Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/555

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THE SOIL AS AN ECONOMIC FACTOR.

the case. Instead of studying a soil and its situation, and determining to what crop, or rotation of crops, it may be best adapted, the farmer continues to cultivate the same crops his predecessors grew, or he puts in one he may happen to wish for some fancied reason, possibly in some cases caprice. For example, a man may wish a grass farm, and instead of studying his soils to determine if they be adapted to this purpose, he may sink hundreds of dollars in a vain attempt, foreordained necessarily to failure, which might have been as surely foreseen. A good illustration is the tobacco crop in southern Maryland. In many ways, it is a fine crop to grow, making an attractive, handsome appearance in the field, pleasing to one's esthetic sense. Moreover, it has been grown in this region from time immemorial. But for various reasons, it can no longer compete successfully with tobaccos from some other regions, and now brings but very little money. Nevertheless, the people are accustomed to this crop, they like its cultivation, and consequently it remains a staple, although it is very well known that the soils devoted to it are much better adapted to certain other crops which would indubitably yield a vastly greater money return.

Over the wider areas of our country this seems to be about the spirit in which agricultural conditions are still viewed and met. Where intensive agriculture is practised, as in the truck soils, or in the irrigated soils of the West, this is not the case, or not so frequently the case, and can never be where intensive methods are practised, for it is a necessary corollary of the high prices which lands under the intensive system of cultivation command, that the crops for which they are best adapted must be raised, or absolute failure inevitably follows. But where the extensive methods of cultivation are practised, it is usually possible to drift along on half crops or third crops, and still keep matters going on a gradual decline until conditions are so bad that the land is abandoned as barren, and pastures new are sought elsewhere.

While the soil may be best adapted to some particular crop or rotation, other conditions enter, or may make it more desirable to substitute a different crop or rotation not so well suited. For questions of transportation, or supply and demand, and of available labor, inevitably enter into the business management of every farmer, and thus the soil is an economic factor in every community. In certain areas of Arizona, for instance, the soils, climatic conditions and general features indicate most strongly the advisability of raising fruits. But the transportation facilities up to the present have been so unsatisfactory that, it has been impossible for the Arizona horticulturists, even with earlier crops than California, to put their products on the Eastern markets at such figures as to compete satisfactorily with those from the latter state. Again a case comes to mind of a plantation in eastern North Carolina, with an unusually fine crop of peanuts, covering about 400