If there be any who still hold that this country must ultimately rival that magnificent Turnip-culture which has so largely transformed the agricultural industry of England and Scotland, while signally and beneficently increasing its annual product, I judge that time will prove them mistaken.
The striking diversity of climate between the opposite coasts of the Atlantic forbids the realization of their hopes. The British Isles, with a considerable portion of the adjacent coast of Continental Europe, have a climate so modified by the Gulf Stream and the ocean that their Summers are usually moist and cool, their Autumns still more so, and their Winters rarely so cold as to freeze the earth considerably; while our Summers and Autumns, are comparatively hot and dry; our Winters in part intensely cold, so as to freeze the earth solid for a foot or more.
Hence, every variety of turnip is exposed here in its tenderer stages to the ravages of every devouring insect; while the 1st of December often finds the soil of all but our Southern and Pacific States so frozen that cannon-wheels would hardly track it, and roots not previously dug up must remain fast in the earth for weeks and often for months.
Hence, the turnip can never grow so luxuriantly, nor be counted on with such certainty, here as in Great Britain; nor can animals be fed on it in Winter, except at the heavy cost of pulling or digging, cutting off the tops and carefully housing in Autumn, and then slicing and feeding out in Winter. It is manifest that turnips thus handled, however economically, cannot compete with hay and corn-fodder in our Eastern and Middle States; nor with these and the cheaper species of grain in the West, as the daily Winter food of cattle.
Still, I hold that our stock-growing farmers profitably may, and ultimately will, grow some turnips to be fed out to their growing and working animals. A good meal of turnips given twice a week, if not oftener, to these, will agreeably and usefully break the monotony of living exclusively on dry fodder, and will give a relish to their hay or cut stalks and straw, which cannot fail to tell upon their appetite, growth and thrift. Let our cattle-breeders begin with growing an acre or two each of Swedes per annum, so as to give their stock a good feed of them, sliced thin in an effective machine, at least once in each week, and I feel confident that they will continue to grow turnips, and will grow more and more of them throughout future years.
The Beet seems to me better adapted to our climate, especially south of the fortieth degree of north latitude, than any variety of the Turnip with which I am acquainted, and destined, in the good time coming, when we shall have at least doubled the average depth of our soil, to very extensive cultivation among us. I am not regarding either of these roots with reference to its use as human food, since our farmers generally understand that use at least as well as I do; nor will I here consider at length the use of the Beet in the production of Sugar.
I value that use highly, believing that millions of the poorer classes throughout Europe have been enabled to enjoy Sugar through its manufacture from the Beet who would rarely or never have tasted that luxury in the absence of this manufacture. The people of Europe thus made familiar with Sugar can hardly be fewer than 100,000,000; and the number is annually increasing. The cost of Sugar to these is considerably less in money, while immeasurably less in labor, than it would or could have been had the tropical Cane been still regarded as the only plant available for the production of Sugar.
But the West Indies, wherein the Cane flourishes luxuriantly and renews itself perennially, lie at our doors. They look to us for most of their daily bread, and for many other necessaries of life; while several, if not all of them, are manifestly destined, in the natural progress of events, to invoke the protection of our flag. I do not, therefore, feel confident that Beet Sugar now promises to become an important staple destined to take a high rank among the products of our national industry. With cheap labor, I believe it might to-day he manufactured with profit in the rich, deep valleys of California, and perhaps in those of Utah and Colorado as well. On the whole, however, I cannot deem the prospect encouraging for the American promoters of the manufacture of Beet Sugar.
But when we shall have deepened essentially the soil of our arable acres, fertilized it abundantly, and cured it by faithful cultivation of its vicious addiction to weed-growing, I believe we shall devote millions of those acres to the growth of Beets for cattle-food, and, having learned how to harvest as well as till them mainly by machinery, with little help from hand labor, we shall produce them with eminent profit and satisfaction to the grower. On soil fully two feet deep, thoroughly underdrained and amply fertilized, I believe we shall often produce one thousand bushels of Beets to the acre; and so much acceptable and valuable food for cattle can hardly be obtained from an acre in any other form.
This article was taken from,
WHAT I KNOW OF FARMING: A SERIES OF BRIEF AND PLAIN EXPOSITIONS OF PRACTICAL AGRICULTURE AS AN ART BASED UPON SCIENCE:
Author: HORACE GREELEY