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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/91

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A SYSTEM OF AQUATIC FARMING

ning. Something has been accomplished in fish culture in some sections, but even here the full utilization of the resources of a body of water are but poorly accomplished. A few sporadic efforts have been made here and there in the culture of frogs and turtles, but how many of them with such attention to the subject as to warrant the term culture? In fact, these efforts have often resulted in failure and their projectors looked upon as visionaries, worthy the contempt of the hero in the "Virginian."

The farmer who drains and cultivates an acre of swampy land on his farm gains that much additional space for his ordinary culture and for a time at least it may be unusually productive as it contains the accumulated organic debris of years, but would it not be far greater wisdom to dredge out occasionally a portion of this accumulation to spread upon the higher ground and keep the acre as a source of fertilizing material for the years to come. This seems all the more desirable when it is remembered that this basin must collect quantities of the finest and most fertile parts of the soil washed from the higher ground. Moreover, I hope to show that there is good reason to expect that the acre can be made so productive over and above this function of conserving fertility that it will be worth more in water than it could be as cultivated land.

What is needed in the matter of utilization of our great tracts of marshy or swampy land is some such systematic study and the development of some such adapted system as is in progress of development in the systems of "dry farming" in the arid or semi-arid regions of the west—a system which will intelligently conserve and utilize our heritage of water, not throw it ignorantly away and reduce our uplands to a condition of sterility.

Frog farms, turtle farms, fish farms by themselves might be put in the same category as skunk farms and fox farms; useful to utilize certain minor tracts of otherwise worthless land, but what is needed, if any general good is to follow, is a rational system applicable to the treatment of all tracts of level swampy land, especially those at the head waters of the great river systems and in the coastal swamps of the Great Lakes and river deltas—in fact, to all areas where a fairly constant water level is possible.

 

Possible Crops

It is evident that in the nature of things wherever private ownership exists, or is possible, the effort inevitably will be toward gaining the largest immediate return from any such area, and the only hope of preserving these swampy tracts as reservoirs of water will be to hold them as public reservations or to devise some system of production which will make them more profitable with the water retained than they