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THE CULTIVATION OF BROOM CORN.

No. 2.

BY DANIEL JONES.

PREPARATION OF THE SOIL.

A GOOD Commercial fibre can be produced on any fairly good fertile soil. I have grown this crop on red volcanic sandy soil, on light black lands, and on the more tough, waxy sorts of black soil. The prime essential is to have your land in good tilth, the delicate nature of the young shoot rendering it imperative that the soil conditions be such as to facilitate easy germination. In New South Wales the crop is chiefly produced in the Hunter River district, the deep rich alluvial flats contiguous to that stream producing luxuriant crops of fair quality. I have also seen samples of good broom corn at the Department of Agriculture, Sydney, grown in the interior of the colony, the product of irrigation from artesian bores. In our own colony profitable crops can be and are grown on any land that will suit maize or wheat. The land should be ploughed to a depth of about 6 inches, and harrowed to as fine a seed bed as possible. All rubbish should be turned in or burnt off, as this will materially simplify the operations of planting. In the event of sowing with a machine, the presence of such obstacles as clumps of weeds or roots of old crops materially impedes sowing and cleaning operations, and tries the temper of the farmer, as well as proving a hindrance to expeditious and accurate operations. In selecting an area for sowing this crop, some consideration should be paid to

Agriculture.

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BROOM CORN PROPERLY GROWN.

BROOM CORN IMPROPERLY GROWN.

aspect. Strong winds encountered at ripening time, accompanied by wet weather, are very liable-when the broom-heads are heavy-to blow the crop down. Of course, such a contingency is probable with all crops, but I know of no more difficult and annoying trouble to be handicapped with than to cut broom-heads when they are mixed up in inextricable confusion, the result of a gale of wind accompanied by tropical rains. As this crop is not capable of withstanding much wet either in the soil or atmosphere, soils that are in their nature excessively wet and ill-drained had better be avoided, or, if such conditions unavoidably obtain, care must be observed that the crop shall not materially suffer from such causes. A soil that retains too much wet not only retards development, but at the critical period when the broom-heads are in condition for bending or cutting, if long wet weather supervenes, the moisture militates considerably against getting on the land for the purpose of cutting the crop, and as a consequence the fibre is often either badly discoloured or is in too forward a condition to sell as a good marketable commodity. Given moderately rich soil, not too retentive of moisture, well ploughed, and thoroughly harrowed to a fine state of tilth, and under these conditions no farmer need be apprehensive as to the adaptability of his land to yield-if seasonal conditions are favourable-a satisfactory crop both in quantity and quality.

The time for preparation of the soil will determine itself when deciding for an early or late crop of broom corn. In the Moreton districts, I have sown the seed as early as 22nd July with good results. This very early sowing is only recommended in such localities as may reasonably be expected to be protected from late frosts, for, in the event of these occurring, it would possibly seriously affect the development of the crop, and most probably a severe frost would destroy the tender growth.

Where the locality is favourable for early sowing, it is judicious for the farmer to avail himself of this advantage, inasmuch as an early planting will have several advantages, chief among which is the harvesting of the crop before our coastal wet season usually sets in. A crop sown during the latter part of July, if the season is favourable, will be fit to cut about the early part of November. The crop, being in thus early, will be much ahead of the New South Wales crops, and, as a consequence of its being the earliest on the market, it will be in better demand. Another advantage accrues from early planting. That is, the possibility of harvesting a second crop, either a ratoon or a fresh sowing. Thus, in order to have your ground in good condition for an early crop, it is expedient to set about the preparation of the land sufficiently early to let the soil become aerated and disintegrated, so as to be in condition for sowing during July for an early crop, and as far on in the season as December for a late one. It must be borne in mind that broom corn matures better and revels in a good warm season. Under such conditions its growth is most vigorous, and the yield is heavier. Hence late sowing is more likely to prove less satisfactory than the early or medium period. I would here once again like to specially emphasise in time the need of as fine a seed bed as possible to facilitate the mechanical operations enumerated subsequently, and which will prove a means of considerably accelerating operations. An American agricultural axiom is, that it is cheaper to hoe twice than once. This problem the practical farmer will be able to reason out, and will conclude it to be a wise feature in agrarian operations.

SOWING.

In common with most millets, the sowing of this seed, as usually performed by hand, is a tedious, unsatisfactory, and expensive operation. The common practice of drawing out drills by the plough, then dropping the seed by hand, or the alternative plan of dropping the seed every 3 or 4 furrows while ploughing, thus burying the seed with scant chance of resurrection from its grave, is too often a cause of disappointment. By adopting this practice, many a farmer has anathematised the quality of his seed for not germinating, when

the trouble frequently arose from his own method of sowing. It must be strictly remembered that to get an even crop a great deal depends upon how the sowing is accomplished. If the seed is dropped too scantily, a scanty crop is the result; if too thickly, a puny immature broom-head of little or no value is harvested. When sown too thickly, it may, of course, be thinned out; but anyone who has experienced the arduous work which this operation involves, when a large area has to be gone over, will hesitate before repeating the same error. When sowing, the object should be to have your stalks stand in the drills in the proportion of about 3 or 4 to a foot. This, it will be seen, needs some discrimination. In dropping the seed, to provide for contingencies such as immature grain, &c., the quantity of seed dropped must be much in excess of this, and, as a matter of practice, it is scarcely possible either with hand or implement to so graduate the sowing as to approach this proportion. Nevertheless, by the adoption of proper methods, aided by a little experience, the sowing of the seed may be done so accurately as to obviate any necessity for either thinning or replanting.

In sowing small areas, a little practice will enable the sower to drop the seed by hand in approximate proportion, but at best it is a slow operation, and anyone who wishes to cultivate this crop to any extent will do well to obtain a seed-sower adapted for the purpose, which will drill, drop, and cover at one -operation.

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DISC.

DISC.

If using the Challenge seed sower in wet soil, precautions must be observed in keeping the wheel clean, as by the adhesion of soil altering the circumference of the wheel the speed of the discs is somewhat varied, and consequently the seed is dropped thicker or thinner in some places; also, care must be observed that soil does not clog the vent, as it will under some conditions, especially when working on waxy or clayey soils. Should the operator neglect to put his disc

apparatus in motion, or refrain from cleaning his machine, or fail to keep the requisite quantity of seed in the seed-box, the inference is that a very erratic crop must eventuate.

I have no doubt there are many good types of seed-sowers, notably some usually used by our maize-planters, that can be adapted for use. The planter I have used with success is the "Challenge" one-horse drill (here illustrated), with which I have sown some considerable areas of broom corn during the past two seasons, prior to which the sowing was done by hand. By the catalogue which I have at hand I learn that this drill is procurable in America as a twohorse machine that will operate two drills at once, thus much expediting the sowing.

As this machine is equally adapted for sowing maize and peas as well as the Sorghum family, the possession of one by the farmer will prove useful in the cultivation of other crops as well as the one under consideration. The only drawback is that the discs usually sent to this colony with it have not the regulation one adapted to sowing broom corn, which requires a disc with perforations more minute and in lesser number than the ordinary ones. In my own case, I had to perforate a spare plate, with the result, after some trials, of getting a regular standard of dropping, which obviated thinning or further replanting. Presuming that the farmer then contemplates sowing with a machine that operates thuswise, the first object is to get his drills marked out for opening. This, with a one-horse machine is no easy matter, as your horse will prevent your sighting your drill-sticks, so that, unless you can put two horses in your planter and view your guide-sticks as usual, it will be necessary to manufacture a marker. It is hardly necessary to impress upon the practical farmer the full advantage of straight, evenly divided drills. When cultivating between them with the horse hoe, drills that run either unevenly in space or crooked in direction are exasperating to the workman, inasmuch as his implement either overlaps or misses ground that should be stirred, all to the detriment of the crop. The better plan, then, to secure even, straight drills, suitable to the operation of the planter, is to construct a marker which will mark 3 or 4 drills at once. This marker can be easily constructed by placing the number of runners corresponding to the width of the drills required, and nailing or tennoning crosspieces to them to give rigidity. This, with a pole for a couple of horses, will be all that is needed. The ordinary form of slide often used by farmers, with the addition of a couple of runners, is as near the pattern of a simple land marker as I can describe. The illustration will show clearly what is meant.

HANDY CORN-MARKERS.

This implement is used for marking out the rows of maize or millets before planting. In Fig. 1 the runners are made of 3-inch plank, but, if this cannot be had conveniently, a good 1-inch board can be nailed or bolted to the side of 2-inch plank to give the necessary thickness. The runners are better made of

FIG. 1.-CORN MARKER.

hardwood, and should be levelled at the bottom into a sharp V, so as to make a distinct mark. We place the runners 3 feet 9 inches apart, and the extra marker (a) seen at the right hand runs just 7 feet 6 inches from the runner. This makes a guide-mark to follow, and enables the driver to make straight rows without the trouble of setting stakes each time.

The chain or rope (b) is fastened to the hame hook on the horse. This marker is secured by a single belt put in loosely, so that it will pivot around, and must be changed at each end. The part that makes the mark is made of 2-inch plank, with the edge bevelled sharp, and is just the shape and about the size of a half-head of a barrel. There must be a notch cut in each runner, or a strong, bolt put in for the shank of this marker to rest against.

For the marker shown in Fig 2, use an old buggy or light wagon pole; if either are not available, make a pole as shown in the sketch, with two braces to the 2-inch. by 4-inch scantling roller, 12 feet long. For runners take a plank 2 inches thick by 6 inches or 7 inches wide; cut two of them 2 feet long, two others 2 feet long; bore a hole with a 2-inch

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FIG. 2.-CORN MARKER,

auger in the two longest runners 5 inches from the ends. The runners may be rounded a little. Now nail a board, & ínches or 6 inches wide, across runners-two small bolts in each runner would be better, but nails will hold them all right; also nail a short board on one end of two centre runners (see cut). This comes in handy to catch hold of to lift round at end of field. A man can drive a team much better than one horse. A good teamster can mark four marks at a time by using stakes, or a piece of stick nailed to the top board at the end, to which is tied a weight with a rope 1 foot long.

Now will be discerned the advantage of having prepared a good seed bed, as the marker, running over the smooth soil, will leave well-defined indications for the man operating the sowing-machine to follow. In the event of not being provided with the marker or seed drill, the farmer will need to draw his drills by the aid of his sticks in the usual way, drawing out two drills at double distance, and splitting down the centre. This saves some small amount of rodmarking. For broom corn, the drills should be either 3 feet or 3 feet 6 inches apart. In ordinary good soil 3 feet is, perhaps, the better distance.

The single-drill machine will sow, with drills 3 feet or 3 feet 6 inches apart, from 6 to 8 acres per day, doing the drilling, dropping, and covering at one operation. The value of mechanical planting over hand work lies not only in the expedition gained, but in evenness of dropping as well as in properly graded depth in sowing. In the ordinary operations of drilling with the plough, determine howsoever we may to draw evenly shallow drills, in practice the result is that, unless the ground is very smooth and deeply worked, some grave holes" will be made, for ever precluding the germination of the seed. The depth to which the seed should be buried should not exceed 2 inches, indeed 14 is sufficient. When drills vary in depth, the seed comes up irregularly, and there is a consequent irregularity in the maturing of the crop, all of which can

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