The General Aspect of Agriculture Throughout the World, but Chiefly with Reference to New Zealand.
Printed at the "Lvttelton Times" Office Christchurch Gloucester Street.1890
The General Aspect of Agriculture Throughout the World, but Chiefly with Reference to New Zealand.
Mr. Murphy commenced by thanking the Chairman for affording him an opportunity of directing attention to some of the changes which are taking place throughout the civilised world, as affecting agriculture. It is good that we in this favoured land should note these changes, and should frequently discuss their bearing upon ourselves and our interests.
Labour and Machinery.
There never was a time in the history of our race to compare with the present. There have been many revolutions, and bloody ones too; but the greatest of all social revolutions which the world will have seen, is that which has just commenced. 1 refer to the struggle between labour and capital; if this great question comes to be fought out to the bitter end with no keener weapons than those of arbitration guided by common sense, civilisation will have scored a greater success than has ever fallen to its lot in the past.
When we look for some of the causes of this great movement, at least so far as they affect the interests of those engaged in the tillage of the soil, it will be found that the introduction of labour-saving machinery is responsible for much of it. The introduction of machinery has page 4 revolutionised the business of agriculture; it has to a large extent dispensed with the human labour machine. It has increased the productive capacity of all agricultural countries to such an extent as to render the business of farming one requiring the closest attention to every detail, if any profit is to be made.
It may be asked why it is that with the lowering of the cost of food, coupled with the introduction of machinery all over the world, the cost of labour is higher now than it was a quarter of a century ago (I refer to European countries). To my mind, one of the reasons for this anomaly is, that labour in those days was disproportionately low when compared with the price of farm produce—the result of a superabundance of labour, naturally acted upon by the law of demand and supply.
As manual labour in the field came to be less required, caused by the introduction of machinery, the demand for labour was enormously increased in the workshops, thus diverting the labour stream into other and better paid channels.
It is interesting to go back to the pages of history to find the causes which first led up to the improvement in the condition of the labouring classes of Britain—I refer to the Crusades. As each successive warrior took his departure for the Holy Land, followed by his retainers, few of whom ever returned to their native land, those left behind became of more value and received more for their labour.
We, in New Zealand, may look on with comparative unconcern at the struggle now going on in other parts of the world to secure the eight hours movement. The late Mr. Andrew Duncan little thought how soon his doggrel rhyme about "eight hours work and eight hours play" would become the watchword of the labouring millions of America and of Europe.
Science and Practice of Agriculture.
But while we view with complacency the labour struggles going on in other lands, we must not shut our eyes to the struggle which is being carried on throughout the world for supremacy in all agricultural matters. The Governments of almost every country are making huge efforts to instruct the people in the science and practice of agriculture. Agricultural Societies, Agricultural Unions, and Farmers' Clubs are all working in the same direction, and what does it all mean? It is simply a matter of self-defence and of self-preservation.page 5
There was a time when men could with impunity laugh at science as applied to agriculture. That was before the advent of labour-saving machinery, before America had commenced the game of soil spoliation in her vast plains of virgin soil. Matters are very different now. So long as America, India, Russia, and other countries continue to pour wheat into the British market at present prices, so long will it be necessary for us in New Zealand, with our dearer land, to adopt the most approved methods of producing the maximum of grain, if we are to compete successfully
The farmers of New Zealand must realise the fact that, unless they are also up and doing, they will be left behind in the race. Every district should have its club, which should meet at least once a month to discuss matters affecting their own interests. There should be yearly or half-yearly meetings of a General Farmers' Union (such a Union as suggested has already been inaugurated in Otago) where delegates from all societies and clubs should attend to discuss larger questions. At the monthly meetings, discussions might be opened by the reading of papers on such subjects as the management of grass lands, the breeding of stock, and the best crosses of sheep for specific purposes.
Communion of thought is what we want, the old conservative idea of keeping your knowledge to yourself is, or should be, exploded. It is to the interest of all that we should produce the largest quantity of the best quality of grain, meat, and dairy produce; therefore, I contend that if my system of farm management is superior to my neighbours, it is to my own interest to impart my better ways to him, and by so doing, help to bring up our general average to the highest pitch of excellence. As the poet says—
"And if a better way be thine
Record it frankly, or accept of mine."
This is an age of combination not competition amongst ourselves. The reason for all this is, that we are not depending upon a local or a limited market for our produce. On the contrary, we have the markets of the world before us for our staple products. The greater the general excellence, the greater will be our individual chances of success; and thus it is that we should sow broadcast information on any improved method which may be found advantageous in our daily practice.
Farming must be made more of a business than it has hitherto been. How many farmers are there who keep regular records of their farm page 6 work and the results, and who take stock, say on the 1st May in each year—I mention May, because the year's operations are then practically closed. How many farmers can tell accurately which crop pays best—which class of sheep is most profitable—what each cow yields in milk and butter? What would be thought of a tradesman who carried on business in such a manner? I fancy he would soon find his balance on the wrong side of the ledger. Some time ago the Royal Agricultural Society of England offered a very substantial prize for the best system of Farm Accounts. The result was a very capital method—one divested of much of the mystery of book-keeping from a scientific point of view, and quite within the capacity of the majority of farmers. The system requires a little modification to make it applicable to colonial requirements.
I recently had occasion to accompany the judges on their visit to the farms competing for the prize offered for the best dairy farms, with regard to management and the necessary surroundings, on one of them we found that an accurate account was kept of the stock, the number of cows in milk, the quantity of butter made each month throughout the year, and the price realised, the dates of service and calving, the stock of pigs, and the cash sales. The receipts from each department were clearly set forth in such a manner as to show at a glance the general results.
The Dairy Industry.
Now a few words about the Dairy Industry. Anyone in the habit of reading the agricultural literature of the present day, and especially that portion of it which refers to dairying, must be struck with the extraordinary efforts that are being made in America and continental countries to secure the lion's share of the enormous trade in dairy produce in England.
The Victorian Government have entered upon this contest with great spirit, and with good effect. They have imported two thorough experts and a travelling dairy. Any district guaranteeing a supply of milk can have the use of the dairy plant, and the services of the expert, who makes and manipulates the butter, and explains the whole process. The Government even go farther, they give a bonus of 1d. for every pound of butter sold in the Loudon market at 7d., 1½d. per lb. for that sold at 9d., 2d. for that at 11d., and 3d. for all sold at 1s. I do not think that we should ask for such fostering and as this, but we have a right to ask that one or more thoroughly efficient experts should be imported from some of the best establishments in the Old Country—men com- page 7 petent to go from factory to factory, from dairy to dairy, giving practical lessons not only in the making of butter and cheese, but on the general management of dairy stock.
One of the results of the efforts being made to advance the dairy industry in Victoria is that her butter has already made a name for itself in the London market, while New Zealand butter has earned for itself a very poor record. And why is this? It is certainly not because our pastures are inferior; on the contrary, they are as a rule vastly superior to those of Australia. We have a cooler climate and better water. There is no reason why New Zealand should not aim at being known as the "Butter Garden" of Australasia, we possess such a remarkable combination of favourable conditions for butter-making; what is wanted is scientific and practical instruction. I have heard it argued that the dairy industry is outside Government intervention in New Zealand, the various Governments of Australia, America, England, and Continental Countries do not think so, they back their appreciation of the importance of this industry by expenditure of considerable sums of money in educating their farmers up to the requisite standard in such matters.
I notice that a butter-making competition has recently been held at Bridport, under the auspices of the Bath and West of England Society, all the competitors being students in the Society's dairy school: twenty-six students competed. As showing what good work this Society does, I may mention that these twenty-six students have passed through an entire course, while upwards of 500 persons paid for admission to the school as spectators to witness the daily operations. This is only one instance of what is being done in England to educate dairy farmers.
Let us for a moment take a glance at that thrifty little country Denmark, and see what they have done. In the year 1860 the British Consul reported that "the butter was execrably bad." The Danish Government took note of the complaint, and founded ten dairy schools. The result has been that the butter export has been raised from the annual value of £120,000 to that of £2,000,000. The sum expended to produce this marvellous result is about £11,000 per annum—a grand investment for the nation. The Danish butter, instead of being "execrable," is now amongst the finest in the world.
There is no reason why, with our magnificent climate and soil, the butter export from New Zealand should not soon be raised to £1,000,000 per annum, which only means 5,000 cows, yielding 200 lb. page 8 of butter each, selling at 1s. per lb. According to the Agricultural Statistics just published, I find that there are 772,358 cattle in the colony, of these, 272,144 are set down as breeding cows. It will thus be seen how capable the industry is of enormous expansion.
It may with some truth be said that dairy factories in New Zealand have not been an unqualified success. If they have not been so, depend upon it, that the partial failure is more the fault of the management than of the system. The best proof of this is, that private factories have invariably proved successful. Mr. J. Grigg's dairy at Longbeach is an unqualified success, the same may be said of Mr. P. O'Boyle's at Leeston, and of Mr. R. Withell's at Brookside; the butter from these private factories realises 2d per lb. more than any other butter in the market; and not only this, but it is a tolerably well-established fact, that 20% more cream is obtained from the milk by the separator than by the ordinary methods of hand skimming. Facts like these speak volumes.
While advocating the establishment of dairy factories, I would point out that the success or failure of such undertakings depends largely upon the principle on which the factory is worked. So far as I can judge from what I have seen and read, the co-operative principle is the best, every shareholder is a supplyer, and all participate in the profits, in proportion to the milk supplied. Where all men are honest, this system may be said to be perfect, but sometimes they are not so—in this lies the trouble. Purchasing the milk at so much per gallon is perhaps as simple a method as can be adopted, but it has its disadvantages. Whichever method is adopted, it is of paramount importance that the manager should be a thoroughly competent man. The manager with a managing director are the only persons that should be invested with the power of interference. There is a very old saying, which is as true as it is old, viz., that "too many cooks spoil the broth."
Every district which can command a minimum of 1,000 cows should have its factory, situated centrally, worked by water-power if possible. Such a factory might be fed from surrounding districts, where creameries might be established. The larger the quantity of milk manipulated, the cheaper per lb. the butter can be made.
I have dwelt at considerable length on the dairy industry, because I believe that it is destined (if only it is fostered) to become one of the most flourishing industries in New Zealand. It is an industry peculiarly adapted to small holdings—of course it may be carried on on page 9 large holdings also,—but as science has not yet given us a milking machine equal to the human hand, the difficulty of milking large numbers of cows properly by paid labour is so great that few care to try the experiment.
I have seen as much as from £8 to £12 per cow annual rent paid to the owner. The system works well. If such men are not to be found in the colony, there are many such in the Old Country, who would be glad to come if only sufficient inducement were held out to them.
Having said so much about the dairy, it may not be out of place to make a few remarks concerning the grasses and other plants which are allowed to occupy our pasture lands. It is generally admitted that grass is the most natural food of the dairy cow, and that from it the best butter is made.
Latino Down Pasture Lands.
It is therefore obvious that the laying down of our pastures is a matter of considerable importance. The practice of cropping the land till it becomes too foul with weeds, and too poor to produce remunerative crops of cereals, is more prevalent in the Colony than it should be. Hence it is that there are so many pastures of inferior quality.
If we are to have luxuriant pastures, we must see that the soil is in a fertile condition before sowing the seeds. It is an established fact, that the best system of farming, is that which maintains the soil in a continuous state of fertility. It is good farming to have the land in good heart for a corn or root crop, and so it is equally good practice to have it in equally good heart for laying down to seeds. The proper management of grass lands affords a fertile subject for discussion, and one requiring much ventilation. Judging from what may be seen in many districts, one of the greatest evils is that of page 10 overstocking, whereby the best grasses get speedily exterminated, leaving the inferior ones and weeds, the result being inferior pastures. As I have just said, this is a large and important subject, which should not be lost sight of, if we are to make the maximum from our pastures, in the shape of dairy produce and mutton.
By the last mail I received from Dr. Fream, Professor of Natural History at Cirencester, an account of a set of experiments conducted by Mr. M. J. Sutton, associated with Dr. Voelcker, tried on grass lands by various kinds of manures. The subject is one of interest to New Zealand farmers, it is just a question on some classes of soils, whether the same money's worth of crushed bones or superphosphate, &c., spread on the surface, would not pay better than breaking up the land for cropping. In the majority of cases I suppose the latter is preferable, but there are cases when the advantage is doubtful. I throw out the suggestion for what it is worth.
Wheat Growing, Can It Be Made To Pay?
It is a debatable question whether we can continue to produce wheat at present prices, leaving a margin for profit. I have given this matter much consideration, and I have come to the conclusion (whether rightly or wrongly) that, under certain conditions, we may do so.
|1.||The questions before us are: Can we compete with America with her cheaper land and greater proximity to the principal markets?|
|2.||Can we compete with India, where wheat may be grown in almost unlimited quantities, and at an infinitesimal cost?|
My answer is, we can; but our wheat crops must be confined to the very best soils, soils which will give us an average of 35 to 40 bushels per acre.
In America the general average is about 12 bushels per acre, and year by year the Home consumption is increasing so rapidly that the surplus for export must gradually diminish.
I think that we have much more to fear from Indian competition. The wheat growing industry in that Country is said to be capable of vast expansion. As yet it is only in its infancy. When proper machinery is brought to bear upon it, in the way of cleaning and grading, it will become a formidable rival.
Our only chance will be as I have just said, to confine wheat growing to the best lands. The lighter descriptions of soil will pay better page 11 if devoted to growing turnips, oats, barley, and grass. Thanks to the frozen meat trade, we have a local market for oats whenever it touches the point at which it cannot be sold to profit. The price may, I think, be fairly fixed at 1s. 3d. per bushel for sheep feed.
In sending wheat to England, care should be taken to send only the primest sample. The seconds will pay better if cracked and fed to sheep, pigs, or dairy stock If this system were general, New-Zealand would soon regain her lost prestige as a wheat grower. The late Mr. Mechi used to preach that when corn touched a certain price in a falling market, it then paid best to send it to market on four legs instead of on wheels.
I am glad to say that some farmers in this country are becoming alive to this fact. Had they not done so, oats would now be an unprofitable drug. I believe that it will be found that oats may be shipped with profit if only the sample is made to turn the scale at 48lb. per bushel. The profitable feeding of sheep on oats is a mathematical question, and one which has been carefully worked out by Lawes and Gilbert.
Breeding Stock—Mongrel Sires.
The losses sustained by the indiscriminate use of ill-bred sires of all kinds would be difficult to estimate. It would appear that the price at which the service of the animal can be procured forms the primary consideration. This is a fatal mistake, and one which there is not much excuse for, seeing that the country is now well stocked with animals of all kinds of more or less high breeding.
With regard to sheep breeding for the frozen chamber, considerable judgment is required in selecting ewes best suited for the purpose. The different classes of soil best adapted for special breeds, whether Lincolns, Leicesters, Downs or Merinos. But in every case the rams used for crossing should be pure, the first cross being generally found to produce the best results. Pure-bred rams can now be had at our ram fairs at prices within the reach of all.
Then again, who can estimate the loss inflicted on the Colony by the indiscriminate use of unsuitable stallions; I am quite aware that large sums of money have been spent by a few notable breeders in importing superior animals—animals which have left their mark wherever they have been used. Anyone who visits our annual parade of sires will see before him animals totally unsuited for improving the stock of the country. The few really good animals imported and bred in the colony only serve to give greater prominence to the defects of the others.page 12
Some time ago a movement was set on foot in Victoria and in Queensland, having for its object the taxing of stallions. The money so raised to be spent in procuring the service of first-class animals, to stand in certain districts at reduced rates, enabling the small farmer to secure for his mare the use of an animal otherwise beyond his reach.
As a result of the use of nondescript animals, our horse bazaars are usually stocked with "weeds" which can only command low prices. As an instance of careful breeding, if indeed any were required, I would refer you to the prices which Mr. TV. Boag's young draught stock realised, ranging from £15 to £35 per head for 18 months and two-year-olds.
I have been told by more than one stallion owner that if a tax were placed upon stallions, he would import some of the best blood he could procure.
There is a good market in India for a certain stamp of animal, but they are not to be found in New Zealand in any quantity. As you are aware, shipments have been sent to that country with varied success.
The French and German Governments to a large extent have taken the matter of furnishing suitable sires into their own hands, whereby the best blood is available at a minimum of cost.
While on the subject of sires, I would point out that the time has arrived when fresh blood in Pigs mnst be imported. Perhaps there is no animal which sooner degeneratas than the pig. It is now some years since our Government prohibited the importation of pigs under any circumstances, probably a wise course to pursue at a time when swine cholera was prevalent. Although that disease has largely abated it is never absent from the country; with proper precaution, there need be little fear. Stud animals are always selected from stud herds where the care taken to guard the animals against contagion is so great, that the risk is almost nil.
The Frozen Meat Trade.
I need not occupy your time with pointing out the immense advantages which have accrued to the Colony from the development of the frozen meat trade.
It has raised the price of sheep very nearly 100 per cent, within the last two or three years.page 13
It has inaugurated a new and better system of farming. It has elevated the turnip crop into one of first importance. It was once said that three successive failures of the turnip crop in Britain would render the bulk of farmers bankrupt. This was before the advent of frozen mutton. The failure of three successive turnip crops in New Zealand, if it did not find work for the insolvent court, would at all events be a catastrophe not pleasant to contemplate.
It has rendered the cultivation of light lands profitable, which, but for the new order of things, would have very little present value.
When the trade was in its infancy and its possibilities were being freely discussed, the Hon. M. Holmes ventured to predict that New Zealand would before many years furnish 1,000,000 of sheep annually. The prediction was considered chimerical. It is now thought not improbable that Canterbury alone will soon be in a position to furnish this number from her own flocks.
Every farmer, no matter how small his holding, can now find a profitable outlet for his fat lambs and fat sheep—fed on turnips—to the great benefit of his land.
There is, however, another side to this jubilant picture which will sooner or later, force itself upon us. I refer to the indiscriminate freezing of our prime maiden ewes and lambs. This is a question for farmers and flockowners to consider, whether or not they are not killing the goose that lays the golden egg; whether our flocks will continue to bear the drain of their best blood without ultimate deterioration. We all know that the earliest lambs are the best in constitution, and therefore the best for breeding purposes. Let our flockowners see to this before it is too late.
There is another aspect of this Frozen Meat trade which should be borne in mind. For every million of sheep we send out of the country, something like 2,700 tons of bones are carried away, which go to enrich the fields of Britain to the detriment of our own, this sooner or later must tell its tale on our soils unless means are taken to make good the deficiency. It is argued by some that the continuous grazing of land by sheep rather improves it than otherwise. The exhaustion is, however, more gradual than in the case of corn-growing, and so gradual indeed, that it may not be perceptible for a very long time.
Another source of income which bids fair to add materially to the wealth of the Colony, is that of growing fruit for export. We now page 14 know, that at least apples and pears can be landed in the London market at a season when supplies from other countries have ceased. But the fruit must be of superior quality and of the right kind, if high prices are to be obtained. Those orchards which are now being planted will probably find when they come to maturity, a well-established export trade to relieve them of their produce.
The American farmers are great orchardists. Whole districts in the State of New York, once devoted to wheat-growing, are now devoted to growing apples and pears. It is true that they have a teeming population as customers at their doors, but if they have this, we have the advantage of the opposite seasons. This, coupled with the cool chamber and quick transit, places us in a fairly good position. From five to ten acres of apples well selected, would prove more remunerative than any other portion of the farm, after the trees came into full bearing. Planted in rows 30 ft. apart, the intervening spaces should never be planted with small fruits. Father grow drill crops, by which means the ground can be kept free from weeds and in the best condition. By this treatment the land will be producing enough to cover the cost of working till the trees come into profitable bearing. Never allow a spade to be used near the trees, the fork is the proper implement. A well selected and well cared for orchard will yield from £50 to £100 per acre when in full bearing.
Bees and Poultry.
And now a word about bees and poultry. Colonial farmers, as a rule are singularly neglectful of such comparatively small things, and yet very considerable sums may be realised from these sources. It would not pay to employ extraneous labour for such purposes, but the occupation is a light and an interesting one, especially the manipulation of bees. It is an occupation singularly adapted for women and young persons. The American farmers make these industries quite a feature, realising large sums of money in the aggregate, whilst in New Zealand they are almost entirely neglected. The fact is, we have yet to learn the value of small things, which, after all, are just the things which make life in the country one of the happiest of all existences.
I know a young man who works in an office in Christchurch, and who lives on the outskirts, located on about three acres of land. His wife keeps a set of fowls from which she netted a clear profit of 10s. per head last year. The fowls are properly attended to, and she knows exactly what it costs to feed them. It may be said that the markets would soon be overdone. It would take a long time to effect this.page 15
There is a large and increasing demand for the supply of our local and ocean steamers and vessels. When these sources became exhausted, we could ship to the Home market. One thing, however, must be remembered, and that is, that fowls require much attention and intelligent management. These conditions secured, there are few small things which pay better.
I have now to say a few words about weeds. The first comers to this glorious land of ours found a climate eminently congenial to the Anglo-Saxon race. They found a soil full of plant food, and free from the "pirates" of vegetation in the shape of noxious weeds, (with perhaps one or two exceptions). A soil ready to respond to the husbandman's rudest touch. In those days European weeds were unknown, and one would have thought that our early farmers, knowing the trouble and cost of keeping their cultivated lands free from weeds in the Old Country, would have used every precaution to rid their cereal and other seeds from their old enemies. This precaution, either from negligence or the want of proper appliances, was not taken, and now we see the pernicious weeds of Our Fatherland growing in rank luxuriance all over the Colony. There are weeds, and weeds, some of which are comparatively harmless; while, on the other hand, there are those which contest with our cultivated plants, for the complete possession of the soil: such, for instance, as "Wild Turnip (B. Campestris), Fat Hen (Chenopodium Album), Californian Thistle (so-called) (Carduus Arvensis), Oxeye Daisy (Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum), and Cape Weed,* &c. A few years ago "Wild Turnip was comparatively a stranger. It may now be seen in some districts tinging the landscape with its yellow blossoms, in the months of November and December, covering hundreds of acres. I have this year seen paddocks of wheat inland worth £20 per acre capable of yielding 50 to 70 bushels of grain, if free from weeds, so infested with wild turnips as only to yield from 15 to 20 bushels, making up the difference in turnip seed. That old adage—that "one year's seeding makes seven years' weeding "—is so full of truth, that it should be painted in large letters at every cross road.
It would be difficult to say, which, of all our weeds, is the most pernicious. At all events, it will not be easy to find a more exhausting one than Fat Hen. There is just this to be said about it, as compared with Wild Turnip, that is, it is more fastidious in its tastes, preferring the richer soils, while the turnip will grow and thrive almost anywhere.page 16
The Californian Thistle is perhaps the most difficult of all to eradicate, where it once gets a firm footing. Unlike our common field thistle, which is a biennial, it is perennial. I am sorry to say that this noxious weed seems to have a wide range in the Colony. It is an insidious weed. It will be present in a pasture for years without becoming conspicuous, but, as soon as the land is broken up for crop, it speedily takes possession of the soil to the almost total exclusion of other plants. There appears to be only one sure method of getting rid of this pest, and that is, by fallowing and never allowing it to come above ground, or by growing crops in drills on infested land, using the drill grubber and hand hoe, continuing this treatment for two or three years. If it is allowed one month in the year to develop a few leaves, the previous work will be all thrown away, so far as killing the plant goes. Where it is found in small patches it may be got rid of by cutting it down, salting it, or treating it with arsenic, and covering it completely over to the depth of several feet with straw or rubbish.
Oxeye Daisy. This weed may be described as essentially a pasture weed. It is becoming very prevalent in many parts of the Colony. Its spreading radical leaves soon smother the better grasses. No animal will touch its acrid leaves. Its presence in hay renders it most unpalatable to horses and stock of all kinds.
Cape Weed has already become a most troublesome plant in light and medium soils. There seems to be no method of dealing with this pest, except by occasional breaking up and renewing the seeds, an expensive process and not always convenient. This is a case where top-dressing might so encourage the growth of other plants as to overcome the preponderance of Cape Weed.
I have made no reference to sorrel, for the reason that I have seen it covering large areas where it would be difficult to get better plants to grow, and as sheep will eat it, it must have some good points about it.
There is another class of weeds, which, if they are not so injurious as some of those I have already referred to, they are nevertheless a source of loss to farmers. I refer to worthless grasses. It is a strange thing that the grass which is considered a troublesome pest in New Zealand—Poa Pratensis, is the same grass that stands high in some parts of America as a pasture grass. It is known as "Blue Kentucky Grass." Agrostis Canina is another twitch which causes much trouble. I notice that Triticum repens, or English Couch Grass, is becoming plentiful. It is a terrible pest in the Old Country. All of these page 17 grasses are perennial. I hardly know what to say about Yorkshire Fog; it is a useful plant under some conditions, but this much may be said about it, never tolerate it on soils where better grasses will grow.
The annual weed grasses are also a source of loss. The most injurious being "Wire Grass, Goose Grass, and the worthless Fescues. The machinery for cleaning seeds is now so perfect, that with care, farmers should now be able to keep their pastures free from rubbish. Speaking to one of the shrewdest farmers in New Zealand recently, on the spread of weeds over our best lands in Canterbury, he remarked that " unless the present occupiers of the soil take active measures to oust the weeds, the day is not far distant, when the weeds will oust them." This is not pleasant to contemplate.
Insect and Other Pests.
New Zealand offers a large field for the investigations of an entymologist if he could devote the necessary time to the work. The country is swarming with the various forms of insects injurious to fruit trees and plants. Our turnip fields have been decimated for the past three years to a considerable extent by the ravages of the Diamond-backed moth (Plutella eruciferarum). The Grass Grub is also a source of much loss to farmers. The causes, and better still, the prevention of these pests offer a field for much investigation.
Mr. Mechi was not far out when he said that "muck was the mother of wealth." The condition of things in this Colony renders the manufacture of farm-yard manure (the best of all) in anything like appreciable quantities impossible. The demand for auxiliary manures must, therefore, go on increasing in proportion as our maiden soils become exhausted, and the culture of turnips extends. Already the demand has reached some hundreds of tons per annum, and as the raw material cannot be procured in anything like sufficient quantity within the Colony, we shall have to import largely to make up the deficiency.
Perhaps there is no form of imposture from which the British farmer has suffered so much in the past, as that practised on him by the vendors of spurious manures, worthless seeds, and feeding stuffs. Hundreds of tons of worthless rubbish used to be pawned upon unsuspecting farmers to their serious loss, until at last the evil became so serious that the Royal Agricultural Societies of England, Scotland, page 18 and Ireland took the matter in hand, and employed competent chemists such as Voelcker, Way, Cameron, and others, who undertook the analysing of manures, feeding stuffs, and soils, at a nominal charge, and large numbers of frauds were detected and ruthlessly exposed in the Journals of the Societies referred to.
The result is, that the great bulk of manures now offered for sale are genuine, and worth the money demanded for them. Colonial farmers will have to take the matter in hand and take care that the growing demand for manures does not lead to a spurious trade which may be attempted as soon as the demand becomes great enough to attract the attention of unscrupulous traders.
The remedy is in our own hands. Refuse to purchase manure except on guaranteed analysis. No honest trader will object to supply this, but it may be replied that few farmers know enough of chemistry to understand an analysis. My reply to this is, that the Laboratory at Lincoln College is always open to receive and to test, free of cost, any samples of manures sent there. It will thus be seen that we can protect ourselves against fraud. I must in justice add, that so far as I have ever heard, the manures imported to this Colony from Home manufactories have proved to be of high quality. Dealing with firms of long standing is an additional safeguard.
The following extract, from a Home Agricultural Journal just to hand, bears me out in what I have already stated, as to the necessity for caution on the part of farmers. Speaking of superphosphates, the writer says: "In the case of superphosphate, a practice has recently come to light, which, in the interests alike of the consumer, the broker, and manufacturer should be exposed. It appears that an unusual strength, showing, say only 24 per cent, of soluble phosphates, is being freely sold by certain dealers in Lancashire, &c., as the standard quality, viz., 26 to 28 per cent.; of course, at a slightly, though not sufficiently, reduced price. By analysis, the inferiority is at once detected, and, therefore, every purchaser should not fail to adopt this obvious precaution against imposition. The chemical reports of the Royal Agricultural Society have abundantly proved that it is not alone sufficient to purchase with a guarantee; the article should be analysed, for of what use is a guarantee unless means are adopted to verify the quality. Quite recently we heard of superphosphate guaranteed 30 per cent, soluble turning out on analysis 22 per cent."page 19
The application of artificial manures requires much consideration. The majority of our soils, however, are deficient in lime, so that, generally speaking, superphosphates will meet most requirements. However, this is too large a subject to do more than refer to in a paper like this. Speaking of manures reminds me of the story told of the Scotch farmer, who, when he was on his death-bed, called his son to him, and said, "Andy, my boy, never go in debt, but if you do, let it be for dung."
The framers of what I think is otherwise a good educational system have strangely enough ignored the subject of agriculture in our schools. If you search the reading books, from Standard I. to VI., you will not find a chapter devoted to domestic animals or cultivated crops. Surely this is a great omission, especially as agriculture must, for an indefinite period, be the leading industry of the Colony. The exclusion of such subjects can have but one effect upon the minds of boys reared in country districts, contempt for rural pursuits. Hence it is that we find our boys so soon as they pass Standard VI., flocking into the towns looking for genteel (?) employment—office work.
I have frequently ventilated this subject, and shall continue to do so, on the principle that "constant dropping wears a hole." It is pleasing to note that Professor Thomas, of Auckland University, has taken up the matter of Agricultural Education warmly. We want scholarships to enable boys from the National Schools to go on to the Agricultural School at Lincoln. This institution has a magnificent endowment, and the Commissioners lately employed by Government reported that the funds belonging to that institution were ample, and they strongly recommended that scholarships should be available for the sons of our farmers and others attending the public schools. If these and other recommendations made by the Commissioners are carried out, Lincoln College will soon do the work which its founders contemplated—offer free education for the intelligent sons of New Zealand farmers.
In America ample opportunities are afforded for those who cannot help themselves. In France and Germany, more especially in the latter country, the poorest peasant boy can, without cost, obtain a sound education in every subject pertaining to agriculture. Last year the French Legislature voted £161,365 for Agricultural Education. Competent professors are employed to give instruction to page 20 the sons of farmers and others during the long winter evenings. The result being, that wherever a promising young man is found, opportunity is afforded him of improving his position.
Coming nearer home, the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland have an agricultural class-book which is read in the rural schools, and in addition to this, teachers designed for rural districts have to undergo a course of instruction in elementary agriculture before they are allowed to take charge of a school. I refer to this system because I am more familiar with it than with any other outside New Zealand. My contention is, that something in this direction should be done in New Zealand—if our farmers' sons are to grow up intelligent agriculturists—men who will make New Zealand what nature has fitted her for, viz., one of the finest agricultural countries in the Southern Hemisphere.
In England, the importance of agricultural education in the public elementary schools is now receiving special attention. The Times Weekly Edition of April 4, 1890, contains the substance of a Bill introduced into Parliament by Mr Jesse Collings, M.P. According to his scheme, any School Board or Manager of a Public Elementary School may provide means for giving instruction in Agricultural and Horticultural subjects. With regard to the present Code of Education, the "Committee of Privy Council" are directed to make such alterations in it as will admit of special instruction in agricultural and horticultural subjects being given in public elementary schools.
The Science and Art Department are authorised to give grants to schools which conduct evening classes for instruction in agricultural subjects. The Bill has received support from all sides of the House.
- To collect information respecting plants, animals, products, &c., likely to prove of value to cultivators.
- The best methods of cultivating various kinds of crops, and of breeding and feeding domestic animals, and of improving same.
- The methods of preparing and preserving various products for market, and discovery of markets for the products of the soil.page 21
- The collection of agricultural statistics, particularly as affecting the area under cultivation in each district; the number and breeds of animals; the nature and condition of crops during each month; the times of sowing or planting and harvesting; the average yield per acre of fruits, cereals, &c.; the cost of cultivating each kind of crop; and all information that might serve to guide intending settlers.
- The collection of information respecting all kinds of pests affecting the farm, forest, garden, orchard, and vineyard.
- To ascertain and suggest the best means of eradicating poisonous plants, and of combating the effects of disease or the ailments of domestic animals.
- To prevent as far as possible the introduction and spread of such pests, and to induce colonists to give the earliest information concerning the appearance of previously unknown plants or parasites upon plants, or of diseases of animals, in order that the same may be at once identified and dealt with.
- The analyses of soils and manures. Advice and information rendered concerning the formation of butter and cheese factories.
- The dissemination of information respecting apiaries and bee products. Also as to the culture of fruit trees and packing fruit for export; the growth of timber and shelter trees. Viticulture and the diseases to which vines and fruit trees are subject, and their remedies.
- Initiatory steps for calling the attention of the Government to the importance and necessity of imposing restrictions against the introduction of disease.
- The growth of cereals and the introduction of new kinds and improved methods of culture, the production of ensilage, the introduction of new fodder plants of feeding value.
Dairying in relation to consumable and exportable products has been considered to be a pursuit so important as to justify a visit by the secretary to various agricultural districts, with the view of giving information as to the best methods of managing dairies and the establishment of co-operative factories on a large scale, as calculated to promote efficiency and economy, and the production of articles of more uniform, and therefore more marketable, quality.page 22
Besides all this work, the central bureau is steadily forming a library and museum, and has published already many valuable papers upon various subjects, among which may be cited wattle cultivation, fibre plants, phylloxera-proof vines, vines and fruit trees, model dairies, report on caterpillars, on English sparrows, picking and packing fruit for export, the relative evaporating power of trees and other vegetables, insect pests in wheat fields, report upon a fodder pest, worms in sheep, destruction of weevils, preserving eggs.
In concluding their first report the members of the central bureau say that "this review of the work will indicate but in a small degree the awakened interest of our agricultural and other producers in improved methods of culture, with correspondingly increased results to the individual and addition to the wealth of the community. That which has been accomplished is to be regarded simply as a preliminary step in the path of greater usefulness, and under favouring circumstances it is hoped that the whole system of agriculture, dairying, horticulture, &c., will be so advanced by the endeavour of the bureau and its district auxiliaries that an era of prosperity will be recognised as having commenced contemporaneously with the inauguration of the bureau of agriculture."
In July of last year there was a grand International Congress held in Paris in connection with the International Agricultural Exhibition, from which the English Board of Agriculture has collated and published a number of extracts. Fourteen hundred delegates from all parts of the world attended, when all matters connected with agriculture, &c., were freely discussed.
I have now touched upon the leading features of the agricultural position and outlook as they have presented themselves to my mind, and I think you will concede that there is much to be done in New-Zealand by the friends of agriculture, if we are to occupy a prominent position amongst the colonies of Australasia, and indeed with the other agricultural nations of the earth.
New Zealand is and must be for a lengthened period an exporting country, and therefore we must not lag behind. We can no longer afford to neglect the greatest interest of the colony, viz., its agricultural industries.page 23
Combination is the order of the day. Farmers must combine for their own protection. A single stick is easily broken, but a bundle is not so readily defeated.
I have already referred to what Victoria has done. New South Wales and Queensland have followed suit. Each has its State Department of Agriculture. Surely it is not asking too much that New Zealand should follow this good example by establishing at least an agricultural bureau. With such an institution, our best interests would receive that attention to which they are justly entitled.
Printed at the "Lyttelton Times," Gloucester Street.
* Cryptostemma, calendulaceum.