Boek : Farmers of Forty Centuries

In deze terugkerende rubriek geef ik een uittreksel van een boek welke een bijdrage heeft geleverd aan mijn kijk op Natuurlijk Tuinieren.

Deze keer betreft het Farmers of Forty Centuries van F.H. King. Het volledige boek kan kan hier worden gelezen.

Leeswijzer. Per hoofdstuk heb ik de, naar mijn idee, belangrijkste stukken weergegeven. Wanneer ik naar aanleiding van het geschrevene een opmerking maak laat ik dit voorafgegaan door [Opmerking] om zo het onderscheid weer te geven tussen het boek en mijn persoonlijke mening.

— Preface —

The first condition of farming is to maintain fertility.

— Introduction —

[Opmerking] Zaken waar rekening mee gehouden moet worden zijn o.a. : de duur van het seizoen en de mate van regen die er valt

(p7) …it can be readily understood that the right amount of available moisture, coming at the proper time, must be one of the prime factors of a high maintenance capacity for any soil, and hence that in the Far East, with their intensive methods, it is possible to make their soils yield large returns.

(p7) They have adapted conditions to crops and crops to conditions…

(p9) Manure of all kinds, human and animal, is religiously saved and applied to the fields in a manner which secures an efficiency far above our own practices.

(p10) …centuries of practice had taught the Far East farmers that the culture and use of these crops are essential to enduring fertility, and so in each of the three countries the growing of legumes in rotation with other crops very extensively for the express purpose of fertilizing the soil is one of their old, fixed practices.

Just before, or immediately after the rice crop is harvested, fields are often sowed to ‘clover’ (Astragalus sinicus) which is allowed to grow until near the next transplanting time when it is either turned under directly, or more often stacked along the canals and saturated while doing so with soft mud dipped from the bottom of the canal. After fermenting twenty or thirty days it is applied to the field.

(p11) They have long realized that much time is required to transform organic matter into forms available for plant food and although they are the heaviest users in the world, the largest portion of this organic matter is predigested with soil or subsoil before it is applied to their fields, and at an enormous cost of human time and labor, but it practically lengthens their growing season and enables them to adopt a system of multiple cropping which could not otherwise be possible. By planting in hills and rows with intertillage it is very common to see three crops growing upon the same field at one time, but in different stages of maturity, one nearly ready to harvest; one just coming up, and the other at the stage when it is drawing most heavily upon the soil. By such practice, with heavy fertilization, and by supplemental irrigation when needful, the soil is made to do full duty throughout the growing season.

(p11) By thoroughly preparing the seed bed, fertilizing highly and giving the most careful attention, they are able to grow on one acre, during 30 to 50 days, enough plants to occupy ten acres and in the mean time on the other nine acres crops are maturing, being harvested and the fields being fitted to receive the rice when it is ready for transplanting, and in effect this interval of time is added to their growing season.

[Opmerking] Er wordt veel van transplanting gebruik gemaakt.

(p13) Almost every foot of land is made to contribute material for food, fuel or fabric. Everything which can be made edible serves as food for man or domestic animals. Whatever cannot be eaten or worn is used for fuel. The wastes of the body, of fuel and of fabric worn beyond other use are taken back to the field; before doing so they are housed against waste from weather, compounded with intelligence and forethought and patiently labored with through one, three or even six months, to bring them into the most efficient form to serve as manure for the soil or as feed for the crop.

— V —

[Opmerking] Naar mijn idee moet niet onderschat worden het effect van het continue aanvoeren van nieuwe grond vanuit de kanalen op het land om de vruchtbaarheid te behouden.

(p112) The tea orchards as we saw them on the steeper slopes, not level-terraced, are often heavily mulched with straw which makes erosion, even by heavy rains, impossible, while the treatment retains the rain where it falls, giving the soil opportunity to receive it under the impulse of both capillarity and gravity, and with it the soluble ash ingredients leached from the straw. The straw mulches we saw used in this manner were often six to eight inches deep.

The practice, therefore, gives at once a good fertilizing, the highest conservation and utilization of rainfall, and a complete protection against soil erosion.

— VI —

(p135) …hence we get but four pounds in one hundred of the dry substances eaten by cattle in the form of human food; but five pounds from the sheep and eleven pounds from swine.

[Opmerking] Omdat de aziaten zoveel plantaardig eten is hun hele verteringssysteem daarop afgesteld en is dit wellicht ook de reden waarom hun uitwerpselen minder schadelijk zijn voor de grond in vergelijking met de uitwerpselen van de westerse mens; die veel dierlijk voedsel eet.

(p135) It is clear that in the adoption of the succulent forms of vegetables as human food important advantages are gained. At this stage of maturity they have a higher digestibility, thus making the elimination of the animal less difficult. Their nitrogen content is relatively higher and this in a measure compensates for loss of meat. By devoting the soil to growing vegetation which man can directly digest they have saved 60 pounds per 100 of absolute waste by the animal, returning their own wastes to the field for the maintenance of fertility. In using these immature forms of vegetation so largely as food they are able to produce an immense amount that would otherwise be impossible, for this is grown in a shorter time, permitting the same soil to produce more crops. It is also produced late in the fall and early in the spring when the season is too cold and the hours of sunshine too few each day to permit of ripening crops.

[Opmerking] De geteelde groenten worden gegeten als ze nog jong zijn; daardoor kan meerdere keren worden geoogst.

— VII —

(p189) …it is a very old, intensive application of an important fundamental principle only recently understood and added to the science of agriculture, namely, the power of organic matter, decaying rapidly in contact with soil, to liberate from it soluble plant food.

— X —

(p242) Farmers here are very particular to hoe their grain, beginning in the early spring, and always after rains, thoroughly appreciating the efficiency of earth mulches. Their hoe, is peculiarly well adapted to its purpose, the broad blade being so hung that it draws nearly parallel with the surface, cutting shallow and permitting the soil to drop practically up’on the place from which it was loosened.

(p251) In it had been placed all of the manure and waste of the household and street, all stubble and waste roughage from the field, all ashes not to be applied directly and some of the soil stacked in the street. Sufficient water was added at intervals to keep the contents completely saturated and nearly submerged, the object being to control the character of fermentation taking place.

The capacity of these compost pits is determined by the amount of land served, and the period of composting is made as long as possible, the aim being to have the fiber of all organic material completely broken down, the result being a product of the consistency of mortar.

When it is near the time for applying the compost to the field, or of feeding it to the crop, the fermented product is removed in waterproof carrying baskets to the floor of the court, to the yard, or to the street, where it is spread to dry, to be mixed with fresh soil, more ashes, and repeatedly turned and stirred to bring about complete aeration, and to hasten the processes of nitrification. During all of these treatments, whether in the compost pit or on the nitrification floor, the fermenting organic matter in contact with the soil is converting plant food elements into soluble plant food substances.

If there is time and favorable temperature and moisture conditions for these fermentations to take place in the soil of the field before the crop will need it, the compost may be carried direct from the pit to the field and spread broadcast, to be plowed under. Otherwise the material is worked and reworked, with more water added if necessary, until it becomes a rich complete fertilizer; allowed to become dry and then finely pulverized, sometimes using stone rollers drawn over it by cattle, the donkey or by hand.

— XI —

(p263) To cover the seed the soil in the furrows between the beds had been spaded loose to, a depth of four or five inches, finely pulverized, and then with a .spade was evenly scattered over the bed, letting it sift down among the grain, covering the seed. This loose earth,so applied, acts as a mulch to conserve the capillary moisture, permitting the soil to become sufficiently damp to germinate the seed before the wheat is harvested.

(p265/266) It will be observed that the cotton follows the wheat without plowing, but the soil was deep, naturally open and a layer of nearly two inches of loose earth had been placed over the seed at the time of planting. Besides, the ground would be deeply worked with the two or four tined hoe, at the time of thinning.

(p266) The growing of multiple crops is the rule throughout these countries wherever the climate permits. Sometimes as many as three crops occupy the same field in recurrent rows, but of different dates of planting and indifferent stages of maturity.

The general practice of planting nearly all crops in rows lends itself readily to systems of multiple cropping, and these to the fullest possible utilization of every minute of the growing season and of the time of the family in caring for the crops.

(p267) In another plan winter wheat or barley may grow side by side with a green crop, such as the “Chinese clover” for soil fertilizer, to be turned under and fertilize for a crop of cotton planted in rows on either side of a crop of barley. After the barley had been harvested the ground it occupied would be tilled and further fertilIzed, and when the cotton was nearing maturity a crop of rape might he grown.

(p269) In this system of combined intertillage and multiple cropping the oriental farmer thus takes advantage of whatever good may result from rotation or succession of crops, whether these be physical, vito-chemical or biological. If plants are mutually helpful through close association of their root systems in the soil, as some believe may be the case, this growing of different species in close- juxtaposition would seem to provide the opportunity, but the other advantages which have been pointed out are so evident and so important that they, rather than this, have doubtless led to the practice of growing different crops in close recprrent rows.

— XV —

(p340) …in the early morning after a, rain. of the night before, we saw many farmers working their fields with the broad hoes, developing an earth mulch at the first possible moment to conserve their much needed moisture.

(p343) Pears …grapes … In talking with my interpreter as to the methods employed I could only learn that the growers depend simply upon dry earth cellars which can be maintained at a very uniform temperature, the separate fruits being wrapped in paper.

Vegetables are carried through the winter in such earth cellars , these being covered after they are filled.

— XVI —

(p349) The planting here, as elsewhere, is in rows, but not of one kind of grain. Most frequently two rows of maize, kaoliang, or millet alternated with the soy beans and usually not more than twenty-eight inches apart, sharp high ridge cultivation being the general practice. Such planting secures the requisite sunshine with a larger number of plants on the field; it secures a continuous general distribution of the roots of the nitrogen-fixing soy beans in the soil of all the field every season, and permits the soil to be more continuously and more completely laid under tribute by the root systems.

In places where the stand of corn or millet was too open the gaps were filled with the soy beans. Such a system of planting possibly permits a more immediate utilization of the nitrogen gathered from the soil air in the root nodules, as these die and undergo nitrification during the same season, while the crops are yet on the ground, and so far as phosphorus and potassium compounds are liberated by this decay, they too would become available to the crops.

(p354) It appears probable that the strong ridging and the close level rows so largely adopted here must have marked advantages in utilizing the rainfall, especially the portions coming early, and that later also if it should come in heavy showers.

With steep narrow ridging, heavy rains would be shed at once to the bottom of the deep furrows witholt over-saturating the ridges, while the wet soil in the bottom of the furrows would favor deep percolation with lateral capillary flow taking place strongly under the ridges from the furrows, carrying both moisture and soluble plant food where they will be most completely and quickly available.

When the rain comes in heavy showers each furrow may serve as a long reservoir which will prevent washing and at the same time permit quick penetration; the ridges never becoming flooded or puddled, permit the soil air to escape readily as the water from the furrows sinks, as it cannot readily do in flat fields when the rains fall rapidly and fill all of the soil pores, thus closing them to the escape of air from below, which must take place before the water can enter.

When rows are only twenty-four to twenty-eight inches apart, ridging is not sufficiently more wasteful of soil

moisture, through greater evaporation because of increased surface, to compensate for the other advantages gained, and hence their practice, for their conditions, appears sound.

(p355) In some cases the compost was being spread in furrows between the rows of a last year’s crop, evidently to be turned under, thus reversing the position of the ridges.

(p356) …we saw the first planted fields littered with stubble of the previous crop, and in many instances such stubble was being gathered and removed to the villages, large stacks having been piled in the yards to be used either as fuel or in the production of compost.

(p358) In nutritive value these grains rank well with wheat; the stems of the larger varieties are extensively used for both fuel and building material and the smaller forms make excellent forage and have been used directly for maintaining the organic content of the soil.