XIII. CULTIVATED CROPS - HERBAGE AND FORAGE CROPS (cont.)
Italian ryegrass can be cultivated over as wide a range of soils and climate as any forage crop which we possess, and its value for soiling is every day getting to be more generally appreciated. When first introduced, and indeed until very recently, it was chieftly sown in mixture with other grasses and clovers for pasturage, a purpose to which it is well adapted from its early and rapid growth in spring. Its true function, however, is to produce green food for soiling, for which purpose it is probably unrivalled. It is in connection with the system of irrigation with liquid manure that is astonishing powers have been most fully developed. When grown for this purpose it is sown in April, on land that has borne a grain crop after turnips or summer fallow. If sown with a grain crop as thickly as is requisite, it grows to nearly the height of the grain, and both are injured. A liberal dressing of farm-yard dung is spread upon the stubble in autumn, and immediately ploughed in. In the end of Mach or beginning of April the land is prepared for the seed by being stirred with the grubber and then well harrowed. The seed, at the rate of 4 bushels per acre, is then sown in the way already described for clover and grass seeds. When the liquid manure system is practiced, the crop is watered as soon as the young plants are about an inch high, and so rapid is its growth in favourable circumstances that a cutting of 10 tons per acre has in some cases been obtained six weeks after sowing. When there is no provision for supplying liquid manure, a top-dressing of guano, nitrate of soda, soot, or the first two articles mixed, is applied by hand-sowing, care being taken to give this dressing when rain seems at hand or has just fallen. A similar top-dressing is repeated after each cutting, by which means three cuttings are ordinarily obtained from the same space in one season. A very great quantity of stock can thus be supported from a very limited extent of ground. This grass is also found to be very grateful to the palates of horses, cattle, and sheep, which all thrive upon it. Though so very succulent, it does not produce purging in the animals fed upon it. It is peculiarly suitable feeding for milch cows, as appears from the published account at Canning Park. Such results as those obtained by Mr Kennedy and others are not to be expected unless under similar conditions; but on good loams, clean and in good heart, and under such treatment as is described at the beginning of this section, as large crops of this grass as of red clover may be reckoned on, with at least equal feeding powers, and with a degree of certainty which the farmer cannot now entertain in regard to the latter crop. If it is regularly mown when the ear begins to show and care taken never to allow the seed to form, it is fully ascertained that this grass will grow abundantly for a second year, with the advantage of being ready for use very much earlier than in its first season. It is sometimes sown in autumn, but those who have had the fullest experience in its cultivation give a decided preference to spring sowing, either after a grain crop which has followed a green crop or fallow, or at once after turnips. It is of great importance to get fresh and genuine seed. That directly imported from Italy yields the best crop when otherwise good. As a proof of the fondness of sheep for this grass, it has been observed that when it had been sown in mixture with red clover and cut for hay, sheep, on being turned into the aftermath, eat down the Italian ryegrass in preference to the clover.
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