1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > British Agriculture: Influence of Climate, Population, etc.

Agriculture
(Part 11)




III. PRACTICE OF BRITISH AGRICULTURE (cont.)

Influence of Climate. Influence of Population, etc.

Influence of Climate


But if diversity of soil necessarily modifies the practice of the husbandman, that of climate does so far more powerfully. The soils of the different parts of the globe do not very materially differ from each other, and yet their vegetable products vary in the extreme. This is chiefly owing to difference of temperature, which decreases more or less regularly as we recede from the equator, or ascend from the sea-level. Places in same latitude and at the same elevation are found, however, to vary exceedingly in temperature, according to their aspect, the prevailing winds to which they are exposed their proximity to seas or mountains, and the condition of their surface. The different parts of Great Britain are accordingly found to posses very different climates. In passing from south to north, its mean temperature may be taken to decrease one degree Fahrenheit for every 80 miles of latitude, and the same to every 300 feet of elevation. The temperatures of the west side of our island also differ materially from that of the east, being more equal throughout the year. This is owing to the prevalence of mild westerly winds charged with moisture, which, while they equalize the temperature, cause the average fall of rain on the west side of Britain to be in many cases double, and in some nearly three times that on the opposite side. In the central parts of England cultivation is carried on at 1000 feet of elevation, but 800 may be taken as the ordinary limit. In Scotland the various crops are usually from two or three weeks later in coming to maturity than in England. In both divisions of the island the western counties, owing to their mild and humid climate, are chiefly devoted to pasturage, and the eastern, or dry ones, to tillage. As compared with the continent of Europe, our summers are neither so hot, our winters so cold, nor our weather so steady. We want, therefore, many of its rich products, but, on the other hand, our milder winter and moister climate are eminently favorable to the production of pasturage and other cattle crops, and admit of agricultural operations being carried on more regularly throughout the year. Indeed, looking to the immense varieties of the products of our soils, there is probably no other country so favorable circumstanced for a varied and successful agriculture.

Influence of Population, &c.

Besides those variations in the agricultural practice of this country which arise from diversities of soil and climate, there are others which are due to the distribution of the population. The proximity of cities and towns, or of populous villages, inhabited by a manufacturing or mining population, implies a demand for dairy produce and vegetables, as well as for provender and litter, and at the same time affords an ample supply of manure to aid in their reproduction. Such commodities, from their bulk or perishable nature, do not admit of long carriage. The supplies of these must therefore be drawn from comparatively limited areas, and the character of the husbandry pursued there is determined apart from those general influences previously referred to. From these and other causes there is a diversity in the practice of British agriculture which increases the difficulty of describing it accurately. Indeed, it is well known that there are peculiarities of character attaching to almost every individual field and farm, and still more to every different districts or county, which demand corresponding modifications of treatment in order to their successful cultivation, that a prudent man, if required to take the management of a farm in some district greatly inferior in its general system of farming to that which he may have left, will yet be very cautious in innovating upon specific practices of the natives. To such peculiarities it is obviously impracticable to refer in such a treatise as the present. They are referred to now because they suggest an explanation of some of those discrepancies in the practice and opinions of farmers, equally successful in their respective localities, which we constantly meet with; and because, in proceeding to delineate the practice of Berwickshire, where our personal experience has been gained by upwards of forty years of actual farming, we would deprecate the idea of claiming for its modes a superiority over those of other districts. Its geographical position, and the mixed husbandry pursued in it, would justify, in some measure, its being referred to as a fair sample of the national agriculture. But it is on the specific ground that it is best to speak from actual experience as far as that will serve, that we vindicate this section.






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