1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agriculture/The Produce of British Crops

The Produce of British Crops.

Whilst the returns relating to the acreage of crops and the number of live stock in Great Britain have been officially collected in each year since 1866, the annual official estimates of the produce of the crops in the several sections of the kingdom do not extend back beyond 1885. The practice is for the Board of Agriculture to appoint local estimators, who report in the autumn as to the total production of the crops in the localities respectively assigned to them. By dividing the total production, say of wheat, in each county by the number of acres of wheat as returned by the occupiers on June 4, the estimated average yield per acre is obtained. It is important to notice that the figures relating to total production and yield per acre are only estimates, and it is not claimed for them that they are anything more. The fact that much of the wheat to which the figures apply is still in the stack after the publication of the figures shows that the latter are essentially estimates. The total produce of any crop in a given year must depend mainly upon the acreage grown, whilst the average yield per acre will be determined chiefly by the character of the season. In Table VII. are shown, in thousands of bushels, the estimated produce of the corn crops of the United Kingdom in the years 1890–1905.

Table VII.—Estimated Annual Total Produce of Corn Crops in
the United Kingdom
, 1890–1905—Thousands of Bushels.

Year.  Wheat.  Barley.  Oats. Beans.  Peas. 
1890 75,994 80,794 171,295 11,860 6313
1891 74,743 79,555 166,472 10,694 5777
1892 60,775 76,939 168,181  7,054 5028
1893 50,913 65,746 168,588  4,863 4756
1894 60,704 78,601 190,863  7,198 6229
1895 38,285 75, 028 174,476  5,626 4732
1896 58,247 77,825 162,860  6,491 4979
1897 56,296 72,613 163,556  6,650 5250
1898 74,885 74,731 172,578  7,267 4858
1899 67,261 74,532 166,140  7,566 4431
1900 54,322 68,546 165,137  7,469 4072
1901 53,928 67,643 161,175  6,154 4017
1902 58,278 74,439 184,184  7,704 5106
1903 48,819 65,310 172,941  7,535 4812
1904 37,920 62,453 176,755  5,901 4446
1905 60,333 65,004 166,286  8,262 4446

The largest area of wheat in the period was that of 1890, and the smallest was that of 1904; the same two years are seen to have been respectively those of highest and lowest total produce. It is noteworthy that in 1895 the country produced about half as much wheat as in any one of the years 1890, 1891 and 1898. The produce of barley, like that of oats, is less irregular than that of wheat, the extremes for barley being 80, 794,000 bushels (1890) and 62,453,000 bushels (1904), and those for oats 190,863,000 bushels (1894) and 161,17 5,000 bushels (1901). Similar details for potatoes, roots and hay, brought together in Table VIII., show that the production of potatoes varies much from year to year.

Table VIII.—Estimated Annual Total Produce of Potatoes, Roots
and Hay in the United Kingdom
, 1890–1905—Thousands of Tons.

 Year.  Potatoes.  Turnips.  Mangels.   Hay. 
1890 4622 32,002 6709 14,466
1891 6090 29,742 7558 12,671
1892 5634 31,419 7428 11,567
1893 6541 31,110 5225  9,082
1894 4662 30,678 7310 15,699
1895 7065 29,221 6376 12,238
1896 6263 28,037 5875 11,416
1897 4107 29,785 7379 14,043
1898 6225 26,499 7228 15,916
1899 5837 20,370 7604 12,898
1900 4577 28,387 9650 13,742
1901 7043 25,298 9224 11,358
1902 5920 29,116 10,809 15,246
1903 5277 23,523 8212 14,955
1904 6230 28,033 8813 14,860
1905 7186 26,563 9493 13,554

The imports of potatoes into the United Kingdom vary, to some extent inversely; thus, the low production in 1897 was accompanied by an increase of imports from 3,921,205 cwt. in 1897 to 6,751,728 cwt. in 1898. No very great reliance can be placed upon the figures relating to turnips (which include swedes), as these are mostly fed to sheep on the ground, so that the estimates as to yield are necessarily vague. Mangels are probably more closely estimated, as these valuable roots are carted and stored for subsequent use for feeding stock. Under hay are included the produce of clover, sainfoin and rotation grasses, and also that of permanent meadow. The extent to which the annual production of the leading fodder crop may vary is shown in the table by the two consecutive years 1893 and 1894; from only nine million tons in the former year the production rose to upwards of fifteen million tons in the latter, an increase of over 70%.

Turning to the average yields per acre, as ascertained by dividing the number of acres into the total produce, the results of a decade are collected in Table IX. The effects of a prolonged

Table IX.—Estimated Annual Average Yield per Acre of Crops in United Kingdom, 1895–1904.

Year.  Wheat.   Barley.   Oats.   Beans.   Peas.   Pota- 
toes.
Turnips
and
Swedes.
Mangels. Hay.
 Rota- 
tion.
 Perman- 
ent.
Bush. Bush. Bush. Bush. Bush. Tons. Tons. Tons. Cwt. Cwt.
1895 26.33 32.09 38.67 22.98 22.62 5.64 13.11 16.44 29.08 25.21
1896 33.63 34.16 37.97 25.69 25.34 4.93 12.79 14.99 27.95 24.14
1897 29.07 32.91 38.84 28.91 27.55 3.47 13.90 18.03 32.53 30.71
1898 34.75 36.24 42.27 31.13 27.60 5.23 12.74 17.71 36.49 34.27
1899 32.76 34.64 40.57 30.19 27.22 4.82  9.97 17.41 31.04 29.11
1900 28.61 31.67 39.97 28.18 25.89 3.77 14.29 19.97 32.42 30.98
1901 30.93 31.70 39.35 24.29 25.97 5.81 12.95 19.37 28.98 23.85
1902 32.91 35.83 44.50 31.49 28.51 4.92 15.35 20.85 35.29 32.57
1903 30.15 32.38 40.81 31.27 26.56 4.45 12.44 17.19 33.07 3127
1904 26.97 31.25 40.80 23.23 25.75 5.24 14.83 18.57 33.43 31.04
Mean,
10
years
30.85 33.28 40.35 27.68 26.24 4.84 13.21 18.18 32.06 29.32
1905 32.88 34.79 40.38 32.33 25.71 5.86 14.19 19.91 32.24 28.37

spring and summer drought, like that of 1893, are exemplified in the circumstance that four corn crops and the two hay crops all registered very low average yields that year, viz. wheat 26.08 bushels, barley 29.30 bushels, oats 38.14 bushels, beans 19.61 bushels, rotation hay 23.55 cwt., permanent hay 20.41 cwt. On the other hand, the season of 1898 was exceptionally favourable to cereals and to hay. The effects of a prolonged autumn drought, as distinguished from spring and summer drought, are shown in the very low yield of turnips in 1899. Mangels are sown earlier and have a longer period of growth than turnips; if they become well established in the summer they are less susceptible to autumn drought. The hay made from clover, sainfoin and grasses under rotation generally gives a bigger average yield than that from permanent grass land. The mean values at the foot of the table-they are not, strictly speaking, exact averages-indicate the average yields per acre in the United Kingdom to be about 31 bushels of wheat, 33 bushels of barley, 40 bushels of oats, 28 bushels of beans, 26 bushels of peas, 43/4 tons of potatoes, 131/4 tons of turnips and swedes, 184 tons of mangels, 32 cwt. of hay from temporary grass, and 29 cwt. of hay from permanent grass.

Table X.—Decennial Average Yields in Great Britain of Wheat,
Barley and Oats—Bushels per acre.

10-Year
Periods.
Wheat. Barley. Oats.
1885–1894 29.32 33.02 38.21
1886–1895 28.81 32.68 38.23
1887–1896 29.49 32.82 38.13
1888–1897 29.19 32.97 38.51
1889–1898 29.86 33.26 38.86
1890–1899 30.15 33.50 38.81
1891–1900 29.92 33.13 38.46
1892–1901 29.88 32.80 38.26
1893–1902 30.53 32.83 38.64
1894–1903 30.95 33.16 39.05
1895–1904 30.56 32.82 38.81
1896–1905 31.21 33.04 38.92

Although enormous single crops of mangels are sometimes grown, amounting occasionally to 100 tons per acre, the general average yield of 181/4 tons is about 5 tons more than that of turnips and swedes. Again, although from the richest old permanent meadow-lands very heavy crops of hay are taken season after season, the general average yield of permanent grass is about 3 cwt. of hay per acre less than that from clover, sainfoin and grasses under rotation. The general average yields of the corn crops are not fairly comparable one with the other, because they are given by measure and not by weight, whereas the weight per bushel varies considerably. For purposes of comparison it would be much better if the yields of corn crops were estimated in cwt. per acre. This, indeed, is the practice in Ireland, and in order to incorporate the Irish figures with those for Great Britain so as to obtain average values for the United Kingdom, the Irish yields are calculated into bushels at the rate of 60 ℔ to the bushel of wheat, of beans and of peas, 50 ℔ to the bushel of barley and 39 ℔ to the bushel of oats. The figure denoting the general average yield per acre of any class of crop needs readjustment after every successive harvest. If a decennial period be taken, then—for the purpose of the new calculation—the earliest year is omitted and the latest year added, the number of years continuing at ten. Adopting this course in the case of the cereal crops of Great Britain the decennial averages recorded in Table X. are obtained, the period 1885–1894 being the earliest decade for which the official figures are available. It thus appears that the average yield of wheat in Great Britain, as calculated upon the crops harvested during the ten years (1896–1905), exceeded 31 bushels to the acre, whereas, for the ten years ended 1895, it fell below 29 bushels. A large expansion in the acreage of the wheat crop would probably be attended by a decline in the average yield per acre, for when a crop is shrinking in area the tendency is to withdraw from it first the land least suited to its growth. The general average for the United Kingdom might then recede to rather less than 28 bushels of 60 ℔ per bushel, which was for a long time the accepted average - unless, of course, improved methods of cultivating and manuring the soil were to increase its general wheat-yielding capacity.[1]

  1. The higher yield of wheat in the later years of the 19th century appears to be largely attributable to better grain-growing seasons. The yields in the experimental wheat-field at Rotharnsted—where there is no change either of land or of treatment—indicate this. The following figures show the average yields per acre of the selected plots at Rothamsted over six 8-yearly periods from 1852 to 1899, and afford evidence that the higher yield of later years is due to the seasons:—
      Bushels (of 60 ℔)
     Average of— per acre.
     8 years 1852–1859 ... 283/8
     81860–1867 ... 287/8
     81868–1875 ... 271/8
     81876–1883 ... 251/4
     81884–1891 ... 297/8
     81892–1899 ... 30
    —————————— ———
    321852–1883 ... 273/8
    161884–1899 ... 30
    —————————— ———
    481852–1899 ... 281/4

    The average of the first thirty-two years was thus 273/8 bushels per acre, of the last sixteen years 30 bushels, and of the whole forty-eight years 281/4 bushels.