The conditions for farming on the Plains are vastly different from what they are in the East. The proverb says: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." For years eastern farmers have employed eastern methods on western soil and under western conditions. What has been done in the past is, therefore, no standard of what may he or will be done in the future; and yet, even under crude methods, the results have often been astonishing. According to the report of the National Bureau of Agriculture, all products of the soil in Colorado show a greater yield per acre than any other state in the Union.
In 1893, the farmers of Colorado were called upon to make exhibits at the World's Fair at Chicago, as were the farmers of all the agricultural states. These exhibits revealed the fact that in this state 277 varieties of wheat were grown, fifty varieties of oats, and 125 varieties of native grasses. Twenty-five awards were given to the wheat exhibit alone of Colorado; the largest number received by any state or country whatsoever.
In the past the best results have been obtained through irrigation. Within recent years farmers in eastern Colorado have begun to experiment with the Dry Farming System, or, as it is often called, from its chief exponent, Prof. W. H. Campbell, of Lincoln, Nebraska, "The Campbell System."
Experience elsewhere has shown that it is possible to mature crops on a rainfall of twenty inches a year, though a larger amount is to be desired for the best results. It is practical to farm successfully in a country having no more than twelve inches of rainfall in twelve months by the storage of water in the soil through the Dry Farming System. The principles of this farming are the conservation of moisture and intensive methods of culture.
The first step in Dry Farming is deep plowing at the proper time. The ground plowed should be packed the same day to prevent evaporation, by a subsurface packer -- an implement with ten wedged-shaped wheels which cut the soil and press it together. Then the ground is to be smoothed down by a harrow. After every rain the field is again harrowed, forming a dry blanket of earth and preventing evaporation. Thus all moisture that falls is conserved, and as it rises by the capillary attraction is available for absorption by the growing plants.
So much as to the theory. The question rises, How does it work? Preceding figures have shown how Colorado as a state stands among the grain countries of the world. What place does Dry Farming hold in Colorado? The answer can be found in the records of the Colorado State Fair for 1906.
At that fair Dry Farming was awarded first prizes for the following exhibits: for the best spring wheat; for the best field corn; for Early Ohio potatoes; for Irish potatoes; for Peach Blow potatoes; for broom corn; for onions. Second prizes were given to Dry Farming for Australian corn and Early Rose potatoes.
In this country it has been customary to take land on which corn has grown, go over it with discs and sow the wheat without plowing. When once the farmer understands his soil it would seem that the average yield would be at least doubled.
A specific instance of what is being done in this vicinity is an illustration of what, perhaps, all could do. William S. Callaway, living twelve miles southwest of Wray, and near Vernon, has tried successfully the summer fallowing system of Dry Farming. Following is part of a letter written by Mr. Callaway to the Ranch and Range, a farming paper published in Denver, 401-2 Commonwealth building, under date of February 15, 1907:
Vernon, Col., Feb.15, 1907. Editor Ranch and Range, Denver, Colorado:
In giving you my experience as a farmer, I shall commence from the beginning, which dates back to the spring of 1886. Coming from eastern Nebraska to this, what was then a trackless waste of prairie, with not enough money to live on over two or three months like a good many more in those times, we were compelled to hunt buffalo bones for a living. We tried farming as we were accustomed to doing back East, which was the cause of several successful failures, but like grim death we held on through thick and thin. Some years very good crops; only one year in twenty have we made a complete failure, which was the year 1894, one load of corn fodder being all we had to show for our summer's work. Will say here that we have made our living since coming here by farming.
In farming the old or common way our crops have run in spring as follows: Wheat, from 13 to 27 bushels; oats, 20 to 65 bushels; barley, 20 to 45 bushels; and corn, 8 to 27 bushels. A living can be made with these results if one is contented to plod away with no other aim in view aside from a living.
Having read some on the Campbell system, I determined to try it as a side issue or experiment, besides keeping up the old way of farming.
A review of his experiment, and the results as given in the Beecher Island ANNUAL for 1906, are as follows:
Mr. Callaway had 64 acres in one field which he prepared and planted by three methods, which will be considered separately -- each piece being a little over 21 acres. The first piece, or the Campbell method of cultivation as we shall term it, was first listed in May, 1905, as if corn was to be planted; however, no seed was put in. Then in June this ground was re-listed, that is, the ridges of the former listing were split. The ridges of the second listing were then leveled down with a disc cultivator, then dragged and disced. After this the ground was disced after a hard rain and harrowed after a light rain until September 10, when it was sown to turkey red wheat with a press drill, at one-half bushel per acre. Nothing more was done with this piece of wheat until it was cut and bound from the 8th to the 10th of July, and threshed out of shock on August 4. The yield, machine measure, was 56 1/7 bushels per acre, which overrun 6 pounds per bushel and tested 64, which made a yield by weight of 61 2/3 bushels. The same method employed in 1905 yielded 48 bushels per acre, while spring wheat grown beside it only turned out 7 1/2 bushels per acre.
The second piece of wheat, same seed, and on ground beside the first piece, was on fall plowed ground, drilled in at the same time as the first piece, sown one-half bushel per acre, cut and bound from July 8 to 10, threshed out of shock August 4, yielded 27 bushels per acre, machine measure, overrun 5 pounds per bushel, tested 63, making a yield of 29 bushels by weight per acre.
The third piece was double disced twice, or disced four times, harrowed and planted with press drill in stubble ground beside the above pieces in September, cut and bound July 8 to 10 and threshed out of shock August 4. Yield per acre was 21 3/4 bushels, machine measure, overrun 5 pounds per bushel, test 63, making a yield per acre of 24 bushels by weight.
Here you have a fair test of the so-called Campbell system, although not fully carried out (the wheat not being harrowed or cultivated while growing) as compared with other methods on the same kind of ground, same seed, and same care from date of planting, the yield of 24, 29, and 61 2/3 bushels per acre by weight being the result.
This wheat received no irrigation, but was raised by the summer fallow or "Campbell System" of farming, by William S. Callaway, Vernon, Colorado.
Twenty acres of this wheat yielded 56 1/7 bushels per acre, machine measure, which weighed 66 pounds to the bushel and tested 64 pounds to the bushel, making an actual yield by weight of 61 2/3 bushels.
State of Colorado,
County of Yuma.
I, William S. Callaway, do on oath depose and say that I raised the wheat above described this season and the statements and weights as above given are correct.
WM. S. CALLAWAY.
Subscribed in my presence and sworn to before me this 14th day of
MADISON FINCH, (SEAL)
Alfalfa is grown mostly in the river bottoms where irrigation is possible, but this year twelve of the enterprising farmers of Wray have begun a series of experiments with non-irrigated, high altitude, Turkeystan alfalfa seed, planting this on the divides above irrigation. The result of these experiments is being looked forward to with great interest. The word alfalfa is derived from the Arabic, which means "the best sort of fodder." Three or four crops a year, and from three to six tons per acre, represent the harvest. Alfalfa is the best fat producer for stock; it is a nitrogen gatherer, and by rotation of crops fertilizes the soil. It produces a rich harvest for the bee. At the World's Fair at St. Louis the grand prize for both comb and strained honey was given to Colorado, and the honey was alfalfa honey.
J. H. Rosencrans, sixteen miles southeast of Wray, has 300 acres in alfalfa and many others have smaller acreage.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
The early settlers experienced considerable difficulty in getting fruit trees to grow. Within recent years cherries, peaches, plums, apples, etc., have been raised in small quantities. John Spiers, west of Wray told the writer that a year ago he raised between sixty and seventy bushels of peaches, about forty-five bushels of cherries, and some plums. The fruit in this section is all of a fine flavor, and most of the farms now have their orchards, which ought, with care, to furnish an abundance of fruit in two or three years.
Vegetables and melons of all kinds grow to perfection. The writer has lived many years in the south, which is sup posed to be the home of the melon, but he never saw or tasted finer than are grown in this section.
The raising of hogs is a neglected industry in Colorado. The city of Denver requires over 100,000 for pork every year. According to statistics for 1907 in the Ranch and Range, the Denver packing-houses can use this number every month. Last year only 17,000 were received from Colorado. The neighborhood around Wray is remarkably well adapted to the raising of swine. No diseases are known, and the alfalfa and corn are abundant.
Milt Briggs, three miles south of Wray, raises hogs more abundantly perhaps than any in the section. Last year Mr. Briggs captured two first prizes, two seconds, and one third. He raises the Chester White.
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