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|Part III. Grains and Forage Crops
Plowing for Summer Fallow.
I have 500 acres to summer fallow, and the land has not been farmed for five years. How deep shall I plow? Some of the land mentioned is a sandy loam and some is adobe and red land.
As the land has been idle so long and natural processes of soil-opening in operation, it is not essential to plow as deep as though you had plowpan to break up. You need only plow deep enough to lay a good foundation for this summer's working for moisture conservation, harrowing or disking to kill weeds and breaking up clods. Six inches deep, measured on the landside, would be a good depth. In summer fallowing for moisture, it is better to plow less deep and summer-work well than to plow deep and let her go after that.
Rotation of Crops.
I have land that has been sown in oats for about six years. Can you please give me a good rotation of crops for this land?
One cannot wisely prescribe a rotation simply by schedule. One has to know the land, the markets, and the amount of capital and knowledge available. The simplest and easiest rotation to make, if you have the money to stock up, would be to go to pasturage. Alternation of pasturage and cereals, half the land to each each year, is a good way to improve the land. If you are not ready to farm with stock, the next best crop after grain would be potatoes, beets, or other roots by deep tillage, if you can sell the crop to advantage. Or you could improve the land by alfalfa for hay (if you cannot feed it), or beans, if your land is fit for it. There is no great advantage in changing one grain for another. Unless you are ready for a radical change to roots or legumes you had better use fertilizers and grow more oats if they are profitable.
Harrowing Young Grain.
Does harrowing grain increase the yield, and how many times should it be harrowed, and what time should it be done?
Value in harrowing grain in California depends upon whether the surface is badly crusted, because in this state the grain is growing during the rainy season and therefore gets ready to mature early. Where the winter is cold and nearly all the growth has to be made after the rain or snow stops, harrowing is more important. Still, if you get a dry spring and the surface is crusted, start your harrowing surely. Harrowing young grain which is trying to grow in a soil crusted by rain and wind does increase the yield by promoting the thrift of the plant and by reducing surface evaporation, thus giving the plant more moisture to grow with. The advantage of harrowing is most notable on heavy soils inclined to bake and on lighter soils inclined to cement on top. It can be done to advantage when the grain is several inches high. There can be no date for doing it, but it should not be delayed long after crusting begins, and do not wait too long for rains. It is not often done more than once, but it could be repeated to advantage in many cases. If it is taken in time, only a light harrowing is required.
Is it necessary, after binding grain, to turn the bundle so that the heads of the grain are up hill? Does the grain fill better if this is done?
Grain in the head is benefited by the passing of substance from the straw to the 'head after cutting. Presumably it would work better if the bundles in the shock should stand as the grain grows; but that is not a demonstration of it. There are other reasons why the head should stand on the straw and not the straw on the head. One is the reduction of loss by shattering; the other is the reduced danger of loss by storm water - the latter little in the dry harvest weather of California, but the total may be about the same in favor of standing sheaves on their butts and not on their heads. On the other hand, the chief advantage of shocking, in California at least, is to get the benefit of slower curing, and the enrichment of the head at the expense of the straw, before rapid drying could stop the process.
Oats or Barley in the San Joaquin.
I have twenty acres of land which is checked and easily watered. This land has produced two and one-half tons of fine oat hay per acre, and it has produced over a ton of Egyptian corn per acre. I want to put it in either oats or barley, with the idea of making grain.. Farmers advise me to put in oats, while the warehouse people advise barley.
Barley is more apt to come through with a grain crop in your valley, because it is less subject to rust with spring showers. But with oats you can watch for rust and cut for 'hay if it threatens, or if grain prices are low. This gives you more 'chances with oats because barley hay is not so desirable for feeding and is much lower-priced.
Is it too late to sow German millet when you have about three months to make hay before a freeze?
German millet, or Hungarian grass, does not like dry heat. All accounts we now have do not favor it for California interior situations, at least. If you were sure of three months' frost freedom, you could get quite a growth of sorghum, for dry forage, if thickly broadcast and cut with a mower - but it would not take much of a frost to knock it out. Oats and rye make good hay quickly if you have moisture. You can put in rye for green feeding during the winter. It will grow with less heat than most wild forage plants.
Wheat in Upper San Joaquin.
What variety of wheat would you plant on heavy red soil eight feet to water? It has been sheep-pastured two years. Should it be summer fallowed? Is wheat successfully treated for smut and rust? If so, how?
White Sonora wheat constitutes something like three-quarters of the wheat crop of your district, and has demonstrated particular adaptation to your conditions. Do not undertake treatment for rust for treatment will not effect anything if rusting conditions prevail in the spring. These are not usually to be expected in your district, therefore, Sonora, though liable to rust, is safe in your region. The seed should be dipped, to kill smut spores, in a solution of bluestone, one pound to four gallons of water. Be sure the seed is thoroughly wetted, and then dry as quickly as possible by exposure to the air. We should plow and disk the land in the winter and surface-work it later, if weeds start start during the summer. When weeds start with the early rains, kill them out once or twice to clean the land before sowing the wheat, which should be done in November or December, according as moisture conditions are right for a sure start.
Emmer for Dry Lands.
I sowed six acres of "Ammor" barley or Hammor barley - which name is correct? Also what is it? Nobody knows what it is. It grows finely. I sowed it in February and now it stands thirty inches high, but gives no sign of heads yet. It is soft and thin, like grass. What is it good for - for grain or for hay, on what is the grain used for?
The grain is "Emmer"; it is not barley but a near-wheat, although it does hold the husk or chaff on the grain like barley. It comes from the north of Europe, where growing conditions are hard, and it stands both frost and drouth better than wheat or barley and it does not rust. Some dry-farmers on uplands in southern California speak well of it, and it may be more widely useful in this State because of its drouth-resistance. It makes good pasturage because the stem is soft when green, as you describe, but it makes rather poor hay because the thin stem gets very hard unless it is cut very early. It is probably poorer for hay than either wheat or barley. The grain is about as valuable for feeding as barley, and can be used in the same way. (See also Part III, Vol. 1.)
Barley on Salt Marsh.
Can I sow barley on marsh land which has considerable salt grass on it, and in winter it lies under the tide water for about one month?
You can only tell by trying a little patch on it - sowing late in the spring. Usually such land has to be leveed, with gates to exclude tide water and let out rain water, which carries the salt with it.
What is the correct name for "hog millet"? I have heard that it is a quick grower and a heavy yielder. What is the best time of year to sow it, and how much seed to the acre. What is its value as a hog feed compared with barley? What is the best grain to plant on rather heavy unirrigated red mesa land for hog feed?
"Hog millet" is Panicum miliaceum, sometimes called "broom-corn millet" because of its branching head. It is, of course, not broom-corn, which is a sorghum. Hog millet is not tall-growing nor so leafy as some other millets, but it makes more seed-which is larger. It is used in Dakota in place of Indian corn because it matures in a shorter season and endures heat and drouth well. It is poor as compared with barley. It must be sown after frost danger is over, at about 25 pounds to the acre. If you can grow rye or barley during the rainy season and sorghum grain (Kaffir, milo, etc.) after frost, you have nothing to gain from millets - hog or otherwise.
Rye or Oats.
Which of the two cereals, rye and black oats, grows best on lowland?
Rye is naturally adapted to growth on light soils neither too moist nor rich, while oats luxuriate in a moist, rich soil and would, therefore, barring the chance of rust, be more likely to meet your requirements.
Grains and Cheat.
What is cheat grass in hay? I am told it comes from oat seed under certain conditions, but am inclined to doubt this. What is its feeding value compared with oats?
About 1875, Professor Hilgard pointed out that the "cheat" found in California grain fields is a wild rye grass, while the "cheat" in Eastern grain fields is a wild brome grass. Those then who hold that grain turns to cheat have to admit that grain turns to one wild plant in California and to another wild plant in the East. The fact is that it turns to neither, but when cold wet ground causes the seed grain to rot, whatever wild plant which can endure to have its seed soaked in cold mud is likely to appear in the place of the grain. The wild rye grass which comes as cheat in California has feeding value when it is young and tender, and is considerably used for pasturage. As it matures it becomes hard and stemmy and is very much less valuable than hay made from either wheat, barley or oats.
Sorghums and Alkali.
Dr. Hilgard mentions sorghum as an excellent grain in reclaiming alkali lands, as it stands copious irrigation. To what sorghum does he refer? Milo maize, Egyptian corn, feterita, etc., are all recommended, "especially for use in non-irrigated sections."
Professor Hilgard probably referred to Egyptian and Kaffir corn, for they were used chiefly at the time of his experiments. But be sure to note that he did not commend sorghum for alkali but for its ability to make use of lots of water put on to wash out alkali. Sorghums do not like alkali, but take kindly to a place after the alkali has gone. The newer sorghums are commended for drouth, but not for drouth and alkali.
Sorghum in Coast Valleys.
Would Egyptian corn or sorghum do fairly well in the Pajaro Valley? It does not seem to be grown. Will it do in this coast climate?
The sorghums are relatively less valuable in the coast valleys because the conditions which make them most valuable in the interior valleys, viz., resistance to heat and dry air, are not called into play. Probably Indian corn should be preferred with you.
What is feterita and where did it come from?
Feterita is a sorghum. It was imported by the government from Africa in 1911. It belongs to the durra group, and is similar to milo and Kaffir, except that it has a larger grain, which is round and almost pure white, and the plant matures in less time. Like Kaffir and milo, it is drouth resistant, and held to be more resistant than either the milo, Kaffir or shallu. Its foliage is likely to hold green after Kaffir and other similar corn has been killed by frost. It does not shell off and waste while handling as badly as does Kaffir. The heads grow erect, are of good size and compact.
Harvesting Sorghum Grain.
Tell me how to harvest Egyptian corn. What is the best implement to cut the corn? Is there a ready market for it?
Egyptian, Kaffir and other sorghums for grain are usually allowed to dry on the head in the field and are then cut off with pruning shears or knives, thrown into wagons, and piled in the barn or stacked beside it to be threshed when convenient. Much of it is fed without threshing. It is a standard corn on the market and has a ready sale. (See also Part III, Vol. 1.)
Indian Corn or Sorghums.
Would Kaffir corn do well on sandy loans, and is it more profitable than Indian corn? I have irrigation water.
Kaffir corn and other sorghums will outdo Indian corn in most interior valley situations because they stand heat and drouth better, and both are good feeds. Both should be sown as soon as frost dangers are over-usually by May 1st - but the land should be well prepared long before that time. (See also Part III, Vol. 1.) Sorghum will usually yield in grain a little more than Indian corn under favorable conditions and a great deal more under hard conditions. With fairly good conditions you might get fifty bushels per acre. Sorghum will do more with ten inches of rain than any grain which has to make its growth in the summer. Of course, barley or rye, growing while the rain is falling, will get a higher duty from that much water.
The Mixing of Sorghums.
Will Egyptian corn, dwarf milo, or Kaffir corn mix when planted in adjoining fields?
Yes, the sorghums are greatly inclined to mix, and that is the reason why one gets so many freaky plants from common seed, which is good enough for feeding. Sorghum seed should be gathered from true plants of the type grown at a distance from plants of other types.
Corn Stalks, Bermuda and Alfalfa.
Would it be a good idea to plow under corn stalks in November and plant oats for hay; after the hay is cut, plow the land dry several times to kill Bermuda grass and sow in the fall to alfalfa? Would the corn stalks be worked up enough by that time so as not to interfere with a good seed bed for alfalfa?
We suppose you refer to moist land, for on a dry land Bermuda sod you would presumably not get corn stalks enough to matter what you did with them. On dry land, too, if you did have so little Bermuda as not to check the corn, and you had plenty of stalks to plow under, whether you would get oat hay worth mentioning would depend upon whether there was a good heavy rainfall or not. With corn stalks below and dry winter skies above, you would not get much oat hay. On moist land your program might work through all right, but on ordinary plains land we would windrow and burn off the stalks and kill out as much Bermuda as possible by a good dry disking - beginning as soon as you can get clear of the stalks. Then you can put on your oats and get winter growth while it is too cold for Bermuda and go on with your dry working the second summer. But if alfalfa was the prime object we would omit the oats, put in the alfalfa in the fall or spring as early as safe. Unless the land has alkali enough to give the Bermuda the right of way, alfalfa will fight it and make good feed of the mixed growth.
Cover Crop to Reduce Moisture.
I am thinking of using sorghum broadcast for a cover crop in my two-year-old prune orchard on account of the rank growth it makes, but I wish to know if the decaying sorghum forms any acid injurious to the prune. Will cow peas be better than sorghum, considering fertility and humus added to the soil? I plowed under a heavy stand of bur clover this spring and have again seeded to clover, but as a summer cover crop I wish to use one of the above. I don't want to use alfalfa because with the dense foliage it holds the top soil too moist.
As you wish to get rid of moisture a broadcast of sorghum will do that during the frost-free season better than any other plant known to us. It will not catch any atmospheric humus. For that, cow peas would be better, but for pumping out water not so good, and for covering the surface against evaporation, cow peas would be worse than alfalfa. With such moist soil and plowing under green stuff twice 'a year, you are in danger of souring the soil, but you can correct that by liming. The treatment you propose ought to slow down your prune trees. Under more arid conditions it would run them out.
Cover Crop on Summer-Crop Land.
Will the plowing under of wild oats have a tendency to dry out the ground to be sown to Egyptian corn, milo maize, etc., about May 1? When should a heavy soil be plowed for such planting?
If you plow under in February and you get fair rains in March, your summer crop will be advantaged, if the stuff is plowed in well and the land is straight-disked or subsurface packed after plowing, to close up air spaces below without dragging out the stuff. This will cause it to decay in a retentive soil. The same practice is the best preparation for a summer crop, even if you have not much to plow under. It is a great way to save moisture, but if you are not turning under much you can use a harrow instead of the other tools mentioned.
Spring and Summer Feed for Hogs.
I want to plant in Sonoma County two separate fields of green forage crop for hog pasture to cover the periods from March 15 to May 15, and from May 15 to July 15, respectively. I have pasture of bur clover and wild oats and other natural grasses on which I can carry the hogs until about March 15; and after July 15 I have oat stubble, etc.
For your earlier period you can get good green forage from oats and vetch sown together early in February. For your later period we know of nothing to beat alfalfa. You can get good returns from unirrigated alfalfa on land which many people will tell you will not grow it. We have seen volunteer alfalfa growing rankly in fence corners in July on the farms of such people in your part of your county. Of course, if you can irrigate it you will get much more growth. Unless you are in a frosty place you can sow it as soon as your land gets wet by rains - if they are not delayed too long.
Double-Cropping on Short Rainfall.
I have some black-eye beans in now. I had intended after taking the beans off to plant the ground to oats, but a neighbor suggested planting field peas, raising these during the winter and cultivate and then when they were taken off to replant the black-eyes. Would this be practical on land which is not irrigated, with a rainfall of ten inches? By careful cultivation would it be possible to raise these two crops of legumes instead of one of grain and the black-eye beans in the alternate years with this amount of moisture?
It will put your ground into better shape for the growth of a summer crop of black-eye beans if you could grow a hardy legume like field peas or vetches during the preceding winter season, but unless you have more than ten inches of water available there will not be moisture enough remaining to make a summer crop of black-eyes. It is certain that winter-growing legumes, cultivated for the retention of moisture, would leave the ground in better shape for a summer growth of black-eyes than it would be after a crop of oats had been grown, for a crop of oats or other grain would bring moisture to its minimum. But for such double-cropping as you propose irrigation is essential with such scant rainfall.
Alfalfa on Sandy Land.
I planted alfalfa on sandy land, but got no crop, as the land became dry quickly and so hot that the young alfalfa died out. It was planted in the springtime. Is there any way to make alfalfa grow upon sandy land?
Alfalfa is all right on sandy land if you start early and have water ready to keep it going; for such soil requires irrigation earlier than heavy soil. You should sow alfalfa not later than February in such soil, if it is not a very frosty place. To stand the drouth and heat the plant must have time enough to root deeply.
Harrow or Disk Alfalfa?
Which is the best to use in stirring or loosening the ground on alfalfa, a spring-tooth harrow, or a spike-tooth disk?
It depends upon the soil, the age of the stand and what you are doing it for. Each grower is likely to answer, it according to his conditions, and therefore all types of alfalfa-agitators are well spoken of. If it is to loosen up the soil crust, the full disk set pretty straight and the spike forms of revolvers will all do it - the spikes usually giving most trouble in clogging by winding rubbish. If the alfalfa is well rooted, full disks and spring tooths do not usually injure the crowns, and are widely used. If the alfalfa is to be cleaned from grass, etc., the spring-tooth works well. On the whole, there is probably no best tool for the purpose, just as there is no best plow, or incubator, or agricultural editor. Keep trying them until you get the one that suits you. (See also Part III, Vol. 1.)
Alfalfa Leaf Spot.
Some disease has destroyed first crop of alfalfa which promised to be good before this last rain. Both that four years old and that sown lost spring appear alike. It is in Santa Cruz.
Your alfalfa has the fungus commonly called leaf spot (Pseudopeziza). It does not usually do much harm in California, and is more destructive this year because of the extreme aerial moisture. It will be less as heat and dry air come on-unless you are in a spot where these do not prevail. Naturally, more injury from this disease may be expected near the coast than in the interior. Cutting and burning the infested stuff will reduce the spores ready to attack later growth.
Gypsum and Alfalfa.
Would gypsum stimulate the growth of alfalfa on places where I did a good deal of scraping when leveling the land a year ago? Next year I probably will have stable manure, but for this season I should have something to stimulate the growth.
Gypsum will push the growth and will help to mellow the hard places, if you are irrigating, so as to dissolve it. It is best applied before the last rains are over. But you are right in getting some stable manure as soon as you can. (See also Part IV, Vol 1.)
Rape and Alfalfa.
Does rape grow well in this country, which is irrigated? Is it better than alfalfa for hog pasture? Must it be planted each year, and how do the plants compare as to feeding qualities?
The chief advantage of rape in California is that it is a winter grower and will make much green forage at temperatures which keep alfalfa dormant and will turn rainfall to account. Irrigation water is far better used in growing alfalfa because it is much richer and can be made into hay, which rape cannot. Rape is an annual. Alfalfa is perennial. For California a winter-growing legume, like vetch, is much better feeding than rape, because it is nearer to the alfalfa standard of nutritiveness.
Russian Thistle and Alfalfa.
Is it wise to sow alfalfa on land infested with "Russian thistle"? What is the most successful means of fighting this pest?
There are several plants which are locally called "Russian thistle" in California, so we are not quite sure whether you have the true Russian (salsola) or not. Supposing you have the true one, the answer would be: the way to kill out the plant is to keep it from going to seed. It is an annual and therefore has no hold-over roots. It can therefore be killed out by frequent mowing or by herding sheep on it, for it is liked by stock when young. It is desirable to sprout as much of the seed as you can by early-fall heat moisture and clean the land by several diskings. Then plow deeply so as to bury more seed, work up the surface, and put on the alfalfa in February, or later, if your land is frosty. If the alfalfa gets ahead it will run out the weed all right. On blowing, sandy soil in Nevada it has proved desirable to drill the alfalfa among the young thistle, thus using the thistle as a sort of a nurse crop. The thistle shades the soil and prevents the sand from blowing; also helps hold the moisture till the alfalfa gets its right start. Then the alfalfa will crowd out the thistle.
I have two-year-old alfalfa that is a poor stand. Should I cultivate it and sow in or should I plow it up and reseed it?
It depends upon how poor the stand is. If it is fairly good or good in spots, scratching-in seed may help the bare places, since the stand is so young. A poor old stand is hard to catch in with. Probably, as a rule, when one is sure the stand is poor or worse, it is better to start over. (See also Part III, Vol. 1.)
Storing Alfalfa Hay.
Will alfalfa hay keep in a barn loft after being in the stack long enough to sweat?
Surely; we have seen this done in many instances in the interior valleys where stockmen ran short of hay and were compelled to buy from neighbors who had already stacked theirs.
My alfalfa is a good stand, but it makes a poor growth. I will disk it this fall and put on barnyard manure. I would like to use gypsum. Would you mix with manure and spread broadcast before disking? Also, how much per acre?
Spread the manure and disk this fall after the last cutting, as you propose. The gypsum can be best applied in the spring when the growth is starting and still more rain is to come. You can use 300 lbs. per acre, broadcasting it over the surface. For a small field a fire shovel makes a good throwing implement for one hand. The first following rain will take care of it.
Alfalfa on Heavy Land.
I have ten acres I wish to plant sometime in March; it is all leveled and checked now, but will have to be re-plowed. It is only fairly well drained and water is standing some now from the heavy rains. How should I plant it - deep or shallow - and should the ground be settled, after plowing, with water to insure a firm seed bed? If I can get a good stand this spring, would it live through the coming winter rains, or would it likely drown out? I wish to plant it in March so as to catch spring rains to bring it up.
Replow as soon as the ground is in good shape, and harrow thoroughly. Cover the seed very little. If the surface is a little cloddy, the alfalfa will come around all right if moisture is right, but there ought to be a good degree of pulverization. Do not water-settle after plowing. There is danger of making the ground too cold and wet if you can get the seed up by rainfall, irrigation will behave better after the stand protects the land. Alfalfa will stand overflows when the plant is dormant but is not likely to be long-lived if the ground stays too wet during the summer.
Alfalfa and Weeds.
I have alfalfa in the Feather River bottom. Last year I cut three good crops, the first being mostly weeds, but the others were good. This year the land was covered with water for several weeks and, although the alfalfa does not seem to be killed, there is a big growth of dock, and I would like to know if there is any way of killing off the dock, as I am afraid it is going to kill out the alfalfa.
Your alfalfa will come out ahead of the weeds in the second cutting, as it did last year. Flooding while the plant is not growing does not hurt alfalfa. If the dock growth shades the ground too much run the mower over it and let the alfalfa come through as the stuff dries and shrivels.
Silage Yield of Alfalfa.
How much silage will one ton of hay fresh from the field make?
The amount of silage one will get from a ton of green alfalfa will depend on how much the alfalfa is allowed to dry out before being placed in the silo, and on the losses through fermentations and respiration of plant cells that occur in the siloing process. In order to secure a good quality of silage the alfalfa must be run through a cutter and packed well in the silo with the least possible delay after it has been cut in the field so that there is a minimum evaporation of the water prior to the filling of the silo. After the green alfalfa is placed in the silo the losses of feed materials will depend on how well it has been packed and how air-tight the silo walls are. In silos with thin, flimsy walls a considerable loss of nutrients will occur, viz., one-fourth, or more, while under favorable conditions the loss should not exceed ten per cent. In answer to the question, we may say, therefore, that if alfalfa is promptly run through the cutter and carefully packed in a well-built silo a ton will be likely to make between 1,600 and 1,800 pounds of well-preserved silage. Since four tons of green alfalfa make about a ton of hay, four times the amount given, or between three and three and a half tons of silage will correspond to a ton of hay. - F. W. W.
Killing Alfalfa Dodder.
Will you inform me the best method of destroying dodder?
Dodder is a parasitic plant which starts from a seed brought in, generally with the alfalfa seed. As soon as this little seedling starting from the ground gets high enough to grasp and entwine an alfalfa stem, it grows into this stem, sending root-like suckers into the tissue of the stem. As soon as it has done this the part near the ground dies and disappears. Dodder is an annual - that is, it has to start every year from the seeds which are freely dropped by the older plants which are attached to the alfalfa. Anything which will prevent its going to seed will kill it off in a year. The usual mowings for hay are too far apart, because the plant blooms and forms seed as it grows; and by the time the alfalfa is ready to cut some of the lower blooms may have formed seed which will be ripe enough to germinate when dried with the hay and dropped to the ground as the hay is gathered up. Dodder can be prevented from blooming and seeding by pasturing close all summer. Another way to kill it off is by burning before the seed ripens. This is sometimes done by spreading straw and burning, but it is easier on a small patch to go over it with a plumber's gasoline torch, burning all you can see of it. If blooming is prevented the dodder will disappear. It does not spread from field to field in any mysterious way, by wind, etc. Never allow animals to pasture clean alfalfa after grazing doddered fields.
Second Growth of Corn.
If Indian corn is sown broadcast and cut for fodder when about two feet high, will new shoots start up from the roots, the same as Kaffir corn? I have water to irrigate.
If the plant is still green and vigorous when two feet high there will be second growth, but not such a free second growth usually as you get from a sorghum.
Alfalfa and Corn.
What is the best crop sown in the fall to plow under in spring? The ground has been in alfalfa about five years and pastured most all the time, so there is no alfalfa left. I wish to try corn on it next year and seed back to alfalfa.
You can get most winter growth with rye and pasture it down somewhat before plowing under in March. Then disk or cultivate to clear the land and hold moisture for the corn which will be planted after frost danger is over. Be sure to plow in the stuff early, for much of the success of the corn will depend upon that.
How shall I get a crop of Soy beans; how many pounds to the acre to plant, and when is the right time? Do hogs take to the beans readily? Will the plants when green make good green manure turned under; also what is the feed valuation of the beans?
Plant about thirty pounds to the acre, dropping about two inches apart in drills two and a half feet apart, after frost-danger has passed, and cultivate as you would other beans. The crop should be cut before the pods fly open and cured or siloed or hogged off; for this use the crop may be dropped in the hills with corn. Hogs eat them readily though they may have to learn it, and the bean forage has the same character as alfalfa, but slightly less in degree. They are good for green manure, according to the amount of growth you get.
No Sod on Dry Lands.
If you have a book on reseeding worn out pasture lands for cattle, will you kindly mention it?
There is no book on reseeding wild pasture lands in California. The growth on these pastures is chiefly annuals, because extreme summer drouth prevents the growth of perennials such as are grown in the East and in moister parts of the Coast. The chief ways of improving California dry-land pastures are to guard against overstocking; to keep the stock off when the land is too wet, and to give the native plants a chance to seed toward spring - turning in the stock again later for dry feeding which does not interfere with the natural reseeding of the land. Of course, sowing seed of winter-growing annuals like bur clover, alfilerilla and wild oats will help the natural process of multiplying the same plants, which are among the best we have for winter growth and self-seeding, but for sod-grasses, such as they have in rainy-summer regions, you cannot get them on dry lands without water.
Where can I get some of that New Zealand grass that they call the "million-dollar grass"?
The so-called million-dollar grass was a disappointment. It is Paspalum dilatatum, which makes wonderful growth in hot, interior situations with plenty of water, but it will not grow at all during the winter and will not grow during the summer on dry land.
Grasses for Coast Uplands.
What amount of seed of Italian rye grass should be sown per acre on rather sandy soil? Also give a list of any other grasses you think might do well in Marin county, especially clovers.
Italian rye grass is usually sown about fifty pounds per acre and should be started as early as possible in the fall for it is not injured by frost, and the catch will depend much upon growth early in the rainy season. No introduced clover will compare for winter growth with the common bur clover. On the moist lands of Humboldt county, white clover and alsike clover live through the summer, but that would not be possible on sandy soil without irrigation. You may improve your winter pasturage by using Italian rye grass, English rye grass, orchard grass, red top and tall oat grass. They will all try to live through the dry season by bunching and are all pretty free seeders unless too constantly fed off through the spring. The mesquite (Holcus lanatus) is a coarse grass but has sometimes been described by dairymen in your district as the best of introduced grasses which they have tried.
Grasses for Mountain Pasture.
I wish to sow grasses, principally for pasture on land fully four thousand feet high. Which kind of grass would be likely to meet my requirement and about how many pounds to the acre?
You should sow a mixture and let the best take the land: orchard grass, red top, perennial rye grass, timothy and awnless brome grass, five pounds of each per acre: and add to this one pound each of red clover, white clover and alfalfa per acre. All the grasses named will hold verdure through some frost and will hang on through much drouth, though they may bunch up to resist it. Timothy would only be included in mixtures for far north and high up; others are good for valley and coast lands which are not too dry. The clovers are worth including; they may do better in a mixture on loose soil than they would alone. All the plants will make good use of even a little irrigation water.
The Rye Grasses in California.
You mention Mr. Foster of Marin County as raising sheep on Italian rye grass planted twenty years ago. From reading seed catalogues I have the impression that the Italian rye is an annual. What is the Latin name of this grass? Does it make a sod? I have heard that some species of rye grass will stand a great deal of overflow, actually making growth while flooded. Is this so?
Botanically, Italian rye grass (Lolium Italicum) and Perennial rye grass (Lolium perenne) are very near together, and some authorities have made the former a variety of the latter species. In cold countries both are rather short-lived, but perenne lasts longer than Italicum, the latter being often killed every year, and that is the reason why you see it put down as an annual in many catalogues. In milder climates, like that of England, perenne lasts notably longer, and hence its common name, English rye grass. In California valleys both species are practically perennial and as the Italian is rather more leafy it is often preferred. "Australian rye grass" is English rye grass, which came to California via Australia. All these grasses are very hardy in California coast and valley regions. They will not live through the summer on dry slopes, but will live with very little natural moisture or irrigation. They will stand submergence and will grow in the water for some time, and they will grow all winter. With moisture, rye grasses make a sod; on drier lands they protect themselves by bunching.
What is your opinion of Sudan grass? Is it a good stock feed to raise? Does it have serious objectionable features?
Sudan grass is an immense grower of coarse forage. It makes a heavy coarse straw if allowed to go to seed, after which it may be cut and another big crop of grass for grazing or hay will grow. Sudan grass is a botanical relative of Johnson grass but it has a different root-life and only lives one season, though it has lived through in strictly frostless places. It is, of course, not a winter grower and cannot be safely sown until things are right for planting corn in the locality. It is not of high feeding value, being compared with Johnson grass in that particular. It will not replace alfalfa where that plant thrives, nor can it take the place of any of our winter-growing forage plants. Its specialty is drouth-resistance during summer growth and the production of tremendous growth where moisture is adequate during the frostless months. Its seed so closely resembles Johnson grass that there is danger, unless seed growers are very careful, there will be a mixture and Johnson grass would be introduced in the seed.
Alfilaria or Filaree?
Give a brief outline of the value of alfilaria in California, also its habits and soil and moisture requirements.
Alfilaria or "filaree" (both names being corruptions or derivatives from the Spanish name of the plant, alfilerilla), is sometimes called pin-clover or pin-grass, but it is neither a clover nor a grass but a member of the geranium family. It is in California a very valuable, wild, winter-growing forage plant-generally grazed but occasionally cut for hay. It is an annual, starting with the fall rains, growing freely during the rainy period, making seed progressively while in growth, and dying with the drying of the soil early in the dry season. Its growth is directly proportional to the richness of the soil and the abundance of moisture, though it endures drouthy intervals in the rainy season well and is therefore entitled to drouth resistance, though it grows little during the California dry season except on low, moist ground. It must be sown each year either naturally or by seeding - actually it is almost entirely self-sown. It is a good wild feed during the growing season and its remains are a factor in the naturally-cured hay or what is called "dry feed" in this State. From California the plant has been distributed widely southeast through Arizona and beyond, where winter temperatures are not too low for its endurance. It is not a plant for "wintry" climates.
Objections to Sweet Clover.
You refer to "sweet clover" as though rather skeptical of its usefulness. Can you give me your reasons? I plan to sow white sweet clover in a small patch for soiling, with barley as a nurse crop, in land that has had corn.
Our objections are that the yellow species grows all too well with the moisture which would make a barley or wheat crop and is counted a great pest by grain growers, not only because it takes the moisture but it imparts its perfume to the grain, and it even goes into the flour and disgusts the bakers. The sweet clovers are good winter growers in California. White sweet clover persists in making winter growth in alfalfa, and sometimes leads the farmer to think that he has discovered a new kind of winter-growing alfalfa, but he soon learns that the intrusion is exceedingly undesirable because the plant is not generally acceptable to stock, owing to its rank flavor. Another objection to sweet clover is that it is not perennial as are red clover, alfalfa, etc., and its growth the third year depends upon the seed of the second; and though it will be very likely to come, it is apt to be patchy unless the seed is gathered and resown. As to sowing barley as a nurse crop for sweet clover, it will be the barley that will need a nurse when their fight is over.
Starting Bermuda Grass.
How shall I start Bermuda grass, from the seed or the slip? Is it necessary to cultivate the ground?
It is easiest to start Bermuda with root pieces which can be scattered and harrowed in; or they may be dibbled in at intervals of a couple of feet or so. This can be done at any time when the soil is warm and moist. But he sure you wish to have Bermuda as a constant tenant before you do it. It will need no cultivation to stay in and it will defy cultivation to get it out.
Bermuda Grass and Ground Freezing.
Will Bermuda grass grow where there are real cold winters?
Bermuda grass is of very little value in the United States north of Maryland. Even in places northward, where ground freezing may not be hard enough to kill the roots, it is still so late to start and so frequently cut back by frosts that it is of little account. The same rules would apply to the Pacific Coast: viz., where there is hard ground freezing or liability to frost late in the spring and early in the fall Bermuda is practically useless.
Bermuda with Other Crops.
Tell me a good method for eradicating Bermuda grass of long standing on moist river bottom land. Is Egyptian corn a profitable crop to sow on rich bottom lands?
We know no way to get Bermuda out of such land, except by a long process of fallowing and weekly under-cutting to prevent the Bermuda from ever seeing the light. But you can work in other plants to fight Bermuda and make good forage or pasture with them. If the water is not too near the surface, alfalfa will fight it with chance of keeping a good hold if started in February, if the place is not too frosty, when the Bermuda is dormant. If water is too near the surface, red clover will work instead of alfalfa. Sorghums will all be glad to grow on rich bottom land of course, but on such land Indian corn would probably be more profitable. Neither would, however, do much on Bermuda sod until after the killing process. (See also Part III, Vol. I.)
When to Inoculate Bur Clover.
Is it profitable to inoculate bur clover seed before planting? I aim to reseed a worn out pasture that has never been plowed and has no irrigation. The land is red and bakes hard and produces nothing but a light crop of wild oats and foxtail.
On land that has never been cropped and is so poor that it will not raise wild oats or foxtail, you will have poor success the first year even with bur clover. Work up the soil deeply and finely; and then, because none of it has been growing on the land, it will be desirable to inoculate with bacteria. Where the ground has baked so hard, bacterial life has probably been largely destroyed.
Bur Clover in the Bur.
I have a lot of barley full of bur clover. What is the best way to clean or separate, and is there any market for the seed in the bur?
Bur clover can be readily separated from barley by proper arrangement of any good grain cleaner. There is a market for the seed in the bur although the seedmen now handle only hulled seed. Any seedman will either make a bid or refer to those who operate hulling machinery. Hulled seed is better, but until a few years back the seed was handled wholly in the bur.
Limitations of Bur Clover.
What is the feed value of bur clover? What good as a forage crop? And its value to plow under for fertilizer? The weeds are very bad here, especially mustard and tar weed, and I want something strong to help smother the weeds.
Bur clover is about as good for feeding as alfalfa so far as nutritive contents go. It is harder to handle as hay, however, and usually has less feeding value per ton. It is fine to plow under as a fertilizer because it is a winter grower and uses water when there is water to spare and when green stuff can be best plowed under. But bur clover is an annual and must come every year from the seed. As a smotherer it does not compare with alfalfa. It grows low and generally does not cover well enough to prevent mustard from shooting through and it dies and dries while both mustard and tar weed are waving above it. Alfalfa keeps up the weed-fight because it grows tall and because it grows in the summer and because it fights underground also with its perennial roots.
What is the best way to sow timothy for hay in mountain valleys?
Timothy is only grown in mountain valleys in the extreme north of the State, where it does exceedingly well. It is common practice to sow timothy in the fall, and after the snow melts off in the spring they have an early start. It grows there from 3 to 4 feet high and does well. About 15 lbs. of seed are usually sown to the acre.
Winter Cover and Pasture.
Which is the better, hairy vetch or, rape, to grow as a cover crop, on gravelly, clayey soil, to use it for green feed? The ground is not inoculated for vetch. How much would you sow per acre - alone or with oats - of both plants?
We would not use rape in such a way. We would sow about 30 lbs. of vetch and 30 lbs. of red or black oats per acre. If your land grows bur clover naturally it is probably inoculated all right.
Buckwheat Summer Cover.
Is buckwheat a good summer cover crop for an orange orchard to add humus to the soil? I have been told buckwheat is hard on the land. Is that true where none of the crop is removed from the orchard?
Buckwheat will add humus and will not hurt the land if not taken off and if the soil is not too light already. For working into sandy soil, it should not be too much matured.
Methods With Buckwheat.
Are the peat lands adapted to buckwheat? When is it generally sown? How handled? Is the market limited? Will it cope successfully with Bermuda grass and other weeds?
You can grow buckwheat on low bottom land without irrigation if it holds moisture enough to make a corn crop. It can also be grown on higher land with irrigation. As it will stand no frost, it must be a midsummer crop. Broadcast like barley and harvest with a mower. Dry well before raking or it will heat in the cock. Thresh with a grain separator with proper arrangement of concaves and sieves. There is very little call for it as we in California make hot cakes out of wheat, etc. There is likely to be more call for it, as it is gaining popularity as a summer-grown cover crop in irrigated orchards. It will smother out a good many weeds, but we doubt if it will get away with Bermuda.
I wish to grow a summer crop for dairy cattle, upon irrigated mesa land, leveled for flooding. Which would be grown to advantage, Kaffir corn, sugar cane or millet? How much should be broadcast and when cut? Could I grow mixed with cow peas to make more balanced ration?
Kaffir corn or some other sorghum will give you most summer feed. It can be broadcast at about 60 lbs. to the acre and cut with a mower when the stems are a quarter to half an inch in diameter. Better results are usually obtained by sowing in drills, 2 1/2 to 3 feet and cultivating for a time. This takes about one-quarter as much seed. Cow peas require more water than sorghum and better results can be had by growing in checks by themselves, but the growth can be fed together.
Stacking Corn Fodder.
I cut about ten tons of fodder, and after letting it cure in bundles in the shock for about a month I put it in the barn. It was apparently very dry, but it has begun to warm, and I should like to know whether I should take it out and stack in the open. If so, what is the proper way to pile it to protect it from weather?
If the corn becomes hot enough several feet from the surface, to be very uncomfortable for the hand, better throw a large part of it out quickly and open the barn for all the circulation possible. Watch the temperature in the center, for if it gets too hot to hold your hand in, you will likely have spontaneous combustion. Otherwise would leave it in. To stack corn fodder make a bed of straw on a well-drained spot to keep fodder from ground. Then lay several bundles lengthwise of the stack to raise the center of the rest of the fodder, which should be laid in two rows with butts outward, the tassel ends overlapping to keep the center always higher than the outer ends of the bundles, to make the stack shed rain. Top off with a single row two layers deep along center of the stack, finishing the ends with butts sloping outward and downward. Straw on top of that will help keep it dry. Don't tramp it much, because that will break and waste the leaves. For convenience in using the fodder later, stack it as high as you can in short benches, one at a time. Then, taking fodder off one bench at a time from the end last stacked, none of it will bind the next bench.
California Grass-Nut Pasture.
I send some bulbs which grow very thickly in adobe overflow land and have a remarkable forage value for hogs after a hay crop; they are locally called "gross nuts," "wild onions," etc.
The bulbs belong to the plant known botanically as Brodiaea laxa. The stems which grow from these bulbs in the spring of the year become one or two feet high, and each is topped with a cluster of ten to twenty-five showy purplish flowers. The leaves are very narrow and slender, and grow only from near the base of the stem. The so-called bulb is, strictly speaking, a corm that is, a thickened underground stem structure. They grow abundantly in adobe fields and hillsides of western California, where they are known, especially in Mendocino county, as "highland potatoes." One investigator estimated that two hundred of them would often occur in a single square foot of ground. Their value for hog feeding is therefore great. They are sweet and contain considerable starch and sugar and are especially valuable for fattening. There can be no danger in the utilization of "grass nuts," unless bulbs of the "death camas" should be eaten by mistake. These, however, are not solid as are the grass nut corms, but consist of concentric layers as in the common onion. They are also readily distinguished by the flowers, which are white and are arranged in elongated panicles instead of rounded clusters, as in the case of the "grass nuts." Furthermore, death camas does not occur in heavy clay soil, but is restricted to the moist swales of meadows and stream banks. - H. M. Hall, Professor of Economic Botany, University of California.
Sheep Like "Soft Chess".
Please give the name of the grass of which I am sending seed-heads. Sheep like it and it runs out foxtail. Where can I get the seed of it?
The grass from Mendocino County is the Soft Chess (Bromus hordeaceus), which has taken large areas in California, particularly in the south Coast Ranges, within the last few years. It is there considered to be very undesirable since it has crowded out better forage plants and is itself eaten by cattle and horses only when they are actually starved to it. It is probable that sheep would eat it under almost any conditions, as indicated by your correspondent, but it certainly is no grass for other grazing animals. The seed is not listed in the catalogs, but one should have no difficulty in harvesting seed, where the grass has spread so rapidly. - Dr. H. M. Hall, University of California.
Reinforcing Winter-Growing Corn.
What is best to plant between corn rows for winter pasture in Coachella Valley? There will be considerable second crop corn in small heads that will be desirable to allow the stock to "hog off." We have in mind some variety of vetch, peas, rape or barley for feed, also for plowing in in the spring.
As soon as the ground is moistened enough by rain or irrigation, scratch in between the rows barley and vetch together, use it for winter pasture and plow in the refuse and shallow roots deeply for the following crop. This practice is based on the fact that the corn is apt to keep on growing in your valley and to forget that it is winter by the calendar.
Rye Grass on Ditch Banks.
How will perennial rye grass thrive on ditch banks?
It will hold on so far as the moisture reaches it, but it will summer kill if the bank stands dry long.
Vetch for Winter Forage.
On land set out to oranges this year I wish to raise some sort of crop for fodder and gotten off by May. I have been told that vetch would be best.
Oregon vetch or hairy vetch would probably give you most crop - either to haul away or plow under. But we should rather not see it there as late as May. Get it off or under in March unless you get heavy late rains. Cover crops held late are apt to make your land hateful all summer.
Rye and Vetch.
I want to sow grain in my bean ground, for winter pasture for hogs and cows. Which is best to sow-oats, barley, rye or vetch?
Sow rye and vetch. Rye is commended because of its disposition to make best early and midwinter growth for green-feeding. (See also Part III, Vol. I.)
Vetch and Wheat.
I planted Oregon vetch mixed with wheat-about two and a half pounds of vetch to one of wheat. Will the two ripen together, and when should they be cut? Will the ordinary wheat reaper and thresher handle the vetch? Would it pay to thresh or would the fodder cured for hay be more profitable?
With such a preponderance of vetch seed you are not likely to get much wheat, if the vetch suits the situation and makes its customary growth. The two plants can be cut and threshed with the same machinery, by watching and adjusting the concaves if necessary. You will have to cut before the vetch shells out if you care to get that seed. We should cut such a combination for hay, not letting the vetch get too ripe, and for cow hay the vetch would increase the value.
Is Japan clover, or Lespedeza, grown anywhere in California, and what is the food value compared to alfalfa? Will stock eat it as well as alfalfa when dry? Is it suitable for land in the foothills, without irrigation?
It is an annual which will not grow in most California places in the rainy season, because it is tender against frost. It will not grow much during our dry summer, because it does not like drouth. It is of no use without irrigation, and if one has water he can grow alfalfa, which is vastly superior, because it makes several times as much growth and because it does not need to be seeded every year. But clover is worth more to us than Japan clover because it grows in the winter and seeds itself. Japan clover was tried in California as early as 1880, and pronounced of no account. In the Southern States, with summer rains, it is well thought of.
Growing Medicinal Plants.
Will you kindly refer me to literature on the culture of herbs? Being interested in the raising of kitchen and medicinal herbs for market, I should be very glad of information on the kind of soil best adapted, the demand and how supplied, the securing of a market, the possible profit. Are these crops grown to any extent?
Write to the State Forester, Sacramento, for a copy of Dr. Schneider's report on "Pharmacal Plants," which will be sent free on application. You will find suggestions of the possible profitability of these plants in the report. It is, however, not safe to enter largely upon the production of these herbs without ascertaining beforehand who your customers will be and what price will be available. They are not suitable for putting upon the general market. Special contracts are desirable before making investment of time, land and money.