Effects of the Great War upon Agriculture in the United States and Great Britain

By Benjamin Hibbard H. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
War Prices and the Intensity of Cultivation

It has many times been asserted that high prices will result in a more intensive cultivation of the soil. Intensive cultivation of the soil means a more complete or painstaking use of the soil in terms of the labor and capital applied to it. As a general principle it is safe to say that the scarce factor will be used the most fully as compared to the less difficult factors to obtain. That is to say, we will naturally use labor economically when it is scarce and dear. We will do only the most necessary work. An effort will be made to spread the labor over as much ground as it can cover. For example, one man will drive four horses instead of providing a man for each two-horse team. Many pieces of work will be left undone such as hand weeding, or gathering scattered bits of hay or grain, because it does not pay. This is another way of saying that the land will be less carefully worked than when labor is abundant.

At the present time labor is not theoretically, but actually scarce. Conversely, land is plentiful. True, products are high in price, but a farmer capable of thinking, will revolve in his mind the relative advantage of working a given number of acres with great care or a larger number of acres with something like ordinary care, and since he will pay the rent with fewer bushels, or tons, at the present time as compared with former years, is likely to decide that there is more pay in a large acreage than in added work on a given area. Likewise the share renter will feel that the high prices will warrant him in getting as many acres as possible at work for him. The share renter is never tempted toward extreme intensity of cultivation since for all exertions beyond those which clearly pay, the landlord will get as much as he himself, and such a division of reward is not tempting. Theo-

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