1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Liquid Manures

(Part 41)

X. MANURES (cont.)

Liquid Manures

We have spoken of the importance of carefully retaining the urine of the housed live stock, by having it absorbed in the soil matter of the dung-heap, and of collecting the surplus into a suitable tank, where it may be available for moistening the heap from time to time, and especially when about to be applied to the land. A system has, however, lately attracted much notice, by which pains are taken not only to preserve every crop of urine and ooze from dung-heaps, but, as far as practicable, to apply the whole manure produced on the farm in a liquid form. It is in Ayrshire, and especially on the farm of Myremill, that thus system has been carried out most fully. Our reference will be best explained by quoting at length from the Minutes of Information issued by the General Board of Health regarding sewage manure.

"The next farm visited was in the immediate vicinity of Glasgow, where the supply of liquid manure is derived from another source, and distributed in a different manner. The supply is from a dairy of 700 cows, attached to a large distillery; the entire drainage from the former flows in a full continuous stream into a tank containing 30,000 or 40,000 gallons, whence it is pumped up immediately by a 12-horse power-engine, and forced through 4-inch iron pipes, laid about 18 inches under ground, into large vats or cisterns placed on the highest points of the land to be irrigated. From these it descends by gravitation through another system of pipes land along the ridges of the hills, finding an outlet through stand-cocks placed at intervals, from which it is distributed through movable iron pipes fitting into each other, and laid along the surface in whatever direction the supply is required. The land thus irrigated consists of three farms lying at some distance apart, the farthest point to which the liquid is conveyed being about two miles, and the highest elevation 80 feet above the site of the tank an engine. The principal use to which the irrigation has been applied has been to preserve the fertility of the pastures, the general appearance of which was a t first rather disappointing, but this was explained by the fact that they are fully stocked, and that the cows rush with avidity to those parts that have been last irrigated, and eat them down quite bare. As is the case in other instance, however, by far the most profitable application has been found to be Italian rye-grass, of which 15 (Scotch) acres were under cultivation some with seed supplies by Mr. Dickinson, whose successful cultivation of it by similar means near London has long known. The first cutting of this had vielded about ten tons the acre, the second nine, and the third, which was ready for cutting, was estimated at eight or nine more, Some crops of turnips and cabbages were pointed out to us in a state of vigorous growth, and with more than common promise of abundance; these were raised by a dressing of ashes and refuse (of little fertilizing value, having been purchased at 2s. 6d. a ton), conjoined with four doses of liquid, one after the preceding crop of oats had been carried, one prior to sowing, and two more at different stages of growth. The enterprising gentleman who has carried out these works at his own expense, and in spite of the discouragement arising form partial failure in his earlier attempts, though speaking cautiously, as was natural in a tenant on a nineteen years lease, of the pecuniary results of this undertaking, impaired some facts which leave little doubt that it must have been largely remunerative. Besides maintaining, if not increasing, the fertility of the pastures, to which the solid manure from the byres was formerly devoted, at a heavy expense of cartage (the whole of which is now saved), he is enables to sell all this manure of which we estimated the quantity at about 3000 tons a year, at 6s. a load. For a good deal of the Italian rye-grass not required for his own consumption, he obtained upwards of 13s.a ton, the profit on which, taking into account the yield, before stated, may easily be imagined. Thirteen carts, each containing s six barrels of ten gallons each, are used to convey the milk to market, where it is sold at 5d. the Scotch pint, equal to six pints imperial measure. The income from milk would, therefore, be not less than £43, 6s. 8d. per day, or £15, 816, 13s. 4d per annum.

"The next place visited was the farm if Myremill, near Maybole, in ayrshire, the property of Mr. Kennedy, who adopted and improved on the method of distribution just described. On this farm, about 400 imperial acres of which are laid down with pipes, some of the solid as well as the liquid manure has been applied by these means, guano and super-phosphate of lime having been thus transmitted in solution , whereby their value is considerably enhanced. This is especially the case with guano, the sue of which is thus rendered in great measure independent of the uncertainties of climate, and it is made capable of being applied with equal advantage in dry as in wet weather. In some respects the farm labors under peculiar disadvantages, as water for the purpose of diluting the liquid has to be raised from a depth of 70 feet and from a distance of more than 400 years from the tanks where it is mixed with the drainage from the byres. These tanks are four in number, of the following dimensions respectively: --- 48x14x12; 48x14x15; 72x14x12; 72x17x12. They have each a separated communication with the well from which their contents are pumped up, which are used in different degrees of ‘ripeness,’ a certain amount of fermentation induced by the addition of rape-dust being considered desirable. The liquid is diluted according to circumstances, with three or four times its bulk of water, and delivered at the rate of about 4000 gallons an hour, that being the usual proportion to an acre. The quantity to be applied is determined by a float-gauge in the tank, which warns the engineer, whose business it is to which it, when to cut off the supply, and this is a signal to the, man distributing it in the field to add another length of hose, and to commerce manuring a fresh portion of land. The pumps are worked by a 12-horse power steam-engine, which performs all the usual work on the farm, thrashing, cutting chaff and turnips, crushing oil-cake, grinding, &c., and pumping. The pipes are of iron; main submains, and service pipes, five, three, and two inches in diameter respectively, laid eighteen inches or two feet below the surface. At certain points are hydrants to which gutta-percha hose is attached in lengths of twenty yards, at the end of which is a sharp nozzle with an orifice ranging from one to one and a half inch, according to the pressure laid on, from which the liquid makes its exit with a jet of from twelve to fifteen yards. All liquid required is that of a man and a boy to adjust the hose and direct the distribution of the manure, and eight or ten acres many thus be watered in a day. There are now 70 acres of Italian rye-grass and 130 of root crops on the farm. The quantity they would deliver by a get from a pump worked by a 12-horse power steam-engine would be 40,000 gallons, or 178 tons, per diem, and the expense per ton about 2d, but a double set of men would reduce the cost. The extreme length of pipe is three quarters of a mile, and with the hose the total extent of delivery is about 1,900,000 yards, or 400 acres. To deliver the same quantity per diem by water-0carts, to the same extreme distance, would be impracticable, One field of rye-grass, sown in April, had been cut once, fed off twice with sheep, and was ready (August 20th) to be fed off again. In another sheep, after yielding four cutting within the year, each estimated at 9 or 10 tons per acre, the value of the aftermath for the keep of sheep was stated at 25s. an acre. Of the turnips, one lot of Swedes dresses with 10 tons of solid farm manure, and about 2000 gallons of the liquid, having six bushels of dissolved bones along with it, was ready for hoeing 10 or 12 earlier than another lot dresses with double the amount of solid manure without the liquid application, and were fully equal to those in a neighbors field which had received 30 loads of farm-yard, dung, together with 3 cwt. guano and 16 bushels bones per acre; the yield was estimated at 40 tons the Scotch acre, and their great luxuriance seemed to me to justify the expectation. From one filed of white globe turnips sown later. And manured solely with liquid, from 40 to 50 tons to the Scotch acre was expected. A field of carrots, treated in the same manner as the Swedes, to which a second application of liquid was given just before thinning, promised from 20 to 25 tons the acre. Similarity favorable results have been obtained with cabbages; and that the limit of fertility by these means has not been reached, was m clearly shown in one part of the Italian rye-grass which has accidentally received more than its allowance of liquid, and which showed a marked increase of luxuriance over that around it. The exact increase of produce has not been accurately determined, but the number of cattle on the farm has increased very largely, and by means of the Italian rye-grass at least four times as many beasts as before can be kept now on the same extent of land, the fertility of the land being at the same time increased. This plant, of all others, appears to receive its nourishment in this form with most gratitude, and to make the most ample returns for it; and great as are the results hitherto obtained, I believe that the maximum of productiveness is not yet reached, and that the present experiment must be carried yet further before we know the full capabilities of this manure. Of one important fact connected with this crop, I am assured, that notwithstanding the rank luxuriance of its growth, animals fed upon it not only are not secured, but thrive more than on any other kind of grass in cultivation.

"Taking into the irrigation account the whole cost of the engine, and the whole of the fuel and wages – although half of these might have been deducted --- the following appears to be the capital account and working expenses for fertilizing Myremill farm: ----

== TABLE ==

This amount, divided by the number of acres, is equal to the annual sum of 14s. per acre.

"I now come to the practical results of so cheap a mode of fertilizing land.

"Mt. Young informed me that in one of the fields he had himself measured the growth of Italian rye-grass, and had found it to be two inches in twenty-four hours; and that within seven months, Mr. Kennedy has cut from a field we were passing at the time 70 tons of grass per acre. Where the whole is cut, four or five heavy crops are thus taken; but upon some of the land during the last two years 20 sheep to the acre have been penned in hurdles, and moved about the same field from time to time; after each remove the fluid has been applied, and immediately flowed by an abundant growth of food. There is not the slightest appearance of exhaustion in the land, ---- its fertility appears to increase. I was informed that, before the liquid manure was used, the laud would not keep more than a bullock or five sheep to the acre; now it will maintain, if the crops are cut and carried in, five bullocks or twenty sheep to the acre. Some beans, bran, and oil-cake are bought for the stock; but on the other hand, one-third or more of the farm is kept in grain, notwithstanding the great number of live stock.

"Canning Park --- Mr. Telfer’s farm, near Ayr. This is a small dairy farm of 40 acres, near the level of the sea, and about a mile and a half west of the town of Ayr. Eater is too abundant. It lies deed within about 20 inches of the surface, and in winter nearer than that.

"No bedding or litter is used here. The cows lie on coca-nut mats. The ventilation is perfect; and the air sweeter than in the majority of the dwelling-house of human beings.

"The following appears to be the cost of carrying out the system of Mr. Telfer’s farm: ----

== TABLE ==

"In summer the cows have a quantity of oil-cake, as well as grass; and in winter they have turnips or mangel0wurzel, bean or barley meal, and cut hay or grass; the whole mess being steamed and said that last year the hay bought would amount to from £30 to £40, and she should think the grain to not less than £200. In general terms, the other food is produced upon the farm. As to the produce of grass, which is the chief article, the first cutting during the present year was in the latter end of March about 18 inches thick. The second was from 18 inches to 2 fee t thick. The third was from 3 feet to 4 feet 6 inches thick. The fourth nearly the same. The fifth was 2 feet thick; and the sixth, in process of cutting at the time I was there, we measured at 18 inches thick. Taking the mean, where two dimensions are given for the same crop, I fund the aggregate depth of grass, grown and cut off this farm is, however, eaten upon the premises, and the whole marketable produce of the farm is represented by the milk and butter.

"As to the quantity and value of these, Miss Bell stated that the previous week the butter was 114 lb and 120 lb --- together 234 lb, sold at 1s per pound. This , she stated , was about the average quantity and price. The amount for butter would therefore be £11, 14s. per week, or per annum £608, 8s. She informed me farther, that during about eight months in the year, the cold milk realizes about the same amount as the butter. In the summer months, during hot weather, the market value of the milk is only about half that of the butter. From these data, the amount for milk sold per annum is £507.

"I only need to add that, previously to the adoption of the present system of farming, these 40 years acres of land were barely sufficient to support eight or nine cows, and would have been well let at a rental of 30s. an acre."

The attention now so generally directed to this subject, and the importance attached to it in many quarters, justify this lengthened quotation, and call for some remarks upon it. We have carefully examined two of the instances referred to in this

Report, viz., Port-Dundas and Myremil; and some smaller experiments more cursorily. After doing so we are sorry to say that we have arrived at a very different estimate of this system of manuring from that expresses in the above quotations. We at once, and with pleasure, acknowledge that in so far as concerns the storing up and preparing of the liquid manure, its application to the land, and the production, by means of it, of crops of Italian rye-grass almost surpassing belief in their luxuriance and weight of produce, Mr. Kennedy’s experiments have been crowned with complete success. The excellence of this grass as food for live stock, and their relish for it, is also indisputable. Neither do we dispute the statements of those who tell us that manure, when largely diluted with water, and properly applied in the liquid form, is more beneficial to plants than in any other way in which it can be presented to them. Admitting all this, the question remains, Has it yet been shown that this system can be economically applied to ordinary farms? Data are still wanting from which to answer this question conclusively, but we shall state some of the reasons which constrain us, with our present information, to do so in the negative.

TABLE III. ---Showing Cost, &c., of the Application of Sewerage Waters and Liquid Manures.

== TABLE ==

Supposing an adequate motive power already to exits, and to be partly employed for other purposes, the capital that must be invested in providing the tanks and other apparatus necessary for carrying out this system amounts to about £4 per acre over a farm of average extent. If the system be a sound one, the great amount of this outlay cannot fairly be urges as an objection to it. The addition of a permanent rent charge of 5s. per acre to an entire farm, for a benefit which in any one year can be available to but a limited portion of it, is however a serious matter. In each case referred to in the Minutes of Information, the whole annual charge, whether arising from interest on capital, wear and tear of machinery, or working expenses, is divided by the whole acreage of the farm, In the first seven cases given in the tabular statement, this mode of calculation is correct, as the whole areas to actually benefit each year by the irrigating process. But when we come to those irrigated by machinery, we find that a half or two-fifths only of the land receives the benefits of it any one year. If the annual charge in this latter class of cases is divided by the acreage actually irrigated, it becomes evident that the expense is double that of the Pusey meadows, and s equal to that of the old meadows near Edinhurgh, instead of being less, as it is made to appear. Again, in estimating the profits an opposite course is allowed. While the charges are made to appear less by spreading them over the whole area of the farm, the enormous produce of grass from the irrigated parts is put prominently forward, and little is said about its produce as a whole. In the dairy cases, too, we are told of enormous gross profits, without being pointedly reminded that the larger portion of the keep of the cows, such as distillery offal, bean-meal, hay, and even straw and turnips, is actually purchased; that in this way quantity of extraneous manure becomes available for the associated farm, sufficient (however applied) to maintain it in a state of fertility; and that there would be handsome profits from the dairy, irrespective of the farm altogether. In fact, town dairies usually have no land attached to them. The cows are maintained solely by purchased food, and then sale of manure, liquid and solid, forms one of the stated items of income. In Mr. Harvey’s and similar cases, two separate businesses are in fact mixed up, and yet the whole is spoken of in such a way as if the profit was mainly due to the use of liquid manure. Indeed, the whole of these Minutes of Information issued by the General Board of health have an air of special pleading about them, which to us seriously detracts from their value.

The entire annual cost of applying manure in this manner is stated to amount to from 10s. to 14s. per acre for the whole extent of the farm. Now this would suffice to provide annually from 1 to 1 _ cwt. of Peruvian guano (even at its present high price) for every acre of the farm, or from 2 to 3 cwt. per acre, if applied, as the liquid is, to the portion under green crop only. The stated application of such a dressing of guano, in separate portions, and during showery weather, will be found to yield results little inferior to those obtained by the used of liquid manure. To do this requires no costly apparatus or permanent sinking of capital, and its application can be desisted from at any time when found un-remunerative. The adoption of this plan of applying the liquid manure of the farm necessarily demands that the whole system of management be accommodated to it. In order to furnish this liquid manure, the whole green crops must, summer and winter, be conveyed to the homestead, and there consumed in such a manner as that the urine and dung of the animal fed upon it may be scoured into the tanks. It is no such easy matter to replenish these tanks as some persons seem to think. When cattle are housed in boxes or properly protected yards, the whole of the urine is absorbed by the litter, and goes to the field in the dung-cart. This is certainly a more expensive way of conveying it to the fields than by pipes. But then, as in the new system, the urine &c., is diluted with at least three times its volume of water, there are four tons of manure to convey on the one plan for one on the other. Even where pipes are use, all the litter, and a portion at least of the dung, has still to be carted out, so that no claim of a saving of carriage can validly be put forward on behalf of this system; but its merits must be grounded solely on the superior efficacy of manure, when applied in a liquid instead of a solid form.

In the case of dry and loose soils, the consuming of the turnips crop, by folding sheep upon it, has hitherto been regarded as at once the cheapest way in which it can be converted into wool and mutton, and the land consolidated and enriched, so as to fit for producing grain and other crops, On tenacious soils, and in a moist climate, which is quite the case at Myremill, it is certainly impracticable to pursue this system in winter. It is perhaps also the case that sheep are healthier, fatten more rapidly, and yield more wool, when fed under cover, than when folded on the open turnips filed. Admitting all this, however, we are disposed to think that these benefits are better secured by Mr. Randell of Chadbury’s plan of littering the pens with burnt clay, which keeps the sheep clean, and their feet in good order, and , when mingled with their urine and dung, forms a most valuable manure for any kind of land. Were this carried out by means of movable covered pens, which could be erected and easily shifted from place to place in the turnip field, the carriage of the turnips and manure would be greatly reduced especially if accomplished by means of the portable railway.

In the case of dairies near towns, where the cows are largely fed on brewery or distillery offal and other purchased food, the circumstances are totally different from those of ordinary farms, depending solely on their own resources. The liquid manure that would otherwise run to waste when thus applied, is so much clear gain, in so far as the value of the increased produce exceeds the cost of application, it may form a wholesome caution to some persons to mention her that, notwithstanding all that has been written about the success of the spirited operation at Port-Dundas, we were told by Mr. Harvey, that so dubious is he still about it, that if the thing were to do again, he would rather keep his money in his pocket, and let the urine run into the canal as formerly. If there is doubt even in such a case, how much more when the manure must virtually be purchased. And this leads us to remark that we have better hopes of the ultimate success of this plan of manuring, when it is restricted to the application of the surplus liquid manure of the homestead to some piece of meadow near at hand, supplementing this supply, when necessary, by dissolving guano in water, and sending it through the pipes. These remarks apply even more strongly to the sewage from towns. The liquid, in this case, is highly charged with fertilizing ingredients of the most valuable kind, seeing that it consists largely of night-soil form a population consuming much animal food. With few exceptions, this valuable liquid, which flows in such quantities from all our towns, is not only utterly lost, but is a grievous nuisance, by polluting our streams and generating disease. In applying it as manure, the expense lies entirely in providing and working the necessary apparatus. In such cases, them with an unfailing supply of highly fertilizing liquid, costing nothing to began with, there is every inducement to put into operation any plan by which it can be economically applied to field crops. The enhanced value of green forage in the vicinity of towns is an additional motive for attempting this. The profitable disposal of town sewage in a way neither injurious to the health nor offensive to the senses of the community, is, however, a problem yet remaining to be solved.

The ingenuity and enterprise displayed by Mr. Kennedy and others, in their endeavors to cheapen by this means the cost of farm produce, and the frankness and untiring patience with which they have shown and explained their proceedings to the unceasing stream of visitors, which the novelty of the operations attracted form all parts of the kingdom, and even from foreign counties no slights effort to speak of them otherwise than approvingly. The confidence with which various influential parties have proclaimed the complete success of this scheme of irrigation, and recommended it for general adoption, seems, however, to require that those who have examined it, and arrived at as opposite conclusion, should publicly say so.

It is unreasonable to expect that private parties are to divulge their whole business affairs; and yet, without a full Dr. and Cr. Account for some ordinary arable farm treated on this system, it is impossible to arrive at a sound judgment on its merits. Until this can be done, it would be better to abstain from publishing partial statements, which tend only to mislead the public mind. We offer these remarks in no spirit of hostility to this new system of farming. We shall rejoice unfeigned to find that our opinion of it erroneous, and that it really warrants the sanguine expectations which some parties entertain regarding it. We simply maintain that as yet the case is "not proven," and our counsel to those who are disposed to try it is, not to embark in it to an extent that would embarrass them, if, as we fear, it should prove a failure.

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