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THE state of Agriculture is at a very low ebb; it appears to have experienced little improvement for centuries; and the Welsh farmer has the very first principles of good husbandry to learn. Attached to old customs, and deprived, by his insolated situation, of the stimulus arising from better examples, and still more so by the shackles of penury, cultivation makes no progression, and vegetation dwindles under the hand of industry. The distinctions of three, four, and five-field husbandry, does not obtain. The farmer possesses no systematic knowledge ; he follows no determinate plan, considering only the circumstances of the day; he plows his land as it appears convenient, and throws in his seed as the weather furnishes opportunity; the quantity of acres for wheat and barley is more determined by the preceding circumstances, than by any other cause. So that from the observations of Gyraldus, it appears that agriculture, if it has not for centuries made a retrograde motion, has observed a stationary point.
Their usual custom was for oats, to plow the land once in March or April: for wheat and rye,
they turned it up twice in the summer, and a third time in winter, about the season of threshing. From which it appears, that they fallowed for wheat and rye, and found that fresh turned land, and a stiffer soil, suited better the mountain oats.
This ignorance in the most important concern to the welfare of a country may be referred to the following causes :—Want of fallowving—paring and burning—neglect of sheep-folding—want of enclosures --scarcity of mamures, and improper application of those they possess--and want of water meadows.
Fallowing may be justly considered, though part of the modern system, as a proof that husbandry is not far advanced towards perfection ; and the time will come when this will be as much despised and rejected as it has been extolled and practised. The Eastern farmer would smile at the idea of land standing in need of rest;, and ask if it was considered as endued with animation ? Through the populous and extensive empire of China no such thing is heard of. It certainly is a serious drawback
profits of a farm, that one year's rent should be sunk every three or four; and may justly be viewed as a standing proof, that a knowledge of vegetation and the pabula of plants has not yet exceeded a state of mediocrity. Still necessitas non habet leges, we must apply to practice whạt knowledge we have ; and none will be disposed to deny, that three good crops are preferable to four bad ones. But few of the Welsh farmers have any idea of fallowing. After breaking
up a portion of grass land, they follow up the first; by succeeding crops, till the land, deprived of heart, (as they' term it,) refuses to give her wonted assistance, being drained of every principle favourable, to a profitable crop.
In many places this ruinous scheme is pursued till the weeds become predominant, and the land naturally lays itself down to grass; and a crop of couch and other unfriendly weeds turns the arable into miserable pasture. When they have thus tired out all their land, recourse is then had to the injurious custom of burn-breaking, or paring the sward off the land, with a broad iron instrument, in thin turves or clods, which they burn in piles, and scatter the ashes upon
the lands. This is no modern invention of agriculture, it was the practice of the Romans; and if antiquity would sanction a practice, this would have a fair claim to excellence." See it accurately described by Virg. Georg. L. 1.
But it is the opinion of practical men, (Vid. Bath Papers, V. 1.) that this custom is more detrimental. than advantageous. It may destroy noisome weeds, but it injures the under surface, and leaves a portion of effete ashes, which, without some corrective, are but very ill calculated for the purposes of vegetation. That it may with skill and caution þe used on deep clay soils, and on sour inoors, I do not deny; but the idea of obtaining saline substances of a highly fructifying nature is erroneous; little or any salts being discoverable in the ashes of peat
and turf; for nineteen out of twenty parts of the vegetable matter, the only substance separable by fire, is dissipated in air. It is only from fresh vegetables that alkaline salts are to be obtained ; and the quantity in the common mode of procuring them is so small, that it would be more economical to purchase them in the market. If making the ground less tenacious be the object, it would be better to burn a portion of it in a kiln, and carry it upon the land. But after all, this object is better obtained by lime, without any of the disagreeable consequences that often follow burn-breaking.
This custom has received the decided disapprobation of the Irish Legislature: which has prohibited its being practised under a penalty of ten pounds per acre.
The Welsh farmer should travel through' the countries of Glocester and Wilts, to see what is there done by sheep-folding; and observe how large crops of grain are produced upon bleak and barren downs, far out of the reach of any other manure, He would thence discover, that, while his flock is growing and thriving, his land, without much trouble or expence, is enriched. He would be informed how it enables a grazing farmer to cuttivate a portion of barren arable land with success, by furnishing a strong manure for a certain quantity; and by the judicious management of clover-lays and turnips, an additional produce to subsist his cattle through the trying months of winter.* .
* It has been observed by experienced men, that sheep-folding on grass lands is a profitable planą That they soon render coarse
But this desideratum cannot be accomplished" without a new system of. Inclosure, * by which the farmer would be able to keep. larger flocks and herds, and to fodder them in winter. This would not only increase his wealth by the store of butter, cheese, and beef and mutton, for the markets but would, by the dung of home-fed beasts, enrich the soil. ..
The want of inclosures deprives the farmer of the important manure from the farm-yard. The house is generally built on the side of some acclivity, and he has no idea of securing the contents of the. Barton. What straw he has is used as winter food for the cattle, which are foddered as they roam over the unconfined pastures; and their dung and urine is dissipated without any benefit accruing to the land; according to the just observation, that slight manuring is equal to no manurning at all. It should be the first object of the Welsh landholders to increase
herbage. fine, not by their biting so close, as is gererally supposed, but by their treading, rendering the soil closer ; and from the quantity of dung and urine they deposit, they occasion the inert vege. table matter beneath the surface to be developed, and new combinations are formed favourable to vegetables, that constitute a sweet and wholesome herbage.
** The inclosures are so few, and generally near the house, that those are become highly valuable ; and it is customary to fetter all the sheep that graze near them, by confioing the right fore foot to the neck, with a rush or hay-band : yet, sometimes these ace complished leapers, impelled by hard necessity, will, by a coup de main, seize upon the pasture, and disappoint the hopes of the farmer. .