1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Preparation of the Land for Tillage (cont.) - Removal of Earthfast Stones; Paring and Burning.

(Part 32)


Removal of Earthfast Stones; Paring and Burning.

Removal of Earthfast Stones

Newly reclaimed lands, and even those that have long been under tillage, are frequently much encumbered with earthfast stones. This is particularly the case in many parts of Scotland, Their removal is always desirable, though necessarily accompanied with much trouble and expense. In our personal practice we have proceeded in this way. In giving the autumn furrow preparatory to a fallow crop, each ploughman carries with him a few branches of fir or beech, one of which he sticks in above each stone encountered by his plough. If the stones are numerous, particularly at certain places, two labourers, provided with a pick, a spade, and a long wooden lever shod with iron, attend upon the ploughs, and remove as many of the stones as they can, while yet partially uncovered by the recent furrow. Those thus dug up are rolled aside upon the ploughed land. When the land gets dry enough in spring, those not got out at the time of ploughing are discovered by means of the twigs, and are then dug up. Such as can be lifted by one man are carted off as they are, but those of the larger class must first be reduced by a sledge hammer. They yield to the hammer more easily after a few days’ exposure to drought than when attacked as soon as dug up. Before attempting to break very large boulders a brisk fire of dried gorse or brushwood is kept up over them until they are heated, after which a few smart blows from the hammer shiver them completely. Portions of otherwise good land are sometimes so full of these boulders, that to render it available, the stones must be rid of by trenching the whole to a considerable depth. When ploughing by steam-power becomes general, a preliminary trenching of this kind will in may cases be requisite before tillage instruments thus propelled can be used with safety.

Paring and Burning

Paring and burning have, from an early period, been resorted to foe the more speedy subduing of a rough uncultured surface. This is still the most approved method of dealing with such cases, as well as with any tough old sward which is again to be subjected to tillage. In setting about the operation, which is usually done in March or April, a turf, not exceeding an inch in thickness, is first peeled of in successive stripes by the breast-plough already described. These turfs are first set on edge and partially dried, after which they are collected into heaps, and burned, or rather charred. The ashes are immediately spread over the surface, and ploughed in with a light furrow. By this process the matted roots of the pasture plants, the seeds of weed, and the eggs and larvæ of innumerable insects, are at once got rid of, and a highly stimulating top-dressing is supplied to the land, A crop of turnips or rape is then drilled on the flat, and fed off by sheep, after which the land is usually in prime condition for bewaring a crop of grain. This practice is unsuitable for sandy soils, which is only rendered moiré sterile; but when clay or peat prevails, its beneficial effects are indisputable, We shall, in the sequel, give an example of its recent successful application.

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