Ploughs and Politicks: Charles Read of New Jersey and His Notes on Agriculture, 1715-1774

By Carl Raymond Woodward | Go to book overview
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Two: The Husbandry of Plants

IN THE NOTES here presented Charles Read reveals a broad studied knowledge of a large variety of crops. As with other branches of husbandry, his own practices and observations are added to the experiences of divers acquaintances and are compared with the recommendations of writers on agriculture, both British and American.


PASTURE AND FORAGE CROPS

Of pasture and forage crops, he treats a long list: red clover, white clover, timothy, herd grass, fowl meadow grass, rye (ray) grass, lucerne (alfalfa), St. Foin (sainfoin), trefoil. He quotes at length from Eliot, Ellis, Bradley, Hartlib, Duhamel, Hale, Ball, and Mortimer. He writes of his own experience with red clover and timothy, and indicates that he also grew fowl meadow grass. He records that in May, 1756, a Captain Reeves brought him from London 50 pounds of red clover seed, 15 pounds of trefoil and 3 bushels of ryegrass, and "it grew well." Direct evidence is lacking that he actually grew any of the other crops, although his notes on lucerne are extensive. It is not always clear from his notes whether the observations recorded are his own or others'. His mathematical approach is again revealed in his computation of the distribution of red clover seeding: 38 clover seeds in one grain ( Troy); therefore 218,880 seeds in one pound; therefore 2,188,800 seeds in 10 pounds, or the amount applied to an acre, which contains 6,272,640 square inches; therefore the area per seed would be a little less than 3 square inches.

He is impressed with the value of red clover, introduced into England from Flanders in the Seventeenth Century. He experiments with seeding different amounts of this crop per acre, at different times of the year and on different soils. He finds it will not do well on poor, worn-out land, but on rich meadow

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