|CHAPTER XIII. |
They thought it came all from heaven, since they were ignorant of the natural causes, viz. want of nourishment in the earth, &c.
Virigil was very sincere, where he had no hopes of any great gain by flattery ; and tells the husbandman in plain terms, that if his corn be eaten with the blight, he can give him no better advice, than to comfort his hunger by eating of acorns ; but has no recipe to prescribe by way of prevention.
Palladius, Lib. I. Tit. 35. recites many receipts against the blight, and other injuries, which were thought to come from above. The chief efficacy of them seems to consist in secret contrivances, by sympathies and antipathies, to fright the clouds. And when prayers and sacrifices would not prevail with the Coelicolæ, the ancients, it seems, proceeded to threatenings. Cruentæ secures contra coelum minaciter levantur. They brandished bloody axes against the gods, as a summons to surrender, or else to expect no quarter. But unless these peasants had been better engineers than the giants, in besieging heaven, their menaces must be vain. They acted like some modern zealots, who take much the same course with their saints, as these heathens did with their gods : viz. when they are weary of praying in vain to their images, that are so idle or obstinate, as not to procure what their votaries have a mind to, they think to bring them into better manners by correction ; and from prayers fall to
whipping their saints in effigie. Yet is to be feared, none of this bigotry will cure the blight.
Palladius thought also, with others of the ancients, that heaven was to be frighted with red-clot, with the feathers or heart of an owl, and a multitude of such ridiculous scarecrows, from spoiling the fruits of the fields and gardens.
The ancients having no rational principles or theory of agriculture, placed their chief confidence in magical charms and enchantments : which he, who has the curiosity and patience to read, may find in the title afore-mentioned, in Cato, in Varro, (and even Columella is as fulsome as any of them,) all written in very fine language ; which is most, if not all of the erudition that can be acquired from the Greek and Latin writers, of field-husbandry, in verse and in prose.
Wheat is blighted at two seasons ; first, when in the blossom, and then its generation is prevented, and many of the husks are empty in the ear, the grains not being impregnated.
Secondly, wheat is blighted when the grains are brought to the time of their maturity, but are light and of little value for making of bread ; because they are not well-filled with flour.
The first cannot happen in England by the frost, because the winters do not suffer it to grow so much, as to come into blossom before the month of June ; but it is long continual rains that rot or chill the blossoms, and prevent their fertility. Yet this is what seldom happens to any great degree, and we are happy that it does not, since modern credulity is not strong enough to rely on the remedies prescribed by the ancients ; and we know of no other which are effectual against this sort of blight. Wheat that grows in open fields has some advantage from the wind, that dislodges the water sooner from the ears, than it can do in sheltry places ; and Lammas-wheat does not old the drops of rain so ong as the beaded (or cone) wheat, which received very great damage by this sort of
blight in the year 1725 ; the like never having been heard of before, I hope it may never happen again.
The second sort of blight, viz. from light ears, is that which is most frequent and more general : this brings the greatest scarcity of wheat. The cause is plainly want of nourishment to perfect the grain, by whatever means that want is occasioned.
Several accidents kill the plants, or injure their health, and then the grains are not filled ; as lightning, the effects whereof may be observed by the blackish spots and patches in fields of wheat, especially in such years as have more of it than usual. Against this there is no defence ; for the ancients tell you the giants found than even mountains were not thunder-proof.
And yet Columella, Lib. X. p. 353, says,
It is, I suppose, on account of this paragraph, that Equivocous exclaims against me for having wronged the ancients. Perhaps he
may give credit to that pretended invention of Tarchon's ; and so to the following famous remedy prescribed in verse and prose for the relief and cure of plants, which is the same that is in prose affirmed will destroy them.
The next is an ingenious remedy against a storm.
Then follows the great virtue of a mare's or an ass's skull, the theory of which notion, though it pass unobserved by most of the vulgar, may afford matter of curious speculation to the learned, especially such as Equivocus.
Was it then the great fruitfulness of the mare (for she must not be a virgin) that endued her bare skull with the power of imparting her fecundity to plants in that manner ?
I dare say none of our moderns (except vulgar) have credulity enough to believe this relation true, or that the receipt was ever put in practice ; and then where is the credit of such pious worthies ? But Equivocus may with a less degree of impossibility (if there are degrees of impossibilities) believe, that females propagate their kinds without males, than with those ancients, believe equivocal
generation by which animals and plants are propagated without male or female.
The next specimen I shall give of ancient doctrine is from Columella, p.395.
The experience of 1700 years no more proves this practice to be right, than the long experience of cattle drawing by their tails proved that practice right, before drawing by traces was by experiment proved to be better : for nothing can be depended on as experience, which has not been tried by experiment.
Columella himself proves the contrary to this his maxim, when he affirms (and with great truth) that the more the vineyards are pulverised, the more they will produce. --- Colummella, p. 578.
And vineyards are generally on light land, and very many on graciles clivi too steep for the plough, yet if the pulverisation of these poor vineyards be neglected, they will produce nothing, and in a few years die ; which proves, that the neglect of pulverisation starves the vines, and that the use of it enriches that soil, and doth not make it barren ; for if it did, it would have a contrary effect on the vines. And what Virgil directs in all vineyards without exception, viz.
Twice ploughing for wheat is worse than but once ; for the second ploughing makes that ground more hollow, causes more seeds of annual weeds to grow, and kills fewer of the perennial weeds that lived on it whilst it was fallow, than the first ploughing alone would do. The second is a sort of unploughing, for it turns the turf the same side uppermost as before it was ploughed at all.
Such twice ploughing for wheat, I think, is the very worst sort of insufficient tillage.
But to bring this heathen doctrine to the test, let part of the same land before sowing be tilled for two summers, and the winter that is betwixt them ; ploughing it often enough to pulverise it, and to prevent exhaustion by vegetables ; which experiment will show, whether the summer sun doth strengthen or weaken, enrich or impoverish the soil of those clivi, more or less, by that mature pulverisation, than by the two late ploughings directed by Columella.
I propose these frequent ploughings only by way of experiment ; and not that I conclude from thence, that every sort of such thin barren land will answer the expense of so much tillage ; for though no land may be strictly barren, yet some is so near being so, that it is unprofitable when kept in arable. I have observed, that the renting price of rich arable land, and poor, is not generally in proportion to their respective values ; considering their different goodness, the best land is the best bargain.
Words without reason or truth are sound instead of sense : see the following from the wise and grave Cato, the senior of the four worthies.
If what they wrote so long ago was then false, it cannot be true now ; and we owe no veneration to falsehood for the sake of its antiquity, or of the fine language in which it is written ; though both these advantages have a powerful influence on vulgar minds, especially such as have more respect for sound than for sense and truth.
But although by a natural sympathy he has with falsehood, Equivocus may have an attachment to ancient errors, and to defend what is wrong in these Roman authors ; yet it is possible it may be partly owing to his ignorance, that he perverts what is right (if any thing besides a fine style be right) in them. He is so ignorant of the difference there is between the climate of England, and that of Italy, as in p.143. of his Essay for June, to direct from Columella the sowing of winter vetches for feeding green on the ground by cattle in the winter, which has not heat enough to bring them to a substance for feeding of the fifth part of the value of the seed sown, nor of the twentieth part, were we to sow so much on an acre, as he directs, viz., six bushels. The climate of Naples is indeed so warm, that such forage will grow to be a large crop in winter. Equivocus seems to be also partly led into this shameful blunder by his ignorance in the etymology of the name, in which he pretends to be so well learned. They are called winter vetches, because they are just able to endure the cold without dying, and when winter is over, they grow and become a crop. But Equivocus thinks they have their name on account of being a crop in the winter. He is as ignorant too in the difference of English and Italian measures of land and corn, which makes him direct the sowing three or four times more seed than is necessary and usual to sow ; and it is certain, that they sow less seed of vetches and winter corn in Columella's country than here, because there none is killed by the cold. Equivocus says, in p. 136 of his Essay for May, that " as the situation and soil of those countries are very different from that of Great Britain, few of their
rules will be here mentioned." But how he contradicts himself in this particular, see his preface to September, not paged ; where to show the world what an ignorant pretender he is, he most ridiculously reproaches all our English modern authors for not recommending to our countrymen those rules and precepts of ancient Romans, which every man of reason, acquainted with the world, must know are impossible to be practised in our climate.
He prefers the knowledge of the ancients in their choice of soils and their manner of working and ploughing them.
From the first he takes the great discovery, that strong land is better for corn than light hollow land ; and gives this reason for it : " For whatever the husbandmen of any age may think, corn does not do so well on grounds, which are naturally hollow or light, as they do on those which are made so by ploughing : because in one, the earth naturally closes in again round about the roots, and keeps the moisture from being exhaled too fast : whereas ground which is hollow or light, detains it not at all." Those are the poorest of all the reasons that can be given to prove that strong land is better than light ; for it is from the misfortune of subsiding too soon, and retaining moisture too long, that our strongest lands in wet years fail of their crops, when our light lands produce good ones.
But the modern reasons are these, viz., a cubic inch of strong land, being heavier, is better in quantity, and has more earth in it than a cubic inch of light land, as a loaf without leaven has more bread in it than a leavened loaf of equal dimensions ; for it is the weight that determines the true quantity of a soil and of bread.
Also strong land has generally a deeper staple, whereby it exceeds light land in dimensions too ; a superficial foot of twelve inches' depth having twice as many cubic inches in it, as a superficial foot of but six inches depth.
And it may be a question, whether this advantage of quantity both in weight and dimensions is not greater than the advantage strong land has over the British light land, on account of their different qualities ; for as the specific lightness of light land proceeds from some peculiar natural leaven, which puffs up and distends its pores, its hollowness continues only whilst the earth is in its natural state ; and upon a perfect artificial pulverisation, the hollowness and lightness cease ; for if you take a pound of strong and a pound of light earth, and reduce them to a very fine (and almost impalpable) powder, I believe, you will find that each will just fill a box of equal dimensions ; but how long each, being exposed in he field, will continue in this artificial state of equal specific gravity cannot be exactly known from any observations as yet made, though doubtless it will be the longer, by how much the more frequently they are stirred or agitated.
So much for the difference in quantity of these two sorts of soils ; but the different qualities by which each hath the advantage over the other are too many for me to enumerate at present, any further than I have done in my Essay ; wherein may be seen how false that assertion of Equivocus is, viz., " their (the moderns') thoughts have reached no deeper than the surface of the earth, and though many sorts of timber, nay, Luserne, and a great many other grass seeds, require soils almost as deep as an oak three does, there has not been one word said of it by any of them." See my Chapters of Lucerne, of St.-Foin, &c., which show this to be a false calumny ; and I verily believe there is not one farmer in England that rents an acre of land, without inquiring or examining into the depth of the staple of it ; the bottom of it is one of the first views his thoughts reach to, being aware, that the depth of the soil is one of the principle things whereon the success of his labour depends : though if that depth of soil should be necessary, which this pretender relates from Columella, our farmers must throw away their ploughs ; for there would be neither ploughing nor planting (except in a very
few places) in Britain ; says he, " his (Columella's) words are to the following memorable effect, viz.
There is no doubt but that by the words Terrena humus, Columella here means what we call the staple or upper stratum of earth, wherein the plough is or may be properly exercised ; but for this learned lawyer to translate bipedana humus, soil of a foot thick, instead of two feet thick, intimates a design of imposing upon his " lower class of readers, who are not able to distinguish," &c., and who would despise any author that should give them instructions to choose a soil that is scarce possible to be found, and harder to be had. For a soil or staple of half a foot or eight inches deep would not be despised by any practical farmer.
Choice of soil, indeed, seems to be of little moment in Britain, where confiscations and forfeitures are more rare than they were in Italy in Columella's time, so that our lands are seldom taken away from the ancient owners, to be distributed to such men of merit and industry as the Equivocal Society seen to hope they will. However that may be, let us, whilst we have them, see the ancient " manner of working and ploughing them, in all which (Equivocus says) Columella has left directions not to be excelled, and from a
quotation of two lines only from Virgil also, has said more on the subject of tillage than all the moderns have who wrote since ; it is there, speaking of putrid, cold, watery land, those two authors direct the ploughing of it as the only method of bringing it into tillage." A great discovery, indeed, that land is brought into tillage by ploughing !
But what a perverter is Equivocus, when he asserts, that Virgil means putrid, cold, water land, by Nigra fere et pinguis terra, cui putre solum optima frumenis ; which is evidently a blackish, fat, mellow land, and the best of soils, as putrid, cold, watery land, is the very worst ; for the Society say in p. xv. of Preface to August, that the too great quantity of water standing too near the surface is as great a cause of barrenness as the entire want of it : but yet a soil that is naturally mellow, differs much from a soil which is made so by ploughing ; and the most mellow soil that is, will produce but little corn without ploughing.
Equivocus, to show further his utmost ignorance in the subject he pretends to write of , gives the world the following false translation of part of Columella's 4th Chapter, Lit. xi. ;
necessity of vicissitudes of weather, after this first ploughing, ere the fields can be made fit to be sown with corn.
The next thing, on account of which he extols the ancients and reproaches the moderns, is the sorts of wheat the ancient sages were possessed of, that are not sufficiently regarded by the moderns, viz. the Bimestre and Trimestre, " so called from their ripening in two or three months after they were sown." And one of them (from Pliny) was ripe in forty days after it was sown ; but after the advantages he proposes from our sowing them, and all his quotations and etymologies of them, though the one he called Triticum æstivum et Trimestre Portæ, and the other Triticum æstivum et Zeopyrum tritico speltum, this virtuoso doth not pretend he ever saw either of them, and allows that he does not know whether they are wheat or barley ; and yet reproaches our modern authors for having " said so little of it, that it is difficult in general to understand what they sow those grains for ; though some few practical farmers in Stafford and Oxfordshire, &c., may." If they are sown by the practical farmers so near London, it is a wonder this practical farmer should be no better informed concerning those wonderful, hasty and advantageous grains.
The reason and truth of these ancient worthies appear pretty equally in their erroneous poetical religion, astronomy and agriculture. Any of them may be defended as well as the other ; for that dead men are gods or stars, that the sun sets in the sea, and that pulverisation is poison to light land, are equal absurdities ; and he who writes for restoring such errors of the ancients, though his language in verse or in prose should be as fine as theirs, it can be but sound instead of sense.
The other causes of the blight which are most general, and do the most damage, may in some measure be prevented.
One cause is the lodging or falling of corn ; for then the stalks are broken near the ground, whereby many of the vessels are so pressed that the juices cannot pass them, and then the free circulation is hindered, the chyle cannot mount in sufficient quantity to be purified and turned into sap ; the defect whereof makes the plants become languid, and only just able to live ; they have strength enough to linger on to the time of their period, as in very old age, but not to bring their fruit, which is the grain, to its natural bulk, nor to fill it with flour ; and the sooner the stalks fall, the less and thinner the grain will be.
Hence it often happens, that when tillage, dung, and good land have brought a crop of wheat, that in the months of April and May promise to yield the owner five or six quarters on an acre, then in June it falls down, and scarce affords five or six bushels ; and that perhaps is so thin and lank, that the expense of reaping and thrashing it may overbalance its value.
That the falling down of wheat does cause the ruin of the crop, is well known, but what causes it to fall is not so plain.
And without knowing the true causes, it is not likely that a remedy should be found against the disease
I take this weakness of the stalks, which occasions their falling, to proceed from want of nourishment, want of air, want of the sun's rays, or of all three.
One argument that it lodges for want of nourishment is, that a rich acre has maintained a crop of five quarters standing, when another poorer acre was not able to support a crop from falling, which was but large enough to have brought three quarters, if it had stood ; and this is the same year, and on the same situation. And it is very plain that if one acre was twice as rich as the other, it must be able to nourish five quarters better than the other could nourish three quarters.
Air is necessary to the life and health of all plants, though in very different degrees ; aquatics, which live under water, are content with as little air as their companinons the fishes.
But wheat, being a terrestrial plant (though in winter it will live many days under water, whilst the slow motion of its sap gives it little or no increase) requires a free open air, and does not succeed so well in low sheltery places, as upon higher and opener situations, where the air has a greater motion, and can more easily carry off the recrements from the leaves, after it has shaken off the dews and rains, which would otherwise suffocate the plants ; and therefore the leaves are made so susceptible of motion from the air, which frees them from the dews that would stop in the recrements at the vesiclæ of the leaves, but shaken down, will nourish the plants at the roots : the want of this motion weakening the wheat, it is (as animals in the like sickly case are) the more unable to stand, and the more liable to be pressed down by the weight of rain-water, and more unable to rise up again when down : all which evils are removed by the free motion of the air, which shakes off both dews and rains, and thus contributes to prevent the falling (or lodging) of wheat.
A great quantity also of the sun's rays is necessary to keep wheat strong and in health ; and in Egypt and other hot countries, it is not so apt to fall as it is when sown in northern climates, though the produce of the south be the greatest.
This proves that the crop doth not lodge on account of its bigness.
It may be observed, that every leaf is inserted in to a sort of knot, which probably delivers out the sap to be depurated at the vesiculæ of the leaves, and then receives it back again for the nourishment of the plant, doing for that purpose the office of a heart ; but the sun with his rays supplies the part of pulse, to keep the sap in motion, and carry on its circulation, instead of the heart's systole and diastole. Wheat being doubtless originally a native of a hot country,
requires by its constitution a considerable degree of heat to bring it to perfection ; and if much of that degree by wanting, the wheat will be the weaker, and when the solar rays cannot reach the lower parts of the stalks, the lowest leaves and knots cannot do their office ; for which reason the chyle must mount higher before it be made into sap, and there must be then a grater mixture of crude chyle next to the ground, as by the white colour it appears. By this means that part, which if it had a due share of the sun's influence, would be hardened like a bone or spring, for the support of the stalk ; but for lack of that, becomes more like a cartilage, soft and weak, unable to sustain the weight of the bending ear, which having its greatest impetus against this part, which is most feeble to resist it, it yields and lets it fall to the ground, and then the gain will be blighted.
But now I suspect this to be a mistake, it being more likely that the white colour of the rind is owing to the absence of the sun and free air, than to the chyle, as the skin of those parts of our own bodies that are concealed from them, is whiter than of those which are exposed to them, though no chyle-vessel comes near our skin.
There is also another cause of the blight, and that is the wheat's coming too late into blossom ; the usual time is the beginning of June, and if it be later, the days shorten so fast after the solstice, that the autumn of the year hastening the autumn of the wheat's life, the full time of its pregnancy* is not accomplished ; and then
* Ut enim mulieres habent ad partum dies certos, six arbores ac fruges. VARRO, lib. 1, cap.44.
Mense Maio, florent sic, frumenta et ordeum et quæ sunt seminis singularis octo diebus florebunt, et deinde per dies 40 grandescunt flore deposito usque ad maturitatis eventum. ---- PALLADIUS, pages 144, 155.
Quindecim diebus esse in vaginis, quindecim florere, quindecim exarescere, cum sit maturum frumentum. ---- VARRO, lib. 1, cap. 32.
But the different heat that there is in different climates, may alter both the time that plants continue in blossom, and the time betwixt the blossoming and the ripening.
its fruit, which is the grain, becomes as it were abortive, and not full grown. This time betwixt the generation, blossoming, and the maturity of the grain is, or ought to be, about two months.
Therefore it is advantageous to hasten what we can the time of blossoming, and to protract the time of ripening : and it is observed, that the earliest sown wheat generally escapes the blight the best, because it comes first into blossom.
But it was quite otherwise, it seems in that climate where Virgil says,
Of all the errors in the first Georgic (which I think contains little else) Virgil's remedy against the blight seems the most ridiculous.
And we find that those who practise this method of feeding their wheat with sheep in the spring, to prevent the lodging of it, have most commonly their straw weak, and ears light.
These virgilian, instead of making the stalks strong enough to support heavy ears, make the ears light enough to be supported by weak stalks. They know that heavy ears make the greatest crop, and yet they still hope to have it from light ones.
They cause the blight by the very means they make use of to cure it.
* All the injury that ears receive by falling is, that it makes them light, and lodged ears are always lighter than those of the same bigness which stand ; therefore Virgil instead of gravidis should have said levibus, if he had a due regard to strict truth, which alone could be of any service to the subject he then wrote of ; but he plainly mistook the cause of its falling, which is stalks weak at bottom. He blundered in the fallen wheat, whilst his eyes and thoughts were intently fixed on the sky, in order both to learn there his rules of steering his plough, and to find a vacancy wherein to place the conqueror of his own country among the stars.
** Heavy ears never fall, if they did, that would not make them light. Wheat falls sometimes whilst it is in grass, and before it comes into ear, so far are the ears from causing it to fall.
The feeding of wheat much retards the time of its blossoming, and that it may blossom early is one chief end of sowing it early, to prevent the blight. But when it is fed, what the plants send up next is but a sort of second or latter crop, which have longer to stand than the first would have required, and is always weaker than the first crop would have been ; and the longer time it has to continue on the ground, the more nourishment is required to maintain it ; and yet, as has been shown, the longer it has been sown, the more the earth has lost of its nourishment ; and consequently the crop will be yet weaker and in more danger of the starving blight.
Thus Virgil's remedy seems here to be worse than the disease*.
* I am sue that whenever sheep break into my drilled what, in the spring, it lessens my crop half, just as far as they eat the rows.
There are several reasons why sheep are more injurious to drilled wheat than sown ; I would not, therefore, be understood to decry the practice of feeding sown wheat, when the thickness and irregularity of its plants make it necessary ; I have only endeavoured to show, that the practice is founded upon a false theory ; for if wheat fell down by reason of the luxuriance of it, a plant of it would be more likely to fall when single and at a great distance from every other plant, than when near to other plants, because such a single plant is (cæteris paribus) always the most luxuriant, and I have not seen such a one fall (except birds pull down the ears), but have observed the contrary, though its ears are the largest.
&hnbsp; The subject I write on is drilling and hoeing, and of whatsoever else I think relates to the practice or theory thereof ; which obliges me to advise against drilling too thick upon any sort of land, but more especially upon very rich land ; for though I have no such land, yet I apprehend that a too great number of plants may overstock the rows, and cause them to be liable to some of the inconveniences of sown wheat ; and in such a case, perhaps, sheep may be rather useful than prejudicial to the drilled wheat ; but of this I have had no experience ; and if it should be too thick, it will be owing to the fault of the manager or driller, but I suppose it might be a better remedy to cut out the superfluous plants by the hand-hoe, in the manner that superfluous turnips are hoed out.
The most effectual remedy against the blight is that which removes all its causes (except such extraordinary ones as lightning), as,
The air cannot pass through sown corn in a direct line, because it must strike against and go round every plant, they standing all in the way of its course, which must stop its current near the earth.
And the air amongst sown corn is like water amongst reeds or osiers in the side of a river, it is so stopped in its course, that it almost becomes an eddy ; and since air is about eight hundred times lighter than water, we may suppose its current through the corn is more easily retarded, especially near the earth, where the corn has occasion for the greatest quantity of air to pass ; for though the upper part of the wheat be not able to stop a slow current of air, yet it does so much raise even a swift one, as to throw it off from the ground, and hinder it from reaching the lower parts of the stalks, where the air must therefore remain, in a manner, stagnant ; and the thicker the wheat is, where it stands promiscuously, the less change of air can it have, though the greater the number of the stalks is, the more fresh air they must require.
But the confused manner in which the plants of sown wheat stand, is such, that they must all opose the free entrance of air amongst them, from whaterver point of the compass it comes.
Now it is quite otherwise with wheat drilled regularly with wide intervals, for therein the current of air may pass freely (like water in a straight river where there is no resistance), and communicate its nitre to the lower as well as uper leaves, and carry off the recrements they emit, not suffering the plants to be weakened, as an animal is, when his lungs are forced to take back their own expirations, if debarred from a sufficient supply of fresh, untained air. And this benefdit of fresh air is plentifully and pretty equally distributed to every row in a field of hoed wheat.
It is true, the whole field of plants receive the same quantity of sunbeams amongst them, whether thay stand confusedly or in order ; but there is a vast difference in the distribution of them, for none, or the very least share of beams, is obtained by those parts which need the greatest share in the confused plants. And when the crural parts, that should support the whole body of every plant, are deprived of their due share of what is so necessary to strenghten them, the plansts (like animals in the same case) are unable to stand.
But in drilled wheat, where the plants stand in a regular order, the sunbeams are more duly distributed to all parts of the plants in the ranks ; for which way soever the rows are directed, if they be straight, the rays must, some time of the day, fall on the intervals, and be reflected by the ground, whence the lower parts of the wheat stalks must receive the greater share of heat, being nearest to the point of incidence, having no weeds to shadow them.
As to that cause of the blight, viz., the wheat's dying before the full time of its pregnancy be accomplished ; the hoe removes all the objections against planting early, and then it will blossom the earlier : and it has visibly kept wheat green a whole week longer than unhoed wheat adjoining to it, planted the same day.
The ancients were perfect masters of the vine-husbandry, which seems to have engrossed their rural studies, that it did not allow them so much reflection, as to apply the use of those methods to the increase of bread, which they had discovered to be the most beneficial for the increase of wine. One method was to hoe the vines after they had blossomed, in order to fill the fruit, as in Columella, lib. iv. cap. 28. Convenit tum crebris fossionibus implere, nam fit uberior plulverationibus. And if what Palladius says, Tit. ix., be true of the sarritions and sarculations in the month of January, and that if beans do twice undergo that scratching operation, they will produce much fruit, and so large as to fill the bushel almost as full when shaled as unshaled.
But the most general blight that happens to wheat in cold climates, is caused by insects, which (some think) are brought in the air by an east-wind accompanied with moisture, a little before the grain is filling with that milky juice which afterwards hardens into flour. These insects deposit their eggs within the outer skin (or rind) of the stalks ; and when the young ones are hatched, they feed on the parenchyma, and eat off many of the vessels which should make and convey this juice ; and then the grain will be more or less thin in proportion to the number of vessels eaten, and as the insects happen to come earlier or later ; for sometimes they come so late, that the grain is sufficiently filled with the said milky juice before the vessels are eaten ; and then, though the straw appear through a microscope to have its vessels very much eaten and torn, and to be full of black spots (which spots are nothing else but the excrements of those young insects), yet the grain is plump and not blighted, there being an observation, that the early-sown wheat generally escapes this blight. And it has been seen, where one part of a field is sown earlier than the other part, without any other difference than the time of sowing, that the grain of the lastest sown has been much blighted, and the grain of the earlier has escaped the blight, though the straw of both were equally eaten by the insects. Hence it may be inferred, that the milk in the one had received all the nourishments necessary to its due consistence, before the vessels were destroyed ; but in the other, the vessels, which should have continued the supply of nourishments for thickening the milk, being spoiled before they have finished that office, it remains too thin ; and then the grain, when it hardeneth, shrinks up and is blighted; yet the grain of one and the other are equally plump until they become hard ; the difference, therefore, is only in the thickness of the milk, that in the blighted being more watery than the other.
The chief argument to prove that these insects are brought by an east-wind, is, that the wheat on the east-sides of hedges are much blighted, when that on the west-sides is not hurt ; and as to the objection, that they are bred in the earth, and crawl thence up the stalks of the wheat, because some land is much more subject to produce blighted wheat than other land is, perhaps this difference may be chiefly owing to the different situation of those lands, as they are opposed to the east or to the west.
Another cause why some wheat is more blighted than other wheat on the same land is, the different condition in which the insects find it ; for the rind of that which is very strong and flourishing* is soft and tender ; into this they can easily penetrate to lay their eggs ; but the wheat that is poor and yellow, has a hard tough skin (or rind), into which the insects are not able to bore, for the intromission of their eggs, and therefore can do it no mischief. It would be in vain to advice to prevent the blight, by striving to make the wheat poor ; for though poverty may preserve wheat from this blight, as well as it does people from the gout, yet that is a remedy which few take willingly against either of these diseases ; but this I think might be possible to remedy it, if we could from the strongest wheat take away so much nourishment as to turn its colour (but this is a very difficult matter) a little yellowish just before the insects come**, which I suppose to be in June, after the ear is out, or at least fully formed.
* Some sort of land is more subject to this blight than others ; in such, Lammas-wheat must by no means be drilled late and too thin, lest it should not tiller till late in the spring ; and then, for want of a sufficient quantity of stalks to dispense with all the nourishment raised by the hoe, may become too vigorous and luxuriant, and be the more liable to the injury of the blight of insects.
** Whither those insects go, or where they reside, from the time of their eating their way out of the straw, until they return the next year, I cannot learn.
Yet this can only be done in wide intervals ; for unless the fine earth can be thrust to some considerable distance from the roots after they are cut off, they will soon shoot out again and reach it, becoming more vigorous thereby.
In dry summers this misfortune seldom happens, much heat and very little moisture being most agreeable to the constitution of wheat ; for then its rind is more firm and hard, as it is on the contrary made more soft and spongy by too much moisture.
The most easy and sure remedy that I have yet found against the injury of these insects, is to plant a sort of wheat that is lest liable to be hurt by them, viz., the white-cone (or bearded) wheat, which has its stock or straw like a rush, not hollow, but full of pith (except near the lower part, and there it is very thick and strong), it is probable it has sap-vessels that lie deeper, so as the young insects cannot totally destroy them, as they do in other wheat : for when the straw has the black spots, which show that the insects have been there bred, yet the grain is plump, when the grey-cone and Lammas-wheat mixed with it are blighted. This difference might have been from the different times of ripening, this being ripe about a week earlier than the grey-cone, and later than the Lammas ; but its being planted together both early and late, and at all times of the wheat-seed time, and this white-cone always escaping with its grain unhurt, is an argument, that it is naturally fortified against the injury of these insects, which in wet summers are so pernicious to other sorts of wheat ; and I can impute it to no other cause than the different deepness of the vessels, the straw of other wheat being very much thinner and hollow from top to bottom, this having a small hollow at bottom, and there the thickness betwixt the outer skin and the cavity is more than double to that in other sorts of wheat ; so that I imagine, the insects reach only the outermost vessels, and enough of the inner vessels are left untouched to supply the grain.
This wheat makes very good bread, if the miller does not grind it too small, or the baker make his dough too hard, it requiring to be made softer than that of other flour.
A bushel of this white-cone wheat will make more bread than a bushel of Lammas, and of the same goodness ; but it gives a little yellow cast to the bread.
Another sort of lodging blight there is, which some call Moor-Loose, and mostly happens on light land : this is when the earth, sinking away from the roots, leaves the bottom of the stalk higher than the subsided ground, and then the plant having only these naked roots to support it (for which they are too weak) falls down to the earth.
To remedy this, turn a shallow furrow against the rows, when they are strong enough to bear it, and when the mould is very fine and dry ; then the motion of the stalks by the wind will cause such earth to run through the rows, and settle about the roots and cover them.
Some land is very subject to the misfortune of exposing the roots, and therefore is less proper for wheat ; for when the roots are left bare to the air, they will be shrivelled and unable to support the plants : and on such lands the wheat plants have all fallen down, though in number and bigness not sufficient to have produced the fourth part of a tolerable crop if they had stood.
I have never seen any drilled wheat so much spoiled by falling, as sown wheat sometimes is. The drilled never falls so close to the ground, but that the air enters into hollows that are under it, and the wind keeps the ears in motion. Notwithstanding all the precaution that can be used, in some unseasonable years wheat will be blighted : I have known such a general blight, when some of my Lammas-wheat, planted late, and on blighting land, was blighted amongst the rest of my neighbours', by the insects ; but he grain of the sowed wheat was vastly more inured than that of the drilled : the former was so light, that the greatest part was blown away in winnowing, and the remainder so bad, that it was not fit to make bread : the drilled made as good bread, and had as much flour in it, as the sowed wheat had, that was not blighted ; for the grains of the drilled were much larger than those of the sown ; being formed to have been twice as big as the grains of wheat generally are, had they not been blighted.