Farming 101 years ago


February 1, 2018

For the Pine Bluffs Post

Reprint from Pine Bluffs Post February1, 1917

( Prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture)

Humus and nitrogen are lacking more or less in the southern Idaho soils and the dry farmer on the plains is handicapped in furnishing these elements, because of lack of sufficient moisture in the soil to rot any great quantity of vegetable matter. Straw, manure, and legumes should be used to help build up the dry-land soils, but owing to the light rainfall this must be done very slowly. The dry-farm soils, if properly farmed, will yield good returns. If a profitable rotation can be planned, a permanent dry-farm agriculture practically is assured.


The selection and treatment of seed, particularly wheat, is important.

Wheat growers and seedsman often claim that wheat "runs out." Some of the best farmers in southern Idaho ship in Turkey wheat from other localities every three or four years because they say their seed is running out. These growers think that yields decrease and percentage of yellow berry increases each year the crop is grown. This is not really the case. If properly handled, the quality of the crop can be improved or at least maintained as long as it is grown in a community.

The variety becomes adapted to local climatic conditions. If the conditions are severe, only the best and most fit plants survive. The results of many experiments prove conclusively that the source of seed has nothing to do with the proportion of yellow berry in the crop in any year. It is proved also that decreased yields need not result from using home-grown seed. Other factors are responsible for the low yields.


Grading the seed with fanning mill will do more to maintain yields than the introduction of new seed. Blow out all the chaff, straw and shrunken kernels. Sow only plump seed, which contains plenty of food to supply the sprouting plant until the roots are able to obtain food from the soil. Plump grain also is less injured by the smut treatment and always germinates better than shrunken seed. Get a pure, high-yielding variety from your state experiment station or some other reliable source and then take good care of it.


The first essential in treating wheat for bunt or stinking smut is to fan the grain well, thus blowing out all light material and any smut balls that may be present. If smut balls still are present, put the wheat in a barrels of water. They then come to the surface and can be skimmed off. The water is then drained out of the barrel, and the seed re-sacked and made ready for immediate treatment in the smut-destroying solution. The formaldehyde treatment for stinking smut requires soaking the grain about 10 minutes in a solution of 1 pint of commercial formaldehyde to 45 gallons of water. The seed should then be dumped in a pile, preferably on a canvas, covered for two hours. This is done to distribute the formaldehyde gas throughout the pile and to prevent the escape of the gas. The seed then should be spread out thinly on a canvas, dried sufficiently to sow in the drill, and put in sacks which have been dipped in the formaldehyde solution.

The hopper and tubes of the drill should also be cleansed with the solution, in order to keep the treated seed from smut. It is useless to treat seed and then sow it in a drill which has smut spores in the hopper tubes. By using preventive measures a great deal of the loss from smut can be avoided. This treatment is also effective in preventing oat smut. For further information on the smuts of cereals,

see Farmers' Bulletin 507, entitled "The Smuts of Wheat, Oats, Barley,

and Corn."


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