done something to mitigate this evil, and might do a great deal more.
Irish political history has largely affected the condition of agriculture. Confiscations and settlements, prohibitive laws (such as those which ruined the woollen industry), penal enactments against the Roman Catholics, absenteeism, the creation for political purposes of 40s. freeholders, and other factors have combined to form a story which makes painful reading from whatever point of view, social or political, it be regarded. Happily, however, at the beginning of the 20th century Irish agriculture presented two new features which can be described without necessarily arousing any party question—the work of the Department of Agriculture and the spread of the principle of co-operation. Another outstanding feature has been the effect of the Land Purchase Acts in transferring the ownership of the land from the landlords to the tenants. Before dealing with these three features, some general statistics may be given bearing upon the condition of Irish agriculture.
was inordinately large. In 1841, for example, there were no less than 310,436 of between 1 and 5 acres in extent, and 252,799 of between 5 and 15 acres. This condition of affairs was due mainly to two causes—to the 40s. franchise which prevailed between 1793 and 1829, and after that date to the fierce competition for land by a rapidly increasing population which had no other source of livelihood than agriculture. But the potato famine and the repeal of the Corn Laws, occurring almost simultaneously, caused an immediate and startling diminution in the number of smaller holdings. In 1851 the number between 1 and 5 acres in extent had fallen to 88,033 and the number between 5 and 15 acres had fallen to 191,854. Simultaneously the number between 15 and 30 acres had increased from 79,342 to 141,311, and the number above 30 acres from 48,625 to 149,090.
Since 1851 these tendencies have not been so marked. Thus in 1905 the number of holdings between 1 and 5 acres was 62,126, the number between 5 and 15 acres 154,560, the number between 15 and 30 acres 134,370 and the number above 30 acres 164,747. Generally speaking, however, it will be seen from the figures that since the middle of the 19th century holdings between 1 and 30 acres have decreased and holdings over 30 acres have increased. Of the total holdings under 30 acres considerably more than one-third are in Ulster, and of the holdings over 30 acres more than one-third are in Munster. The number of holdings of over 500 acres is only 1526, of which 475 are in Connaught. A considerable proportion, however, of these larger holdings, especially in Connaught, consist of more or less waste land, which at the best can only be used for raising a few sheep.
Tillage and Pasturage.—The fact that probably about 1,000,000 acres formerly under potatoes went out of cultivation owing to the potato disease in 1847 makes a comparison between the figures for crops in that year with present figures somewhat fallacious. Starting, however, with that year as the most important in Irish economic history in modern times, we find that between 1847 and 1905 the total area under crops—cereals, green crops, flax, meadow and clover—decreased by 582,348 acres. Up to 1861, as the area formerly under potatoes came back gradually into cultivation, the acreage under crops increased; but since that year, when the total crop area was 5,890,536 acres, there has been a steady and gradual decline, the area in 1905 having fallen to 4,656,227 acres. An analysis of the returns shows that the decline has been most marked in the acreage under cereal crops, especially wheat. In 1847 the number of acres under wheat was 743,871 and there has been a steady and practically continuous decrease ever since, the wheat acreage in 1905 being only 37,860 acres. In that year the wheat area, excluding less than 5000 acres in Connaught, was pretty equally divided between the other three provinces. Oats has always been the staple cereal crop in Ireland, but since 1847 its cultivation has declined by over 50%. In that year 2,200,870 acres were under oats and in 1905 only 1,066,806 acres. Nearly one-half of the area under oats is to be found in Ulster; Leinster and Munster are fairly equal; and Connaught has something over 100,000 acres under this crop. The area under barley and rye has also declined during the period under review by about one-half—from 345,070 acres in 1847 to 164,800 in 1905. The growing of these crops is confined almost entirely to Leinster and Munster. Taking all the cereal crops together, their cultivation during the last 60 years has gradually declined (from 3,313,579 acres in 1847 to 1,271,190 in 1905) by over 50%. The area, however, under green crops—potatoes, turnips, mangel-wurzel, beet, cabbage, &c., shows during the same period a much less marked decline—only some 300,000 acres. There has been a very considerable decrease since about 1861 in the acreage under potatoes. This is probably due to two causes—the emigration of the poorer classes who subsisted on that form of food, and the gradual introduction of a more varied dietary. The total area under potatoes in 1905 was 616,755 acres as compared with 1,133,504 acres in 1861. Since about 1885 the acreage under turnips has remained fairly stationary in the neighbourhood of 300,000 acres, while the cultivation of mangel-wurzel has considerably increased. Outside the recognized cereal and green crops, two others may be considered, flax and meadow and clover. The cultivation of the former is practically confined to Ulster and as compared with 20 or 30 years ago has fallen off by considerably more than 50%, despite the proximity of the linen industry. The number of acres under flax in 1905 was only 46,158. The Department of Agriculture has made efforts to improve and foster its cultivation, but without any marked results as regards increasing the area sown. During the period under review the area under meadow and clover has increased by more than 50%, rising from 1,138,946 acres in 1847 to 2,294,506 in 1905. It would thus appear that a large proportion of the land which has ceased to bear cereal or green crops is now laid down in meadow and clover. The balance has become pasturage, and the total area under grass in Ireland has so largely increased that it now embraces more than one-half of the entire country. This increase of the pastoral lands, with the corresponding decrease of the cropped lands, has been the marked feature of Irish agricultural returns since 1847. It is attributable to three chief reasons, the dearth of labour owing to emigration, the greater fall in prices of produce as compared with live stock, and the natural richness of the Irish pastures. The following table shows the growth of pasturage and the shrinkage of the crop areas since1860.
under the various kinds of crops, grass, woods and plantations,fallow, bog, waste, &c., over a series of years.
cereal and green crops and the increase of pasturage there has naturally been a serious fall in the amount of agricultural produce and a considerable rise in the number of live stock since the middle of the 19th century. Thus in 1851 the number of cattle was returned as 2,967,461 and in 1905 as 4,645,215, the increase during the intervening period having been pretty gradual and general. Sheep in 1851 numbered 2,122,128 and in 1905 3,749,352, but the increase in this case has not been so continuous, several of the intervening years showing a considerably higher total than 1905, and for a good many years past the number of sheep has tended to decline. The number of pigs has also varied considerably from year to year,1905 showing an increase of about 150,000 as compared with 1851.
The Department of Agriculture.—By an act of 1899 a Department of Agriculture and other industries and technical instruction was established in Ireland. To this department were transferred numerous powers and duties previously exercised by other authorities, including the Department of Science and Art. To assist the department the act also provided for the establishment of a council of agriculture, an agricultural board and a board of technical instruction, specifying the constitution of each of the three bodies. Certain moneys (exceeding £180,000 per annum) were placed by the act at the disposal of the department, provisions were made for their application, and it was enacted that local authorities might contribute funds. The powers and duties of the department are very wide, but under the present section its chief importance lies in its administrative work with regard to agriculture. In the annual reports of the department this work is usually treated under three heads: (1) agricultural instruction, (2) improvement of live stock, and (3) special investigations.