1902 Encyclopedia > Italy > Agriculture

(Part 10)



In the wide sense of the word, Italy is emphatically an agricultural country, and the products of its agriculture are of a very varied order. If the ratio of its grain production to the number of its population, however, be compared with the same ratio in other countries, it is surpassed by Roumania, Denmark, Russia, Prussia, France, Hungary, &c, and in fact is only a little better than Switzerland.[Footnote 450-2] It is calculated that about 11,545,594 acres are devoted to the cultivation of wheat, and that the annual return is about 142,402,513 bushels. The average per acre is thus very low, only 12 bushels, while England obtains about 31 bushels per acre. Next in importance to wheat comes maize (granturco, or Turkish corn), the most recently introduced of the cereals ; it occupies 4,192,083 acres, and yields 85,506,660 bushels. That the cultivation of rice is less widely distributed is the natural result of the fact that it requires about 107,000 gallons of water per annum for every acre, and that its cultivation is found in many places to be extremely prejudicial to the healthiness of the locality [Footnote 450-3]; in certain favourable regions, however, it forms the predominant crop. The chief seat of this cereal is Novara, and more particularly the circondario of Vercelli, which alone yields about 6,875,000 bushels of rice in a year. The total acreage is 573,925 acres, with a total production of 26,998,915 bushels. Neither barley nor rye is of great importance, the 1,148,470 acres devoted to their cultivation giving 18,417,542 bushels as an average crop. More than a fourth of the acreage, and nearly a third of the produce, belong to Sicily. Oats occupy about 984,917 acres, and the return is 19,369,000 bushels. The best crops are obtained in the provinces of Caserta, Pisa, Benevento, Milan, and Foggia. Millet (Panicum miliacemn), panico (Paivieum italicuni), and sorghum (Holcus saccharatus) are mainly employed as forage,—the first of the three, which was formerly of importance as an article of human food, having been in that regard displaced by maize. Buckwheat (the grano Saraceno of the popular language) is hardly grown outside of the provinces of Cuneo, Como, Belluno, and Treviso. Th« manufacture of maccaroni and similar foodstuff is well known as a characteristic Italian industry. It is pretty extensively distributed, and is often carried on in very primitive fashion. The extent of the industry may be judged from the fact that, while the Italians themselves consume enormous quantities, they are at the same time able to export from 50,000 to 70,000 quintals of "pastes."

Beans are a very common crop—those belonging to the genera Phaseolus and Doliehos being known asfagioli, and those of the genus Faba&sfave. Of the former no fewer than thirty-five varieties were exhibited by the board of agriculture at the Paris exhibition in 1878. Those most commonly cultivated are the white haricots. In many places a crop of beans is obtained from the field just cleared of the wheat. Lentils are grown in most parts of the country,—a small sort being that most in favour. Pease hold a less important place than that assigned to them in more northern lands. The total area under beans (fagioli—the fave are not included in this estimate), pease, and lentils is calculatedat 773,100 acres, and the produce at 6,664,500 bushels. Lupines are extensively cultivated both | for winter forage and to serve as a manure. Lupinus alius is the I variety most usual in Central and Northern Italy. Lupinus varius I —which does not do so well for green fodder—is most usual in the south. Lathyrus sativus, a congener of the sweet pea of English gardens, is sown as food for pigs,—its use as an article of human consumption gradually diminishing as it has been recently proved that, as Hippocrates long ago asserted, it has a tendency to bring on paralysis of the limbs.

The potato is now found as a common object of cultivation in nearly every region of Italy except the provinces of Mantua, Girgenti, and Trapani. For field cultivation the variety still almost universally in vogue is that introduced by the grand-dukes of Tuscany at the beginning of the 17th century. It is calculated that the total crop of potatoes may average 19,387,000 bushels. Turnips are pretty largely grown, more especially in the central districts of the peninsula, for use as winter fodder for the cattle. Many attempts have been made to introduce the cultivation of beet, but the plant does not succeed to much satisfaction.

Gardening is seldom carried on in Italy on a large or expensive scale, except in the neighbourhood of such places as Milan, Genoa, Florence, Palermo, Catania, and Naples. Some of the market-gardens in the outskirts of this last city, however, are said to bring in about £32 per acre, and to be let for £14 or £15. Forcing is seldom resorted to. Among the plants most largely cultivated in the ordinary gardens are various kinds of cabbage, lettuces, fennel, asparagus, spinach, beet, garlic and onions, gourds, melons and cucumbers, and tomatoes. The fennel is eaten both raw and cooked,—often instead of fruit after dinner. The asparagus is seldom bleached.

"With the exception of rape, colza, and linseed, few of the oil seeds are grown to any considerable extent. The sunflower is cultivated on a small scale in the Veneto, and the ground nut (Arachis hypogsea) in a few places in Lombardy. The annual crop of the castor-oil plant (which has become wild in Sicily and in Verona) is estimated at 6,000,000 16 of seed. Sesamum, formerly common in the Bologna and Lucca districts, is now almost confined to Sicily. Madder used to be largely cultivated in the provinces of Naples and Caserta (in the former 27,000 acres were devoted to it as late as 1863), but in Italy as elsewhere the dye plants are becoming of less importance. The collecting of saffron is also less common than it used to be. In southern Tuscany (at Piacenza, Montepulciano, and Siena) it was formerly an important industry ; now it chiefly flourishes in the province of Aquila and other parts of the Napoletano, and in the island of Sicily. Aniseed is abundantly grown in the Romagna and the Abruzzi; the province of Aquila produces about 800 quintals per annum. Liquorice grows wild in all the southern part of the peninsula, and in some portions of Sicily is considered a vile weed ; but in certain localities, as in the province of Teramo, it is the object of regular cultivation.

The vine is cultivated throughout the length and breadth of Italy, but in not a few of the provinces its relative importance is slight. "While in some of the districts of the south and the centre the vine occupies from 10 to 20 per cent, of the cultivated area, in some of the northern provinces, such as Sondrio, Belluno, Grosseto, &c, the average is only about 1 or 2 per cent. The methods of cultivation are sufficiently varied ; but the planting of the vines by themselves in long rows of insignificant bushes is decidedly the exception. In Lombardy, Emilia, Romagna, Tuscany, the Marches, Umbria, the Terra di Lavoro, and other southern provinces, they are trained to trees which are either left in their natural state or subjected to pruning and pollarding. In Campania and Terra di Lavoro the vines are allowed to climb freely to the tops of the poplars much as they would do in their native woods; but the wines obtained by this system of cultivation are said to be of inferior quality. In the rest of Italy the elm and the maple are the trees mainly employed as supports. Artificial props of several kinds—wires, cane work, trellis work, &c.—are also in use in many districts, and in some the plant is simply permitted to trail along the ground. The vintage takes place, according to locality and climate, from the beginning of September to the beginning of November. Table XL gives details for the different districts :—

== TABLE ==

Next to the cereals and the vine the most important object of cultivation in Italy is the olive. In Sicily and the provinces of Reggio, Catanzaro, Cosenza, and Lecce this tree flourishes freely and without shelter ; as far north as Rome, Aquila, and Teramo it requires only the slightest protection ; in the rest of the peninsula it runs the risk of damage by frost every ten years or so. The proportion of ground under olives is no less than from 20 to 36 per cent, at Porto Maurizio, and in Reggio, Lecce, Bari, Chieti, and Leghorn it averages from 10 to 19 per cent. Throughout Piedmont, Lombardy, the Veneto, and the greater part of Emilia, the tree is of little importance, though in a number of the provinces it is cultivated on a small scale. In the olive there is great variety of kinds, and the methods of cultivation differ greatly in different districts ; in Bari, Chieti, and Lecce, for instance, there are regular woods of nothing but olive-trees, while in middle Italy we have olive-orchards with the interspaces occupied by crops of various kinds. The Tuscan oils from Lucca, Calci, and Buti are considered the best in the world; and those of Bari, Umbria, and western Liguria rank next. The following table (XII.) indicates more particularly the distribution of the cultivation :—

== TABLE ==

The cultivation of oranges, lemons, and their congeners (collectively designated in Italianbythetermo^rttmijisof somewhat modern date, the introduction of the Citrus Bigaradia being probably due to the Arabs ; but it has received so great a development in certain parts of the country as to be highly characteristic. Sicily stands facile vrinceps in this respect,—the area occupied by the agrumeti or lemon and orange orchards in the province of Palermo alone having increased from 11,525 acres in 1854 to 54,340 in 1874. Reggio, Calabria, Catanzaro, Cosenza, Lecce, Salerno, Naples, and Caserta are the continental provinces which come next after Sicily. In Sardinia the cultivation is extensive, but receives little attention. Crude lime-juice is exported from Italy to the amount of about 10,000 quintals annually, and concentrated lime-juice to the amount of from 11,000 to 17,000 quintals. Essential oils are extracted from the rind of the agrumi, more particularly from that of the lemon and the bergamo: the latter, however, is almost confined to the province of Reggio Calabria, where the average production amounts to 220,000 lb,—an enormous quantity when it is remembered that 1000 bergamots are required for every lb. A perfume called acqua nan/a, or lanfa, is obtained from the distillation of the orange-flowers, and the petals are also made into a conserve at Syracuse. Of the agrumi in their natural state the exportation has increased from 832,410 quintals (value 24,139,890 lire [Footnote 451-1]) in 1873 to 1,007,585 (value 36,022,575 lire) in 1877. In Southern Italy almonds, carob-trees, and figs are cultivated on a very extensive scale. The value of the almonds exported in 1876 (a favourable year) amounted to 13,570,000 lire. "Walnuts are mainly grown in Piedmont, and particularly in the province of Cuneo ; hazels, on the contrary, have their greatest diffusion in the south, and particularly in the island of Sicily and the province of Avellino.[Footnote 451-2] The value of the export of walnuts and hazels amounts to between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 lire per annum. Pistachio culture is confined to the province of Caltanisetta.

The great variety in physical and social conditions which exists throughout the peninsula gives corresponding variety to the methods of agriculture. In the matter for instance of rotation of crops there is an amazing diversity—shifts of two years, three years, four years, six years, and in many cases whatever order strikes the fancy of the farmer. The fields of Tuscany for the most part bear wheat one year and maize the next, in perpetual interchanges, relieved to some extent by green crops. A similar method prevails in the Abruzzi, and in the provinces of Salerno, Benevento, and Avellino. In the plains of Lombardy a six year shift is common:—either wheat, clover, maize, rice, rice, rice (the last year manured with lupines), or maize, wheat followed by clover, clover, clover ploughed in and rice, rice, and rice manured with lupines. The Emilian region is one where regular rotations are best observed,—a common shift being grain, maize, clover, beans and vetches, &c, grain, which has the disadvantage of the grain crops succeeding each other. In the province of Naples, Caserta, &c, the method of fallows is widely adopted, the ground often being left in this state for fifteen or twenty years ; and in some parts of Sicily there is a regular interchange of fallow and crop year by year. The following scheme indicates a common Sicilian method of a type which has many varieties :—fallow, grain, grain, pasture, pasture—other two divisions of the area following the same order, but commencing respectively with the two years of grain and the two of pasture.

In the matter of implements the Italian agriculturist is far behind. The old Roman plough, for instance, as it is described by Virgil and Columella, may still be seen in use in various parts of the country; in Sardinia the plough that figures on the ancient monuments of the island might have been copied from that at work in the fields. Great improvements, however, have taken place in the more progressive regions ; iron has replaced wood, and coulter and share have been increased in massiveness. But even in the Veneto the heavy plough drawn by as many it may be as six pair of oxen cuts the furrow no deeper than 9 inches. As we proceed southwards the fashion becomes more simple and antique. The spade or vanga is a favourite implement, and in some parts, as in Emilia for instance, it is used to deepen the furrow made by the plough. Sowing and reaping machines have been successfully introduced in the lowland regions, but a large proportion of the country is little fitted for thrir employment.[Footnote 451-3] Thrashing machines even in the remoter districts have largely displaced the flail and the floor; and straw cutters, corn-shellers, and similar inventions have begun to make their way. Manuring even of a very ordinary kind is but little attended to in a great part of the country ; though it has been a custom from time immemorial to grow a crop of lupines for the sole purpose of returning them to the soil as a stimulus.

Though Italy is so distinctively an agricultural country, and has been subject so long to regular process of cultivation, a large proportion of its arable land is still in a state of utter neglect. It is calculated that the aggregate of the more important districts ready to give abundant increase in return for the labour of reclamation amounts to 571,000 acres ; and more than twice that quantity might be utilized. The most important works undertaken in this direction since the formation of the kingdom are the draining of Lago Fucino and Lago Trasimeno, and the great scheme for the improvement of the "Agro Romano" decreed by parliament on 11th December 1878.

The breed of cattle most widely distributed throughout Italy is that known as the Podolian, usually with white or grey coat and enormous horns. Of the numerous sub-varieties, the finest is said to be that of the Val di Chiana, where the animals are stall-fed all the year round ; and next to this is ranked the so-called Valle Tiberina type. The wilder and ruder varieties are those which roam in vast herds over the Tuscan and Roman maremmas, and the corresponding districts in Apulia and other regions. In the Alpine districts there is a stock quite distinct from the Podolian, generally called razza montanina. These animals are much smaller in stature and more regular in form than their Podolian cousins; and they are mainly kept for dairy purposes. Another stock, with no close allies nearer than the south of France, is found in the plain of Raceonigi and Carmagnola ; the mouse-coloured Swiss breed, occurs in the neighbourhood of Milan ; the Tyrolese breed stretches south to Padua and Modena ; and a red-coated breed named of Reggio or Friuli, is familiar both in what were the duchies of Parma and Modena, and in the provinces of Udine and Treviso. Other less important types exist in the southern parts of the peninsula; in Sicily the so-called Módica race is of note; and in Sardinia there is a very distinct stock which seldom exceeds the weight of 700 lb. Buffaloes are kept in several districts, more particularly of Southern Italy. Their total number is estimated at 15,190.

Sheep are not reared in any considerable numbers by the agriculturists of Italy; but enormous flocks are possessed by professional sheep-farmers, who pasture them in the mountains in the summer, and bring them down to the plains in the winter. The breeds vary from region to region. At Saluzzo in Piedmont there is a stock with hanging ears, arched face, and tall stature, kept for its dairy qualities ; and in the Biellese the merino breed is maintained by some of the larger proprietors. In the upper valleys of the Alps there are many local varieties, one of which at Ossola is like the Scotch blackface. Liguria is not much adapted for sheep-farming on a large scale ; but a number of small flocks come down to the plain of Tuscany in the winter. With the exception of a few sub-Alpine districts near Bergamo and Brescia, the great Lombard plain is decidedly unpastoral. The Bergamo sheep is the largest breed in the country; and that of Cadore and Belluno approaches it in size. In the Venetian districts the farmers often have small stationary flocks. Throughout the Roman province, and Umbria, Apulia, the Capitanata, and the Calabrias, we find in its full development a remarkable system of pastoral migration which has been in existence from the most ancient times, and which has attracted attention as much by its picturesqueness as by its industrial importance. Merino sheep have been acclimatized in the Abruzzi, the Capitanata, and the Basilicata. The total number of sheep in the kingdom is estimated at nearly 7,000,000, and that of goats at more than 1,500,000. According to returns for 1876 (the figures of which are almost certainly below the mark) the cattle amount to 3,489,125, the horses to 657,544, the asses to 498,766, the mules to 293,868,' and the pigs to 1,553,582. [Footnote 452-1]

The north of Italy has long been known for its great dairy districts. Parmesan cheese, otherwise called Lodigiano (from Lodi) or grana, was presented to King Louis XII. as early as 1509. In 1878 there were in the province of Parma alone one hundred and sixty-seven caselli or dairies, manipulating about 1,830,554gallons of milk, and manufacturing 26,091 Parmesan cheeses of aggregate weight of 927,315 lb, besides 6963 lb of the variety of Stracchino, 2318 lb of Gorgonzola, 324,062 lb of butter, and 497,442 of ricotta [Footnote 452-2] (compare Annali di Agricultura, No. 9). Between 1864 and 1873 the value of the cheese increased from 1'66 lire to 2'75 lire per lb. Parmesan is not confined to the province from which it derives its name ; it is manufactured in all that part of Emilia which is in the neighbourhood of the Po, and in the provinces of Brescia, Bergamo, Pavia, Novara, and Alessandria. Gorgonzola, which takes its name from a town in the province, has become general throughout the whole of Lombardy, in the eastern parts of the '' ancient provinces," and in the province of Cuneo. The cheese known as the eaccio-cavallo, which when two or three years old is worth three or four lire the kilogramme, is produced in regions extending from 37° to 43° N. lat. Gruyere, so extensively manufactured in Switzerland and France, is also produced in Italy in the Alpine regions and in Sicily. With the exception of Parmesan, Gorgonzola, La Fontina, and Gruyere, most of the Italian cheese is consumed in the locality of its production. It is estimated that in 1879 England imported upwards of 3000 Parmesans and 5000 Gorgonzolas. The institution known as the latteria sociale or co-operative dairy-farm has been in use in Parma for centuries, and is a familiar arrangement in many districts. For further details on this interesting industry the reader may consult Cantoni's L'industria del lattc, and the account of the esposizione di caseificio, held at Portici in 1877, in the Annali di Agricoltura, 1879. The extent of the butter exportation is seen jfrom Table XXII., p. 456. France is the great market for the fresh butter ; but it appears that England is rapidly becoming a customer of some importance; instead of 10 tons, as in 1875, it received 500 tons in 1879-80.

Among the various methods by which the relation of the land-holder to the tiller of the soil is regulated, the more noteworthy are the mezzadria (mezzeria or metayer) system, the boaria or schiavenderia, the economia, and the aflittanza or affittamento. This last is practically the same as the ordinary renting system in England and Scotland, the rent sometimes being paid in money (affitto a danari), sometimes in kind (affitto a grano), sometimes partly in money and partly in kind, and the periods varying from one year to leases of six or nine years. In the typical mezzadria the owner receives frequently one half of the produce of the soil, and the mezzadro or farmer the other; but of course there are many minor modifications in the terms of the contract. [Footnote 452-3] The live-stock is usually the property of the mezzadro, who pays a fixed rent for the use of the pasturage. By the terzeria system, on the other hand, the animals and plant are the property of the landholder, or two-thirds his and one-third the tenant's. Under the schiavenderia or boaria system, the boario (so called from his care of the cattle) receives such a quantity of the produce of the soil or of money as pays for his labour, and the land-lord remains practically his own farmer. The live stock of course is the landlord's property, but the boario has a right to certain perquisites connected with this department of his labour. Eeonomia is the name given to a system by which "the holder of the land, whether landlord or tenant, pays certain families who perform under his direction, with his capital and at his risk, the various labours of cultivation." The peculiar conditions of certain parts of the country produce peculiar arrangements : the Roman Campagna, for example, which could not be permanently inhabited owing to the malaria, used to be cultivated in the following fashion. Companies of peasants from the Abruzzi, the Marches, &c., under the direction of chiefs or " corporals," performed the work of sowing the fields in the autumn, and returned in June to gather in the harvest, —the tenants of the farms usually making considerable profits from the undertaking. For further details on this subject the reader may consult the Bepoiis respecting the Tenure of Land in the several Countries of Europe (1869-1870) presented to the English parliament in 1870, and the Monografie agrieole, published by Professor Luigi Bodio, whose name has so frequently to be mentioned with honour in connexion with the statistics of his country. Table XIII., which is collected from the reports on the Contratti agrari in

== TABLE ==

the last work, indicates very strikingly the great irregularity of the distribution of the various forms of contracts. The rent system would appear to be gaining ground, and the mezzadria and similar methods to be losing in importance. [Footnote 453-1]


450-2 See Some observations bearing on the Production of several Countries entering into the Grain Market of the World, Richmond, Virginia, 1877.

450-3 A contest, for instance, between the rice-growers of the territory of Casale and the other inhabitants of the district, which was carried from court to court, and finally became the subject of a Government inquiry, was terminated by a decree (1879) forbidding the cultivation of the cereal in a large district where it was proving a remunerative investment. See Giorn. della Soc. Ital. d'Igiene, 1879.

451-1 The Italian lira corresponds in value to the franc. 25 lire = £1 sterling.

451-2 The hazel has its specific name, Corylus avellana, from the fact here mentioned.

451-3 A suggestive table of the proportion of mountainous and lowland country in the several provinces will be found in the Studii published by the Geographical Society in 1875. It is reprinted in the Annuario Stat. for 1881. According to this, the mountainous area is considerably in excess of the lowland.

452-1 Most of the facts in this survey of Italian agriculture are borrowed from L'Italia agraria e forestale, prepared by the Italian Board of Agriculture for the Paris Exhibition, 1878.

452-2 Ricotta means "recooked." It is the residue of cream separated from butter-milk by boiling.

3 Caruso, for instance, in his work on Sistemi d'amministrazione, describes a variety in use at Gallico, in Reggio Calabria. In order to establish new agrumeti, or orange orchards, advantage is taken of the following arrangements. The peasant undertakes to dig the holes, to furnish and place the cuttings, and to watch and take care of the plants up to the seventh year. The magoli, or interspaces between the rows, he cultivates as a garden, and pays for this a rent of about 229 lire per hectare. The produce of the orchard is divided equally between contadino and landlord, and at the end of the seventh year, the value of the garden being estimated, the former receives a third of the amount, and the landlord remains in full possession of the rest.

453-1 On the mezzadria system, see also A. Kabbeno, Sulla mezzadria nei suoi rapporti, 1874.

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