Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/98

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

tion of France—forced Germany to rehabilitate her agricultural industries, from which the armies of the empire were chiefly supplied. Her lands were worn under a thousand years of tillage without rotation of crops, and had more recently become unprofitable and valueless under the vain attempt to produce the staple crops of grain in competition with the rich prairies of our Northwest, and her farmers were emigrating to America. The soil was not exhausted, as many have supposed, but, like our own farms in New England, laboring at present under the same difficulties, required a diversity of culture and new fertilization. Their previous experiments had shown that the beet-root, depending largely for its growth upon the atmosphere, did not exhaust the soil, as was the case in the cultivation of grain, but, in rotation with the staple crops, like wheat, barley, and rye, it left the land richer for the following crop. Besides, the beet-root was peculiarly a product of the temperate zone—indigenous to the latitude of northern France and Germany, requiring fair skies, sunlight, and long seasons, for the full perfection of its growth for sugar-making purposes. It could not be raised profitably for saccharine extraction on the sea-coast, as it easily absorbed saline matters, or in the dark and damp places of England, or in the higher latitudes, where the season is too short to ripen the plant to perfection, any more than it would thrive in the hot climate of the South.

A new system of excise duties was established which induced the farmer to enter into the growing of beets on a larger scale, and bounties were given to attract capital into the construction of factories for the manufacture of beet-sugar. This excise tax, not unlike that of our own internal revenue collection on whisky and tobacco—where the consumer pays the tax—was equal to two and a half cents per pound on the sugar extracted from the beet. To the sugar exporter the tax was returned, and there was also paid a bonus which assumed the character of an export bounty.

Under these conditions an enormous increase of sugar production and a rapidly augmented exportation of sugar followed. The farmer commenced a new system of fertilization that produced larger crops, and began with energy to develop from the soil the nitrogen which the chemists had found to be so much needed in the cultivation of the beet-root. He made more manure on the farm by feeding his cattle with the pulp, received from the factories that had sprung up like magic a residuum derived from the chemical processes in the extraction of sugar containing all the salts and elements remaining, thus giving a new impulse to cattle-raising and dairy products from its rich fodder.

Gathering from twenty to twenty-five tons of beets from an