1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Leguminous Crops - Beans; Pease [Peas].

(Part 53)


Leguminous Crops - Beans; Pease [Peas].


The only members of this family statedly cultivated for their grain are beans and pease. Before the introduction of clover and turnips these legumes occupied a more important place in the estimation of the husbandman than they have done since. Indeed, in many districts naturally well adapted for the culture of turnips, that of beans and pease was for a time all but abandoned. Recently, however, increasing precariousness in the growth of clover, and even of turnips, where they have been sown on the same ground every fourth year for a lengthened period, has compelled farmers to return to the culture of beans and pease for the mere purpose of prolonging the intervals in the periodic recurrence of the former crops. But it is found, in regard to the bean itself, in districts where it has long occupied a stated place in rotations of six or seven years, that its average produce gradually diminishes. We have thus an additional illustration of the importance of introducing as great a variety of crops as possible into our field culture. It is on this principle that beans and pease are now again extensively cultivated on dry friable soils. Winter beans, or pease of some early variety, are geneally preferred in such cases. The grain of these legumes, though partially used for human food, is chiefly consumed by horses and by fattening cattle and sheep. Being highly nutritious, they are well adapted for this purpose. By growing beans on a limited portion of the land assigned to cattle crops,, a larger weight of beef and mutton can be produced from a given number of acres, than by occupying them wholly with roots, forage, and pasturage. Several varieties of field beans are cultivated in Great Britain, such as the common horse bean, the tick, the Heligoland, and the winter bean. The latter was introduced into England about the year 1825, and there rises steadily in estimation. It has been tried in many parts of Scotland, and proves quite hardy, but is for this, it is a valuable acquisition, as it ripens so much earlier than the spring-sown varieties. Beans should never be sown on land that is foul. By diligent horse and hand hoeing, land that is clean to begin with can be kept so under beans, and left in fine condition for carrying a white corn crop; but in opposite circumstances it is sure to get into utter confusion. It is found advisable, therefore, to take beans after the white crop that has succeeded roots or a bare fallow. In Berwickshire, where a five-years’ course, consisting of turnips, wheat, or barley, two years’ seeds, and oats, has long prevailed, beans are now not unfrequently introduced by substituting them for the second year’s grass. A four-years’ course with beans instead of a potion of the seeds is certainly preferable. In cultivating this crop the land is ploughed with a deep furrow in autumn, a dressing of dung being first spread over the surface and turned in by the plough. As early in March as the state of the soil admits, it is stirred by the grubber and harrowed. The seeds are then deposited either in narrow rows 14 inches, or in wider rows 27 inches apart. The latter width has long been preferred in Scotland, because of its admitting of the free use of the plough and the drill-grubber, in addition to the hoe, during the early stages of the plant’s growth, and also from from a belief that the free entrance of light and air, of which the wide rows admit, increases the productiveness of the crop. W shall describe both modes of culture, and then state the grounds upon which, after long sharing in the opinion just noted, and following that practice, we now give a decided preference to sowing in narrow rows. In sowing at th wider intervals, the soil, having been prepared as already stated, is formed, by a single turn of the common plough, into shallow drills 27 inches apart. Ten or twelve such drills being formed to begin with, the seed is scattered broadcast, at the rate of 3 bushels per acre, by a sower who takes in six of these drills at a time, and gives them a double cast, or by a drilling-machine, which sows three rows at once. The beans either roll into the hollows as they fall, or are turned in by the ploughs, which now proceed to open each a fresh drill, in going down the one side of the working interval, and to cover in a seeded one in returning on the other side. If tares are cultivated on the farm, it is usual to sow a small quantity (say a peck per acre) amongst the beans, on which they are borne up, and so ripen their seeds better, and yield more abundantly, than when trailing on the ground. When the crop comes to be thrashed the tares are easily separated from the beans by sifting. Ten days or so after sowing, the drills are partially leveled by a turn of the chain harrow; and if the land is cloddy, it is smoothed by a light roller. If showers occur when the bean plants are appearing above ground, or shortly after, the common harrows may be used again with the best effect in pulverizing the soil and destroying newly-sprung weeds. A horse and hand hoeing is then given, and is repeated if weeds again appear. When the plants have got about six inches high it is beneficial to stir the soil deeply betwixt the rows by using Tennant’s grubber, drawn by a pair of horses. For this purpose the tines are set so close together as to clear the rows of beans, and the horses are yoked to it by a main tree, long enough to allow the horses to work abreast in the rows on either side of the once operated upon. The soil is thus worked thoroughly to the depth of 6 or 8 inches, without reversing the surface and exposing it to drought, or risk of throwing it upon the plants. Just before the blooms appear some farmers pass a bulking-plough betwixt the rows, working it very shallow, and so as merely to move the surface soil towards the plants. This may do good, but a deep earthing up is hurtful. When the booms open all operations should cease, as otherwise much mischief may be done. Such an amount of culture as has now been described may be thought needlessly costly and laborious, but unless a bean crop is kept clean, it had better not be sown. And it is to be remembered that the benefit of this careful tillage is not confined to it, but will be equally shared in by the wheat crop that follows. The culture of winter beans differs only in this, that they require to be sown as early in autumn as the removal of the preceding grain crop admits of. When it is determined to sow in 14-inch rows, the seeds are deposited by any of the corn drilling-machines in common use, set for the specified width or rows, or (which we prefer) the soil is formed into narrow ribs or drills by means of thee one-horse plough, the seeds are scattered broadcast by hand or machine over this corrugated surface, and they are covered by a double turn of the common harrows, and rolled by a light roller. As soon as the bean plants appear, care must be taken to keep down weeds by diligent hoeing. Two good hoeings will usually suffice, for by the time that the second is accomplished, the crop will speedily so close in as to render any further hoeing impracticable and unnecessary. After repeated trials of these two modes of cultivation, made alongside of each other, we have found that the produce from the narrow rows has been at the rate of from 4 to 6 bushels more per acre than that from the wide rows, and that the soils has been left decidedly cleaner after the former than after the latter mode. It is certainly somewhat startling to find results so opposed as these are to preconceived opinion and approved practice. And yet, when the matter is well considered, it becomes obvious enough why it should be so. The wide rows admit of a most effective process of tillage and hoeing up to the time when the beans come into bloom, when, however, it must wholly cease. But when farther culture is precluded, the need for it by no means ceases, seeing that the rows of bean plants usually remain sufficiently apart to admit of the continued growth of weeds during the long period which intervenes betwixt the blooming and the ripening of the crop. And hence it happens-especially if the spring prove cold and parching-that although the wide-rowed beans have been kept scrupulously clean up to the time of blooming, their upright habit of growth renders it impossible that they can so close in upon the wide space betwixt the rows, as to preoccupy and overshadow the ground sufficiently to keep it clean during the long period that the crop must necessarily be left to its own resources. By sowing in narrow rows the crop is soon in a condition to defend itself against weeds and drought, and hence the saving of labour, the more bulky crops, and the cleaner stubble, which result from sowing beans at 14 rather than 27 inch intervals.

In Scotland the haulm of beans is esteemed an excellent fodder for horses and other live stock, whereas in England it is thought unfit for such a use. The reason of this appears to be, that in southern counties beans are allowed to stand until the leaf is gone and the stems blackened before reaping; whereas in Scotland they are reaped so soon as the eye of the grain gets black. When well got, the juices of the plant are thus, to some extent, retained in the haulm, which in consequence is much relished by live stock, and yields a wholesome and nutritious fodder. A good crop of beans yields about 1 ton of grain and 1 1/2 ton of straw per acre.

Pease [Peas]

Pease are sown in circumstances similar to those just detailed, but they are better adapted than beans to light soils. They too are best cultivated in rows of such a width as to admit of horse-hoeing. The early stage at which they fall over, and forbid further culture, renders it even more needful than in the case of beans to sow them only on land already clean. If annual weeds can be kept in check until the pease once get a close cover, they then occupy the ground so completely that nothing else can live under them; and the ground, after their removal, is found in the choicest condition. A thin crop of pease should never be allowed to stand, as the land is sure to get perfectly wild. The difficulty of getting this crop well harvested renders it peculiarly advisable to sow only the early varieties.

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