XIII. CULTIVATED CROPS - HERBAGE AND FORAGE CROPS (cont.)
Lucerne. Chicory, etc.
Lucerne is much cultivated as a forage crop in France and other parts of the continent of Europe, but has never come into general use in Britain. It is, however, frequently met with in small patches in districts where the soil is very light, with a dry subsoil. Its thick tap-roots penetrate very deeply into the soil; and if a good cover is once obtained, the plants will continue to yield abundant cuttings of herbage for eight or ten years, provided they are statedly top-dressed and kept free from perennial weeds. In cultivating lucerne, the ground must first be thoroughly cleaned, and put into good heart by consuming a turnip crop upon it with sheep. In March or April, the surface soil having first been brought to a fine tilth, the seed, at the rate of 10 lb per acre, is sown in rows 15 to 18 inches apart. As soon as the plants appear they must be freed from weeds by careful hoeing and hand-weeding, repeated as occasion requires. Little produce is obtained from them the first season, and not a very heavy cutting the second; but by the third year two or more abundant crops of herbage will be produced, peculiarly suitable for horse-feed. It is the slow growth of the plants at first, and the difficulty of keeping them free from weeds on those dry soils which alone are adapted for growing Lucerne, that have deterred farmers from growing it more extensively than has hhitherto been done. We have grown it successfully in Berwickshire on a muiry soil resting sandstone rock, in an exposed situation, at an elevation of 400 feet. The time to cut it is, as with clover and sainfoin, when it is in full flower.
Chicory, burnet, cow-parsnip, and prickly comfrey, all known to be palatable to cattle and yielding a large bulk of produce, have probably been less carefully experimented with than their merits deserve. Although they have long figured in such notices as the present, or in occasional paragraphs in agricultural periodicals, they have never yet, that we are aware of, been subjected to such a trial as either conclusively to establish their claim to more extended culture, or to justify the neglect which they have hitherto experienced.
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