To the First Edition of Agricultural Changes*
*The first three editions of this book were published under the title of Agricultural Changes.
I have dedicated this book to my late really-to-be-lamentedfriend, Mr. Faunce de Laune of Sharsted Court, Kent, because I, in common with avast number of landowners and farmers, owe him a great deal of gratitude for having,in his article 'On Laying Down Land to Permanent Pasture',* been the means of callingattention to the once deplorable condition of the British seed trade. This is sufficientlyexemplified by a single quotation from the article alluded to, and in which Mr. deLaune says: 'I found that, however careful I was in my orders, and from whateverseed merchant I ordered my seed, the percentage of ryegrass, soft woolly grass, andother bad grasses and weeds, was beyond all belief.' My own experience, I am sorryto say, was the same as that of Mr. de Laune's, and in some cases a botanist I employedcould not discover a single plant of some of the more valuable grasses the seedsof which I supposed I had put down, and which, of course, I had paid for. But myfriend's article at once aroused the trade and the public, and led to that systemof guaranteeing seed which was initiated by Mr. James Hunter, the well-known seedmerchant of Chester, whose treatise on permanent pasture has, I may mention in passing,been highly and justly commended by Mr. de Laune. My friend had often been urgedby me to bring out a book on the subject of laying down land to grass, and I am givento understand that he had made preparations for the work; but after his death allthat could be discovered amongst his papers were some proofs, which were evidentlythose of his articles in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society, thougha good many passages, one of which I have quoted (vide page 51), must havebeen deleted. The following brief notice of Mr. de Laune will be interesting to hisfriends, and also, I hope, to many of those who, like myself, have benefited by hiswork:
*Journal of Royal Agricultural Society of England, Part 1, No. xxxv, 1882.
Mr. Faunce de Laune came of an old Kentish family,and one of his ancestors--a naval officer--was present at the attack on the SpanishArmada in the year 1588. The family suffered much in the civil wars, and one of themwas knighted at the Restoration for his loyalty to the Royal cause. My late friendwas born in 1843, succeeded his father in 1861, and died in 1891 from an illnesscontracted when travelling in India. He was a man of many accomplishments and variedinterests, much travel in various parts of the world, and was always a most agreeablecompanion. He was fond of sport, a good man across country, and possessed of allthose physical and mental energies which are indispensable to success in most branchesof life. Though he wrote and spoke on other subjects, he was chiefly known for thegreat interest he took in agriculture and fruit-growing, and also for his experimentsas regards the cultivation of home-grown tobacco. But, as we have seen, the workof greatest value to the agricultural world was that connected with laying down landto grass. This I followed up in Scotland, both by writing, lecturing, and experimentingon a large scale; and if I have in any degree been the means of improving the mixturesnow being used, and diminishing the weeds which the farmers once sowed with theirgrass seeds, it is entirely owing to the initiative of my late friend, the consequentialvalue of whose work it would, indeed, be difficult to overestimate. He was appointedone of the governors of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and, had he notbeen so unfortunately cut off, would, no doubt, have contributed still further tothe progress of agriculture in Great Britain.
I have much pleasure, in conclusion, in acknowledgingmy obligations to Mr. James Hunter, who has been kind enough to supply me with theremarks and valuable tables which the reader will find in the Appendices.
ROBERT H. ELLIOT
Clifton Park, Kelso,
18th October 1898
To the Second Edition of Agricultural Changes
he first edition of this book was printed forprivate circulation, and many copies were given away--mostly to people personallyunknown to me. From the numerous letters I have received asking for advice, and themany agricultural visitors to the farm from Scotland and England, I am now satisfiedthat a book on the subject is urgently needed. I therefore publish what I have previouslywritten, and have added an account of our most recent experiences.
I may add that my object throughout has beento show how the farmer can steadily improve his condition and the fertility of thesoil, and at the same time diminish his expenditure. I need hardly say that, underthe present conditions and future prospects of the labour market, these points mustbe carried out in order to place our agriculture on a sound footing.
ROBERT H. ELLIOT
7th November 1900
To the Third Edition of Agricultural Changes
Since the publication of the second edition muchvaluable experience has been gained, and, as the second edition of 1,000 copies isnearly exhausted, I beg to offer the present edition to the agricultural world, andthis Preface to every Englishman who feels any interest in our national welfare.This book shows how vast ,sums now spent on imported manures and feeding stuffs maybe saved, how crops may be successfully grown on land that has become almost derelict,how the decline of employment in our rural districts may be arrested, and, further,how it may be gradually increased. The proofs of these statements are open to anyonewho chooses to visit the Clifton-on-Bowmont farm, which has been visited by manyhundreds of practical farmers from many parts of these islands. The valuable confirmatoryopinions I have received have amply compensated me for the time and labour I haveexpended on this subject. For many years past we have been doing what ought to havebeen the work of an agricultural department; our correspondence has reached far beyondthese islands, and it may be of interest to mention that we have heard on the subject,either directly or indirectly, from India, Chiti, Peru, the Argentine Republic, theAntipodes, Canada, and Rhodesia. From the many confirmatory opinions I have receivedI quote the following from a Roxburghshire tenant farmer, as it illustrates so conclusivelythe national importance of the work that has been carried to most successful resultsat Clifton-on-Bowmont. The passage, I may mention, has already appeared in my letterin The Times, under the heading of 'Agricultural Depression', on 12th October1904. The tenant farmer alluded to writes as follows:
'From the short experience I have had on my farmof practising a modification of your system, I am now thoroughly convinced that mostof the poor land in this country could be profitably farmed and give more employmentto labour than it possibly can do at present. Clifton-on-Bowmont proves beyond questionhow much can be done to cheapen production and maintain the fertility of the landthrough natural and scientific methods. Your example should prove a guide and a warningto many who would run to extremes in laying too much land, thought worthless forgrowing crops, to grass of inferior quality. Such land can never be profitably heldin that way. Clifton-on-Bowmont teaches a different lesson, and conclusively provesthat much poor land going out of cultivation, and carrying a poor short stock inconsequence, can be successfully cropped by a proper rotation; and that, insteadof driving more people off the land to make room for a few sheep, it can be madeto give employment to more people, and produce much more and better sheep. This isthe first year I have adopted your system as regards cropping, and I am highly pleasedwith the results so far, as I never had turnips do so well, and the system savescertainly 30 per cent in labour* and manure. By another year I hope to work muchmore of my land on your system.'
*I have noticed in Chapter VIII that if labour can be saved on some farms by the introduction of my system, this reduction will be amply made up for by the quantity of labour that will be required when land now occupied by worthless pasture is again brought under the plough.
But the system, which is now widely known asthe Clifton Park system, will do much more than produce the effects so forcibly pointedout by my correspondent. It will arrest the steady decadence of all British arablesoils. For the last thirty years I have had them through my hands on a large scale,from alluvial flats up to thin soil 800 feet above the level of the sea, and findan only too ample confirmation of the general complaint of practical farmers. Atthe first great meeting of 400 Aberdeenshire farmers, held more than twenty yearsago, exhaustion of the soil was declared to be one of the greatest causes of theirdifficulties. In the course of discussion with ten leading farmers at Clifton-on-Bowmontlast year all seemed to agree in thinking that the soil had declined owing to theexhaustion of organic, or vegetable, matter. With the aid of liming, and a freerand freer use of artificial manures, the decadence thus caused is steadily continuing.And the farmer expects that foreign competition may be met by ever augmenting billsfor purchased fertilizers, which will cause the soil still further to decline infertility, while the agricultural chemist, aided by the manure merchant, is emptyinghis pockets, and at the same time enabling the farmer to run out the remaining fertilityof the soil. When, some months ago, I told a very old and experienced practical farmingfriend that I proposed to grow a fine crop of turnips without the aid of any manurehe laughed in my face, and evidently thought the assertion the best joke he had heardfor some time; yet this has been done, and on land that never has had any farmyardmanure, and the previous turnips of which had only received some artificials. Withreference to the successful growing of crops without any other manure excepting thatof a turf grown on the spot, and consisting of deeply rooting plants, combined witha full supply of the leguminosae, the correspondent previously quoted writes as follows:
'There is one point which always strikes me,as also many others, when visiting Clifton from time to time, and that is the remarkablefact of seeing such crops from year to year (the farm has now been in the proprietor'shand for seventeen years) when so much breeding stock is raised and sold off theplace, and so little feeding stuff consumed--practically none. I know of no othersecondary arable farm in this country farmed on the old system, and sown down everyyear with ordinary grass mixtures, that would continue to grow paying crops unlessa very great amount of cake-fed manure, or other artificials, were applied to theturnip break every year. Even valuable old pastures quickly degenerate when a breedingstock, or young animals, are kept without extra cake feeding. Looking at these facts,it is all the more remarkable how much your system and scientific seeding has accomplishedon poor high land such as Clifton-on-Bowmont. Your wonderful success in growing potatoesalso raises the question of how much might be made from that valuable crop throughcheap production by natural means, and practically no other expenses than the labourof planting and lifting, in contrast to the regular potato districts, with theirhigh rents and enormous expenditure of artificial and farmyard manure.'
High farming on the old lines is no remedy forlow prices. For our sole resource in the face of foreign competition we must lookto an economy of production which will carry with it, with the smallest possibleexpenditure on commercial fertilizers, an increasing fertility of soil. These objectshave throughout been kept steadily in view, and have been successfully carried outat Clifton-on-Bowmont.
It is remarkable, or perhaps it is not remarkable,that the Board of Agriculture should have not only failed to distribute leafletson this important subject, but should even have declined to send (as I suggestedit should) to the various County Councils notices of the work at Clifton-on-Bowmont,on the ground that for it to do so would be to identify itself with a system--theprinciples of my system being as old as agriculture, though the method of carryingthem out may be new, and, so far as I know, is new.
I have much pleasure in acknowledging my obligationsto Dr. Voelcker and Mr. James Hunter, who have throughout taken great interest inthe work at Clifton-on-Bowmont, and supplied me with much valuable matter, whichwill be found in the appendices.
ROBERT H. ELLIOT
22nd October 1904
To the Fourth Edition of Agricultural Changes
As the third edition of 1,000 copies of AgriculturalChanges is nearly exhausted I offer the present new and enlarged edition to thoseinterested in land, and to all those who are interested in the welfare of the kingdom.As writers in the agricultural world have generally alluded to my system as the CliftonPark System of Agriculture I have adopted this description of it in the new titlewhich I have given to my book. Those outside of the agricultural world are particularlyasked to peruse Chapter VIII, which has been added to this edition, by which theywill perceive that agriculture is certain to become a matter of far greater nationalimportance than it is now. If it is of importance as being our biggest industry,what will its importance be when it one day becomes--as it must for the reasons givenin the chapter alluded to--the sole big industry in the Kingdom? After a carefulstudy of the most recent American works on agriculture, and especially Fletcher'swork on Soils (Constable & Co., London, 1907) 1 have found ample confirmationof the principles of the agricultural system I have for so long pursued. It may bementioned that, by a curious coincidence, I have recently received a letter writtenby a former Ceylon planter, now farming in Scotland, who has, like myself, practisedthe same principles in coffee planting and farming, leading in either case to a liberalsupply of humus, and the reduction to a minimum of commercial fertilizers. Formerlyhe had spent £5 an acre on artificial manures in Scotland, now, to use his ownwords, 'not a penny'.
It is thought by some that the economy of productionin this country that would be caused by my system of farming would not benefit thefarmer as it would lead to an increase of rents. It is no doubt probable that itmight do so, but it is obvious that a farmer had far better have a higher rent witha safe, sound, and profitable system--involving a reduced demand for capital--thana system involving a larger demand for capital and increased risks. Some have objectedto my system that it is too costly as regards seed mixtures. On the average it is,as I have shown, not so, if the cost of these mixtures is divided over the four grassyears of the rotation, but I am told that the farmer will not take this into considerationas he looks at the high initial cost, as compared with the much lower initial costof the mixtures he usually sows. Here it should be remembered that it is not whatyou spend that should be considered but what you get for your expenditure, and viewedin that light there can be no doubt that In grazing, in hay, and the enrichment ofthe soil by the vegetable matter supplied by a four-year-old turf, the farmer willhave an infinitely greater yield from the mixtures used by me, while the old time'windle-strae' farmer has much less grazing, less hay and aftermath and when he ploughs,having no manurial residue worth mentioning as compared with a four-year-old turfcomposed of the large, and deeply rooted plants supplied by my system, he has thereforeto lay out money in top dressing his cereal crops with artificial manure.
In conclusion I may add that I have had mostsatisfactory evidences of the spread of my system, and of various modifications ofit from all parts of the kingdom. A widely known agriculturist, after a careful surveyof my demonstration farm, wrote to me as follows: 'What I saw the other day convincesme that you have revolutionized the methods hitherto pursued, proved to the hiltthat the old are very inferior in results to those you advocate, and I cannot butbelieve that sooner or later what you have so persistently laboured at will be generallyadopted.' I thought at the time that the writer had formed too wide a view of theresults of my work, as I had originally only intended my system for the cultivationof poor, and worn-out lands, but I am now inclined to agree with the writer exceptingperhaps in the case of heavy clay lands.
What a contrast there is between our Governmentaction and that of State action in America! The former through its Board of Agricultureseems not to be able to rise beyond the conception of urging the farmer to put downmore and more artificial manures, while the American Government is urging the farmerto cut the fertilizer bill in two by the adoption of the principles advised in thesepages.
ROBERT H. ELLIOT
Clifton Park, Kelso,
P.S.--The Clifton-on-Bowmont Experiment and DemonstrationFarm is always open to visitors, who are requested to give notice of the time oftheir arrival to Robert Reid, Steward, Clifton-on-Bowmont, Yetholm, who will showthem round the farm.
Clifton-on-Bowmont farm is distant from: Kelso(railway station), 8-1/2 miles; Yetholm (post town), 1-1/2 miles; Mindrum (railwaystation), 6 miles; Clifton Park, 4-1/2 miles.