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Imperial press and farmer. (Imperial, San Diego County, Cal.) 1901-1903, November 23, 1901, Image 1

Image and text provided by University of California, Riverside; Riverside, CA

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92070142/1901-11-23/ed-1/seq-1/

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Imperial Press
VOL. 1.
Heat, Moisture and a Fertile Soil Necessary. — Imperial the Place*
Cultivation of Alfalfa.
The government has recently issued
a bulletin giving full information rel
ative to the cultivation of alfalfa that
will be of interest to many who pro
pose growing this crop, and who have
had little or no experience in this line
of farming. We publish herewith co
pious extracts from that bulletin tak
ing that portion suited to the condi
tions as we find them here in South
ern California. During the next few
years hundreds of thousands of acres
will be planted to alfalfa in the Im
perial Settlements in San Diego
county under the Imperial Canal, and
this work will commence this fall,
when probably from 50,000 to 100,000
acres will be planted in that section,
following is the information on this
subject given by the Agricultural De
partment of the government:
Soil and Conditions of Growth.
Alfalfa will grow in favorable soil
anywhere from above sea level to 7000
feet elevation. The limit of altitude
is attained in the foothills and moun
tain valleys of California and Colo
rado. Alfalfa does not seem to be in
fluenced so much by altitude as by
such conditions as the depth and
warmth of the soil, the depth of the
ground water below the surface and
the physical character of the subsoil.
It grows best in a light and sandy
rich loam underlaid by a loose and
permeable subsoil. The best condi
tions for the growth of this plant
seem to be attained in the arid re
gions of the West and Southwest,
where there is a light rainfall, and the
water supply can be accordingly arti
ficially controlled. The plant grows
"Water is King— Here is its Kingdom."
best under irrigation. Good drainage
is necessary, as the plants are quickly
killed by excess of water in the soil
or on the surface. Water must never
be allowed to stand on a field of al
falfa more than forty-eight hours at a
time, for, if the ground becomes sat
urated with water and is allowed to
remain so for any considerable time,
the plants will be drowned out and
the roots will decay. Alfalfa feeds
most heavily on lime, potash, mag
nesium, and phosphoric acid, and suc
ceeds best where the soil is rich in
these elements. Of these soil constit
uents, lime seems to be the most es
sential to rapid growth, and there will
not be a large or paying crop on soils
lacking this fertilizer. The prime
condition for success is that the land
be well drained. If the subsoil is
heavy and stiff and impervious to
water, alfalfa will not be a permanent
success, no matter how well the sur
face soil has been prepared. Under
these conditions there can be no cer
tainty of the plant living beyond a
year or two.
Preparation of the Soil.
A clean piece of ground should be
selected, and it should be thoroughly
plowed and subsoiled. If the farmer
has no subsoiling plow, the best sub
stitute is two turning plows, the one
following in the furrow made by the
other. The best results from this crop
are obtained after the second year,
because alfalfa does not reach ma
utrity until the third or fourth sea
son. Hence, the field selected should
be one that can be kept in alfalfa for
a number of years. The first cost of
a deep and thorough preparation of
the soil may seem large, but it must
he remembered that the farmer ex
pects to take two or more cuttings off
the land each year for from three to
thirty years. The primary expense of
a thorough preparation is, in a sense,
thus spread over a series of thirty
years. Deep plowing pays, because
there will be a greater yield from
the land than in the case of the too
common shallow cultivation. After
plowing, the field must be harrowed
and rolled several times, or until the
seed bed is perfectly smooth and mel
Sowing the Seed.
In California and the Southwest. —
Pulverize the soil to the depth of from
12 to 20 inches — the deeper the better.
Twenty-five pounds of seed is about
the average amount to sow per acre.
Many farmers report fair results from
a less amount, say 12 to 15 pounds per
acre. The seed can be drilled in rows
or cultivated or sown broadcast. The
time of seeding varies much in prac
tice, being any time from August to
the middle of December or from Feb
ruary to April. Those who practice
spring sowing usually sow with oats
or wheat as a nurse crop. If this
method is followed, one or two crops
of hay can be cut the first season,
after the grain crop has been taken
It is often better to sow without
a nurse crop and get a good stand
than to get a crop of wheat or
oat hay or a small crop of grain
and have a poor stand of al
falfa, resulting from so many of
the plants being choked out. There is
some little advantage, however, in
this system, in that the rank growth
of weeds is prevented; but the ac
companying small grain is liable to be
just as injurious as a rank growth of
useless weeds would be. If a nurse
crop is used, the alfalfa should be
sown after the grain, and should be
covered to the depth of not more than
one inch with a light harrow or
brush. Still better results will follow
if the seed is rolled in after the oats
or wheat have been sown. All kinds
of grasses, clovers, and small grain
grow better, and a better stand is al
ways secured, if the soil is pressed
down around the seed, and this can
best be done with a roller. Alfalfa
does not often winter-kill unless it is
cut too late in the season.
In some parts of California small
uirds are quite a pest at seeding time
and it is necessary to use more seed
per acre than would otherwise be re
Alfalfa grows better on lands re
quiring irrigation than on naturally
moist soils, simply because the latter
do not, as a rule, have good drainage.
Alfalfa Hay.
There is no better hay plant than
alfalfa in regions where it will grow.
The making of hay requires consider
able skill on account of the nature of
the plant. If the hay is put into
stacks or into barns before the stems
are cured it is liable to heat and mold
and if it is allowed to lie upon the
ground too long before stacking, the
leaves get dry and brittle, and will
drop off, and a large share of the
most valuable part of the forage will
be lost. To make the best hay, the
field should be cut just when the first
flowers commence to appear. If al
lowed to go until in full bloom, or un
til after the plants have finished
flowering, the stems become hard and
woody, and are unfit to be eaten by
stock. To make good hay, cut alfalfa
in the forenoon. Let it lie in the
swath until the leaves are thoroughly
wilted, but not dry and brittle; then
rake in windrows and leave it a little
while, and remove it from the wind
rows directly to the stack or to the
barns. The best machine for this pur
pose is a stacker, or some machine
constructed on the principle of the
old-fashioned "go-devil." It is better
to stack it in the field than to carry
it a long distance to a barn, for al
falfa hay should be handled as little
as possible. Every time it is forked
over some of the leaves will be lost,
and the leaves are the most palatable
and nutritious part of the hay.
The art of making good alfalfa hay
is to be acquired by practice rather
than by following directions, as the
quality depends upon putting it in
stack when it is just sufficiently cured
to keep without heating, and is yet
green enough to hold the leaves. This
happy mean can be acquired only as
the result of practice. In the Eastern
States the general practice is to cure
in windrows, and then put in cocks
five or six feet high and as small as
will stand. If the cocks are too large
they must be opened out in a day or
No. 32.

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