While the seed and
young plant is more hardy than those of soy beans, good
preparation will pay big returns. Cowpeas should be sown
late in the North, after all danger of frost is over. It is
best to double disc well just before sowing in order to kill
all weeds.


If cowpeas are cut for hay, the hay should be left in the
cock for a week, and longer if the weather is not very dry.
A good plan is to let the hay stay in the windrow a day,
before it is put in the cock. Cowpea and soy bean hay dries
very slowly, because of the thick stem. For this reason it
is unsatisfactory to take the hay direct from the windrow
to the mow or stack. The growing of cowpeas or soy beans
on land is a good preparation for the growing of alfalfa.


Vetch has a very important place in the building up and
renovating of the depleted soils of the East and Southeast.
It often paves the way for successful alfalfa growing on soils
that are too poor to grow alfalfa at the start. Vetch is not
much grown on the black prairie soils of the Corn Belt. It
is our opinion that other legumes are more effective than this
annual in maintaining the productivity of prairie soils.

Culture: Vetch may be sown either broadcast or by drill-
ing. Drilling is the more modern method. It may be sown
alone or with one of the small grains as a supporting crop.
In the Southern states a winter vetch is sown in the fall,
either in September or October. Hairy vetch is the favorite
in the North. In the spring it may be sown as early as the
ground can be gotten in shape. The seed is sown at the
rate of one bushel per acre. It is necessary to inoculate some
soils in order to grow vetch successfully.


Alfalfa is fast becoming a popular crop in the Corn Belt.
Its splendid hay qualities are rapidly pushing it into public
favor. We took a great deal of pains to put in eight acres
of alfalfa and later results showed that it deserved all the
attention it received. From this eight acre field we cut three


crops of hay the following year. The three crops yielded
better than five tons per acre.

The hay is of the finest quality and will usually sell for
eighteen dollars per ton, or ninety dollars per acre; but it
is not for sale at this price. We feed it to our own stock.
After obtaining these results on eight acres we felt justified
in sowing twenty acres more the following fall. (The two
following photographs were taken in this eight-acre field the
summer after the crop was* put in.) This was our first
attempt at growing alfalfa. We were careful in the prepa-


ration of the seed bed and followed instructions in regard
to seeding and inoculation.

We want to say right here, however, that if alfalfa is
grown at all it should be grown as a money crop. If it will
not average two tons of good hay per acre it is better, in
our opinion, to grow some other crop. Alfalfa is an expen-
sive crop to put in, when it is put in right and one cannot
afford to put it in any other way.

The ground on which alfalfa is grown should lay fallow


and should be worked at frequent intervals the first summer.
This means no returns the first year. Again, alfalfa can
not be made a paying crop on poor, unproductive soils. Al-
falfa ground must be sweet and in good physical condition
if the returns from the crop are to justify the necessary
expense. Most of the black prairie soils of the Corn Belt
can be made good alfalfa land by the application of lime-
stone to the soil.

Alfalfa should be made a money crop rather than used


This field made over five tons of hay per acre, the year after
it was sown

as a soil-building legume. If alfalfa is grown it is grown
for the hay and large quantities of phosphorus and potas-
sium are removed from the soil in the hay. On the other
hand some nitrogen is stored in the roots and the physical
condition of the soil is undoubtedly improved. In actual
practice, then, alfalfa improves good land but cannot be
considered in connection with poor land, as it is not a
profitable crop to grow on unfertile soils.


Soils: An ideal alfalfa soil is a deep rich sandy or clay
loam. Alfalfa will not thrive in a sour soil. Alfalfa bacteria
can not live in an acid soil and these bacteria are absolutely
necessary to the successful growing of the crop. The appli-
cation of two thousand pounds of limestone will "sweeten"
acid soils for the growing of alfalfa and all farm crops. If
the soil is only slightly acid, less lime will be necessary. "We
have not found it necessary to use limestone on our soils.

If the land is very flat, it should be well drained before
seeding to alfalfa. Superfluous water will drown out alfalfa.
The soil must be full of air spaces and if these are filled
with water the alfalfa will smother and turn yellow.

Inoculation: Alfalfa bacteria are seldom found in the
soil east of the Mississippi. These bacteria must be arti-
ficially supplied before alfalfa can be profitably grown. Since
sweet clover bacteria and alfalfa bacteria are identical, soil
from the roadside, where sweet clover is growing, will serve
to inoculate the alfalfa field. "We use a manure spreader to
scatter inoculated soil, although it can be done very well by
hand. If sweet clover soil is not available, "pure alfalfa
culture" can be obtained from reliable seedmen. This alfalfa
culture is satisfactory though rather expensive.

Preparation of Seed Bed: As before stated, the ground
should be plowed deep, preferably in June. The ground
should then be disced or harrowed every week or two, (in
order to kill all weeds), until about the first or middle of
August, when it should be worked repeatedly until a very
fine mellow seed bed is secured. The field should then be
inoculated as suggested above and clean seed, free from weed
and other seeds, should be sown at the rate of fifteen pounds
to the acre.

The seed bed must be moist from the very top surface
down. We sow broadcast with a horn seeder and sow both
ways to insure an even distribution. The seed should be



covered to a depth of one-half to one inch by a light

We have never sown alfalfa seed with a nurse crop and
are inclined to believe the results would be unsatisfactory.
If the seed was sown in the spring it would, of course, be
necessary to use a nurse crop of some kind to keep down
weeds until the alfalfa could get a start; but spring sowing
of alfalfa has not been so successful as fall sowing in
Illinois and Iowa.

Alfalfa should be cut when from one-third to one-half
the blooms are out, or just after the new shoots have come
out at the base. It should never be cut until after the new
shoots have started. To cut before means a very weak suc-
ceeding crop. If there is a considerable growth in the fall
it should be either pastured or clipped before winter comes
on. A light application of manure (with a manure spreader),
in December will prevent alfalfa from being winter killed.
Remember alfalfa, like corn, is a good money crop if it is
properly put in on good fertile soil. Unlike clover, beans
and peas, it is not a rotation crop. If a good stand of alfalfa
is secured it will pay to leave it for four or five years.


Sweet clover is a deep rooted legume, and is found grow-
ing along the roadsides everywhere. No other legume has
such a wide range of territory, nor will any other legume
grow in as many types of soil or under such varied condi-
tions. Because of its hardy nature and wonderful adapta-
bility it is considered by most farmers as a weed. It has been
only in the last two years that farmers have taken kindly
to sweet clover. The majority are still skeptical. Many
admit that it is a good nitrogen gatherer but are afraid to
give it a place on their farms for fear it will, as they say,
"take the farm."


It has been proved, to our own satisfaction at least, that
sweet clover will never be a troublesome weed on our farms.
Stock will not allow it to start in the pasture and it is as
easily killed as clover in a cultivated field.

"We are so impressed with the merits of sweet clover that
we shall seed eighty acres to this legume in the spring. The
seed will be sown with a nurse crop, either wheat or oats.

Sweet clover, unlike alfalfa, grows so rank and hardy
from the start that it can be sown in the spring without a
nurse crop and still keep ahead of the weeds. By sowing
sweet clover in the spring with a nurse crop of wheat or oats,
however, the land will bring returns the first year, which
is not the case with fall sowing of alfalfa.

Judge Quarten in an article entitled "Sweet Clover" by
Alson Secor says: "I seed with Early Champion oats, using
a bushel or a bushel and a half, to eighteen or twenty pounds
of sweet clover seed. Cut the clover the latter part of Sep-
tember in northern Iowa. If I use barley, one bushel is
enough. ' '

"Don't you ever seed it alone?"

"Haven't worked that out yet. I believe it would pay to
throw some seed in the cornfield at last cultivation. Will
try that. But I prefer to use a nurse crop to keep down
weeds. ' '

We believe that sweet clover will, in the future, become
the greatest legume crop for the building up of worn out
farms. It is the best crop to pave the way for the growing
of alfalfa.


"Letters to the Clover Sick Family." By Uncle Henry.

Wallace's Farmer. Feb. 21, 1913.
"Soy Beans a Valuable Crop for the Corn Belt." By C. H.

Oathout. Prairie Farmer. March 15, 1913.


"Soy Beans." By Piper and Nielson. U. S. Farmers' Bul-
letin, No. 372.

"The Culture of Soy Beans." By Leonard Hegnauer. Il-
linois State Register, June 30, 1913.

"Cowpeas. " By Griffith. Fruit Grower and Farmer. May,

"The Vetch Book." By William C. Smith.

"Vetches." By Piper and McKee. U. S. Farmers' Bulle-
tin, No. 515.

"A Great Alfalfa Campaign." The Breeders' Gazette. May

21, 1913.

"Alfalfa." By Peter C. Swartz. Farmers' Review. Feb.

22, 1913.

"Seeding Alfalfa." By Rupert L. Stewart. Weekly Star.

Jan. 21, 1913.
"Alfalfa on Illinois Soil." By Cyril G. Hopkins. Bulletin

No. 26, 111. Agri. Ex. Sta.
"Sweet Clover." By Alson Secor. Successful Farming,

October, 1913.


Stable manures are the oldest, as well as the most
common, materials used for enriching the land. On practic-
ally all of the farms in the United States a greater or less
amount of the manure produced on the farm is returned
to the land. However, the amount returned compared with
the amount produced varies greatly on different farms.

On farms where the true value of stable manure is fully
appreciated it will generally be found carefully preserved in
covered manure pens from which it is frequently applied
to the fields by means of manure spreaders. On other farms
where slip-shod and bonanza methods are still the rule it is
usual to see steaming piles of uncovered manure waiting for
months until its value is half gone (through leaching), be-
fore being finally hauled out and .applied to the land. As
the farm lands of this country are becoming more depleted,
stable manures are being made better use of and the number
of farmers who deliberately allow manure to rot with no
intention of ever applying it to the land are fortunately
becoming very few.

When farm land becomes so worn that it is necessary to
apply commercial fertilizers in order to grow paying crops,
every farmer is seriously made to realize the true value of
stable and barnyard manure. It is a well known fact that on
thin Eastern farms, where the applications of commercial
fertilizers are a yearly occurrence, stable manure is well
cared for and but little is lost or wasted. Stable manure
that is produced on the farm can be applied to the land



at less than a tenth of the total cost of purchasing, hauling
and applying commercial fertilizers of equal fertilizing value.
We consider stable manure second in value only to legumin-
ous crops for maintaining and increasing the productivity of
the farms of the United States.

Stable manure that can be applied to the land is, in our
opinion, worth more to the Corn Belt farmer than the profit
gained by the application of any of the commercial fertilizers.
We have used raw bone meal to some slight advantage and
the application of several car-loads of rock phosphate has
increased the yield and improved the quality of our farm
crops sufficiently to justify the expenditure. Notwithstanding
this, we have made a thousand dollars by the profitable pur-
chase of stable manure where we have made one hundred
dollars by using mineral fertilizers.


Stable and barnyard manures are without doubt the most
variable in chemical composition of any of the manures and
fertilizers used for enriching the land. A ton of pure
excrement from mature stock fed largely on nitrogenous
feeds, such as clover and alfalfa, might easily be worth as
much as five tons of coarse, strawy manure from poorly fed
stock. For this reason it is impossible to determine the
value of a ton of manure until after it has been analyzed.

Besides adding humus and thus improving the physical

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryWilliam Thomas AinsworthPractical corn culture, written especially for the corn belt farmers → online text (page 5 of 11)