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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Editorial Notes

page 175

Editorial Notes.

[A number of original articles have been omitted, owing to the fact of their having come in too late.]

To those of us who commenced our career as Colonists on this side of the Globe many years ago, and who have been working away ever since without thinking much about the position of the Australian Colonies relative to British Possessions in other parts of the world, the statistics of trade when looked on for the first time cannot fail to cause astonishment. In this feeling we fully shared when reading certain statistical information given by the Chairman of the Union Bank of Australia, at a meeting of shareholders, held in London in January last. The following is an extract from the speech, which shows the importance of the Commercial position to which the Australian Colonies have attained in a very clear light:—

"The total trade of the Australian and New Zealand Colonies amounted to 90 million sterling, and the exports to 45 millions—dug from the bowels of the earth, or gathered from its surface. That 45 millions consisted of natural products.—in the metals, gold, copper, tin, and iron, used in all the Colonies, and silver in New Zealand. In miscellaneous products, they had wool, coal, tallow, hides, preserved meats, sugar, wheat and wine. In all the Colonies there were 65,000,000 sheep, and 7,000,000 cattle. The population of Australia and Tasmania numbered 2,000,000, and New Zealand 400,000. The revenue of the whole group was £13,000,000. Comparing these Colonies with Canada, they would find that the population of the New Dominion was 4,300,000; and her total trade amounted to £45,000,000 as against the £90,000,000 of the Australias. The exports of the Dominion were £19,000,000 against those of the Australian group, amounting to £45,000,000; and the Dominion revenue £5,000,000, as against their £13,000,000. Going farther a-field, the Indian Empire had a population of 240 millions, and a total trade exclusive of treasure of £87,000,000, and her exports were £55,000,000 against Australia's £45,000,000. But they would be asked what was the indebtedness of the Australian colonies ? It amounted to £55,000,000. Take New South Wales, the oldest of them all, her debt was £11,500,000, but her railways and public works were worth fully that amount, and her unsold Crown Lands were certainly worth ten times that amount of debt. Victoria owed £14,000,000, excluding the last loan of £3,000,000 which was still in hand; her railways returned 4 per cent, upon their cost, and the unsold Crown Lands were worth double the debt. South Australia had a debt of £3,500,000, and her railways and public works were worth about that amount, whilst her unsold Crown Lands were worth ten times the debt. Queensland, perhaps the richest of all the Colonies, had a debt of £7,000,000; but her public page 176 works and railways were worth nearly the whole, and her unsold Crown Lands ten times the amount of debt. New Zealand had a debt of £18,000,000, but her unfinished railways returned about 3 per cent, of their cost, and were worth about half the debt; besides which, she had expended large sums of money in roads and bridges, while her unsold Crown Lands were worth double the debt."

It appears that in Hawkes Bay only 3,161 acres were cropped last year, but that a very considerable additional area, namely, 11,115 acres, had been broken up ready for cropping next year. Surface sowing, without cultivation, is most practised there, and during the past year the additional land treated in this way, was 58,268 acres. Last lambing was very good, the increase being 390,900 lambs from 508,390 ewes, or fully over 77 per cent., which after deducting all decrease by sales, boiling down, consumption, and mortality, leaves a net addition to the sheep in the Province of 212,220.

In our last issue we noticed the introduction of the Prickley Comfrey,"Symphytum Asperrimum," as a new forage plant. Since then we have received a pamphlet issued by Thos. Christy, junr., F.L.S., who seems to have taken great pains in gathering all the information that was available as the best mode of cultivation, as well as the best variety to cultivate. The pamphlet also contains an analysis of the plant by Professor Voelcker, and who adds the following remarks—"In its fresh state Comfrey contains more water than white mustard; but, notwithstanding this large proportion of water the amount of flesh-forming substances is considerable. The juice of this plant contains much gum and mucilage, and but little sugar."

It would appear that there are several varieties, some of which have little merit, whilst others are well worthy of extensive cultivation, more especially one having a solid stem; and we cannot do better than give in its entirety a letter sent to the editor of the Essex Herald, by Mr. R. G. D. Tosswill, The Lodge, Chingford, and whom some of our readers may recollect as a Canterbury settler. Mr. Tosswill writes as follows :—

"I have just read with interest in your paper a letter from Mr. H. Doubleday about Comfrey. Now that Prickley Comfrey is admitted by all farmers and stockowners who have tried it to be the most valuable of all forage plants grown in this country, and while the cultivation of it is becoming so general, it would be well for all who propose growing it to remember the importance of planting only the true Caucasian Comfrey, and not wasting time, trouble, and money on any of the worthless varieties. I had a good opportunity of comparing the right sort with the wrong last August, in Kent, when I found the two growing within a mile of each other, on precisely similar soil and under equally favourable circumstances. One had been planted in the spring, had been cut twice, and looked ready for cutting again. The owner, a page 177 cow-keeper, was loud in its praise, and only regretted not having treble the quantity. The other belonged to a farmer who had been persevering with it for nearly three years, and trying in vain to discover the value of Comfrey as food for his stock. The owner told me that he had never got more than one light cutting a year from it, and that its effect on cattle was anything but beneficial, having always produced excessive purging, and that he intended having it all dug out of his ground as worthless. The appearance of the two crops as well as the owners' reports being so entirely different, led me to inquire where the roots had been originally obtained from. In reply, the farmer told me that he had obtained his from the Channel Islands, Wales, and else-where; and the cow-keeper that he had got his from T. Christy and Co., of 155 Fenchurch Street, London.

I have just planted about 2,500 sets obtained from Christy and Co., and shall be well pleased if the result proves as good as what I have seen growing from sets supplied by this firm. I have also planted some of the solid stem variety, which, from Mr. Doubleday's account in his letter to you, seems to be even a still more valuable variety. The importance to farmers of planting only the right sort I feel sure cannot be too strongly urged. I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

Robert G. D. Tosswill."

Other letters from persons in Wales, Ireland, and the United States of America, are given in the pamphlet, all of which indicate the high value of this plant, more particularly as food for horses and cows, and its capability to stand the severe droughts. Another prominent feature, is the ease with which it can be stored in a green state in trenches dug in the soil and covered over with straw, over which are placed planks for the exclusion of air. This plan is adopted in France, not only for preserving Comfrey, but for such crops as maize, sorghum, red clover, lucerne, sainfoin &c.

It will thus be seen that the cultivation of this plant experimentally should be tried in New Zealand, and we shall be happy to afford space to those who may wish to give the result of their experience.