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Securing Seed
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Sowing







The time for sowing clover seed is influenced considerably by the climatic conditions. Under some conditions it may be sown in the early autumn. It may be thus sown in the Southern States and with much likelihood that a stand will be secured, yet in some instances an inauspicious winter proves disastrous to the plants: all things considered, it is probably safer to sow clover in the South at that season than the spring, when vegetation is beginning to start. It may also succeed in some instances in areas well to the North when sown in the early autumn, providing snow covers the ground all the winter, but should the snow fail to come the subsequent winter, or fail to lie when it does come, the clover plants would perish. The element of hazard, therefore, is too great in northerly areas to justify sowing the seed thus. But on the bench lands of the mountain valleys there may be instances in which the seed may be sown so late in the autumn that it will not sprout before winter sets in, but lies in the soil ready to utilize the moisture, so all important in those areas, as soon as the earliest growth begins in the spring. The seed may be sown with no little assurance of success in the late summer. But this can only be done where moisture is reasonably plentiful from the time of sowing onward, and where the winters are not really severe. In some of the Central States this method of sowing may succeed reasonably well. Clover and timothy sown thus without any nurse crop will produce a full crop the next season. When the seed is sown thus, it may, of course, be made to follow a crop grown on the land the same season. It may also insure a crop the following season, when the clover seed sown the spring previously may for some reason have failed. While medium red clover is frequently sown in the South and in some areas of the far West in the months of January and February on the snow, in the North it is usually sown in the early spring. This also is in a great majority of instances the best time for sowing. In many locations it may be sown with safety as soon as the winter snows have gone. On the whole, the earlier that it is sown in the spring the better, that the young plants may have all the benefit possible from the moisture, which is more abundant than later. But there are certain areas, as, for instance, in the northerly limits of the Mississippi basin, in which young clover plants perish by frost after they have germinated. This, however, does not happen very frequently. When the seed is sown on the snow, or while the ground is yet in a honeycombed condition from early frost, it must of necessity be sown early. But where the hazard is present that the young plants will be killed by frost, it will be safer to defer sowing the seed until it can be covered with the harrow when sown. Whether it will be more advisable to sow the seed on bare ground earlier than the season when growth begins, or to sow later and cover with the harrow, will depend to a considerable degree upon the soil and the condition in which it happens to be. On timber soils newly cleaned the early sowing would be quite safe where the young plants are not liable to be killed after germination, because of the abundance of humus in them. On the same soils, early sowing would probably be preferable, even when much reduced in humus, providing they were in a honeycombed condition at the time of sowing. This condition is far more characteristic of clay and clay loam soils, than of those sandy in texture. To sow the seed on clay soils that are worn would be to throw it away, unless in a most favorable season for growth. The same would prove true of the sandy soils low in humus, since these do not honeycomb at any season. Seed sown on honeycombed ground falls into openings made in the soil, and is covered by the action of the frost and the sun on the same. The rule should be to defer sowing the seed where the ground does not honeycomb until it can be covered with the harrow. In some instances the seed is sown successfully just after a light fall of snow in the spring. The seed is carried down into little crevices or fissures in the soil when these are present, but the seed should not be thus sown. Usually it is not quite safe to sow clover seed where the winter snow still lingers to any considerable depth, lest much of it should be carried down to the lower lands by the sudden melting of the snows. The chief advantage of sowing before the ground can be harrowed arises from the benefit which the young plants derive from the plentiful supply of moisture in the soil at that season. They are more firmly rooted than plants sown later, and, therefore, can better withstand the dry weather that frequently characterizes the later months of the summer. There is also the further advantage that the labor of harrowing at a season that is usually a busy one is dispensed with. Various modes of sowing clover seed have been adopted. Sometimes it is sown by hand. In other instances a sower is used which is strapped to the shoulder and turned with a crank. Sometimes the seed is sown by a distributor, which is wheeled over the ground on a frame resembling that of a wheelbarrow. Again, it is sown with a seeder attachment to the ordinary grain drill or to the broadcast seeder, and yet again with the grain in the ordinary drill tubes, or scattered with the same by the broadcast seeder; which of these methods should be adopted will depend on such conditions as relate to season, climate and soil. The seed may be sown by hand at almost any time desired, whether it is covered or not. The advantages of hand sowing are that it may be done under some conditions when no other method will answer as well, as, for instance, when it is sown upon snow or upon the ground honeycombed. The disadvantages are that it takes more time than some of the other methods, especially when the sower only scatters the seed with one hand, that it cannot be thus sown when the wind blows stiffly or fitfully, and most of all, only a limited number of persons who sow seed are thus able to sow it with complete regularity. A still time should, if possible, be chosen for hand sowing; such a time is usually found in the early morning. When one hand is used, the seed may be sown from a light dish or pail or sowing-bag, but when both hands are used a sowing-box or a sowing-sack suspended in front of the breast is necessary. Clover seed may be sown when a considerable breeze is blowing by having a due regard to the wind. When facing it, the cast of seed should be low; when going before the wind it should be high. But when the wind is blowing at right angles, much care must be observed by the sower as to where he walks, in relation to the cast that is being sown. When the seed is sown on grain that has been drilled, the rows of grain will suffice to serve as a guide to the sower, and when the grain is not up, the drill marks may be made to serve the same end. The advantages of the hand seeder held in place by straps are that the sowing may be done by an individual who cannot sow by hand, that the seed may be easily distributed and that it may be used with advantage in sowing seed among brush. The disadvantages are that it cannot be used when much wind is stirring, and when using it stakes are sometimes necessary for the guidance of the sower. The advantages from using the seeder wheeled over the ground are that the work may be done by any one able to wheel the seeder, that the seed is distributed evenly, that it may be sown when a fairly stiff wind is blowing, and that stakes are not necessary for the guidance of the sower, as the distance of the cast may be gauged at least fairly well by the wheel marks made. One disadvantage is that it cannot be used with much satisfaction on certain soils when the ground is cloddy or frozen, or when it is wet. There is also the disadvantage to all three methods of sowing by hand, that it is frequently necessary to provide a covering for the seed by subsequently using the harrow. The advantages from sowing with the seeder attachment to the grain drill are that the seed may be made to fall before or behind the tubes as may be desired, or it may be sown with the seed along with the grain, and that when sown by any of these methods there is much saving of time as compared with sowing by hand. In some sections of the prairie the seed is sown with the grain drill by driving the same across the newly sown grain rows. If necessary to insure sufficiently thin sowing, the seed should be first mixed with some substance such as common salt. In the moist areas of the upper Atlantic coast, Ontario and the Puget Sound region, the seed is frequently made to fall behind the grain tubes on clay and clay loam soils, and is covered by running the roller over the ground subsequently; but in States more inland the seed is usually made to fall before the drill tubes, when, in some instances, the sowing of the grain will provide a sufficient covering; but in others the harrow is used in addition, and sometimes both the harrow and the roller. When clover seed is sown along with grain and by the same tubes, it will in some soils be buried too deeply, but in others the objection does not hold good. The young plants are also injured more by shade from the grain, since they grow only in the line of the row along with the grain, and yet this method of sowing clover seed in some localities seems to answer reasonably well. When the broadcast seeder is used in sowing clover seed, time is also saved as compared with hand sowing, but the seed can only fall before the seeder, and must, therefore, be given the same covering as the grain, as, when the seed is sown with the grain drill, it will in some instances be buried too deeply. In other instances it is not so. The depth to which the seed of medium and other clovers ought to be buried should vary with soil and climatic conditions, and with the season of sowing. The more stiff the soil, the more moist the climate, and the earlier that the seed is sown, the less the covering required, and vice versa. As has been shown, under certain conditions (see page 22), early sown clover seed does not require any covering artificially given, and sometimes when sown later, a reasonably copious rain will provide sufficient covering, providing it falls quite soon after the sowing of the seed. But in certain of the soft, open, spongy soils of the prairie, it may sometimes be buried to the depth of at least 3 inches, with apparent benefit. Lower than 5 or 6 inches in any soil, clover seed will not germinate till brought nearer the surface. On all soils that lift with the wind, the seed should, as a rule, be buried deeply. Ordinarily, from half an inch to an inch, or an approximation to these distances, is considered a proper depth to bury clover seed. Some authorities recommend sowing medium and other clovers without any nurse crop. The advantages claimed are that more or less of a crop may be obtained the same season, and that a stand of clover is more certain when the seed is sown thus. The first claim is correct in the main. In some localities favored with long seasons for growth, as in certain areas of Missouri, for instance, good yields may be obtained from sowing the seed thus. This has happened even in Minnesota. But in other areas and under other conditions, the yield would be light. In some localities, as, for instance, the Willamette Valley, Oregon, satisfactory returns have been obtained by sowing clover seed and rape seed in May and then pasturing both. The chief objections to sowing clover seed thus are, first, that in a great majority of instances a sufficient stand of the plants may be obtained when the seed is sown with a nurse crop; and second, that when it is not thus sown, the first cutting of the hay will contain more or less of weeds. That a stand is more assured when clover seed is sown alone in areas where adverse weather conditions prevail cannot be disputed. Nevertheless, the fact remains that whenever in order to get a stand of a short-lived crop, like clover, it is necessary to sow it alone, and in many instances get but little return the same season, it will be well to consider if there is not some more satisfactory way of securing a crop that will prove an equivalent. In northerly areas the stubbles of the nurse crop frequently render substantial service to the clover by holding the snow on the crop, and also by protecting it more or less from the effect of the cold winds. The old-time practice of sowing clover with a nurse crop is likely to be continued, notwithstanding that it has some disadvantages. These disadvantages include the following: 1. The young plants are liable to be weakened by the crowding and by overmuch shading from the grain when it grows rankly and thickly, and to such an extent that they perish; 2. When the grain lodges, as it frequently does, on rich ground, the clover plants underneath the lodged portions succumb from want of light; 3. Where the supply of moisture is low, in the struggle for the same between the stronger plants of the nurse crop and the weaker plants of the clover, the former secures the larger share. As a result, when the nurse crop is harvested, should the weather prove hot and dry beyond a certain degree, the clover plants will die. This is an experience not at all uncommon on the loose prairie soils of the upper Mississippi basin. Injury from crowding and overshading may be prevented, or at least lessened, by pasturing the nurse crop with sheep for a time, at an early stage in its growth. The lodging of the grain may also be prevented by the same means. Injury from drought may also be lessened by cutting the crop at the proper stage of advancement, and making it into hay, as in the ripening stage of growth it draws most heavily on the moisture in the soil. The oat crop is the most suitable for being thus dealt with. Clover seed may be sown with any of the small cereal grains as a nurse crop, but not with equal advantage. Rye, barley, wheat and oats are probably suitable in the order named. Rye shades less than wheat and oats and is harvested early; hence, its suitability for a nurse crop. Winter rye and winter wheat are more suitable than spring varieties of the same, since, on these the crop may usually be sown earlier, and the soil is likely to lose less moisture from surface evaporation. The marked suitability of barley as a nurse crop arises chiefly from the short period which it occupies the ground. Nor is the shade so dense as from grains that grow taller. Oats are the least suitable of all the crops named as a nurse crop, since they are characterized by a dense growth of leaves, which shut out the sunlight too much when the growth is rank. Notwithstanding, the oat crop may well serve such an end when sown thinly and cut for hay. Mixed grains grown together, as, for instance, wheat and oats, or a mixture of the three, answer quite as well for a nurse crop as clover and oats. The objection to them for such use arises from the fact that they are frequently sown more thickly than grain sown alone. Clover may also be sown with flax or millet or mixed grains grown to provide soiling food. When the weather is moist, it is likely to succeed well with flax, as the latter does not form so dense a shade when it is growing as some other crops. But flax is usually sown so much later than these crops, that in some climates the dry weather following injures and in some instances destroys the young plants. The dense shade furnished by millet is also detrimental to the clover plants; nevertheless, owing to the short period which the former occupies the ground, under favorable conditions a stand of clover may be secured. But since millet is sown later than flax, it frequently happens that there is not sufficient moisture in the soil to sustain both crops. Mixed grains sown as soiling food are usually sown reasonably early, and as they are cut before maturity, the danger is so far lessened that the young plants will perish from want of moisture, but since these crops are usually grown thickly and on rich land, owing to the dense character of the growth, the plants are much more likely to be injured by the dense shade thus provided. Clover seed may also be sown with corn and certain other crops that are usually grazed down, as rape and mixed grains. When sown with corn, the seed is usually scattered over the ground just before the last cultivation given to the corn. Attention is now being given to the introduction of cultivators which scatter such seeds as clover and rape in front of them, and so preclude the necessity for hand sowing. From Central Ohio southward, this method of securing a stand of clover will succeed in corn-growing areas, the other conditions being right. North from the areas named, the young clover plants may be winter killed when the seed is sown thus. The less dense the shade furnished by the corn, and the less dry the weather subsequently to sowing the seed, the better will be the stand of the plants secured. When sown with rape that has been broadcast, clover usually makes a good stand, providing the rape crop is not sown too late in the season. When the rape is grazed down, the grazing does not appear to materially injure the clover, and when the shade has been removed by such grazing, the clover plants may be expected to make a vigorous growth on such land. In northerly areas, clover seed may be sown along with rape seed as late as the end of May. If sown later than that time, the season may prove too short subsequently to the grazing of the rape to allow the plants to gather sufficient strength to carry them safely through northern winters. When clover seed is sown with rape, the seeds may be mixed and sown together. Clover seed in several of the varieties may be successfully sown on certain grain crops grown to provide grazing, especially when these are sown early. Such pastures may consist of any one of the small cereal grains, or more than one, or of all of them. The seed may be sown in these the same as with any crop sown to furnish grain. A stand of clover may thus be secured under some conditions in which the clover would perish if sown along with the grain to be harvested; under other conditions it would not succeed so well. The former include soils so open as to readily lose moisture by surface evaporation. The tramping of the animals on these increases their power to hold moisture, the grazing down of the grain lessens its demands upon the same, thus leaving more for the clover plants, and they are further strengthened by the freer access of sunlight. The latter include firm, stiff clays in rainy climates. To pasture these when thus sown, if moist beyond a certain degree, would result in so impacting them that the yield of the pasture would be greatly decreased in consequence. Medium red clover is quite frequently sown alone; that is, without admixture with clovers or grasses. It is always sown thus when it is to be plowed under, as green manure. It is also usually sown alone in rotations where it is to be cropped or grazed for one year. But when grown for meadow, which is to remain longer than one season, it is commonly sown along with timothy. The first year after sowing, the crop is chiefly clover, and subsequently it is chiefly timothy. Orchard grass or tall oat grass, or both, may also be sown along with medium red clover, since these are ready for being cut at the same time as the clover. When medium red clover is sown to provide pasture for periods of limited duration, it is frequently sown along with alsike clover and timothy. Sometimes a moderate amount of alfalfa seed is added. But in arable soils in the semi-arid West, these will provide pastures for many years in succession, if supplied with moisture. The same is true of much of the land west of the Cascades, and without irrigation. East from the Mississippi and for some distance west from it, much of the medium red clover will disappear after being grazed for one season, but the alsike, timothy and alfalfa will endure for a longer period. In permanent pastures, whether few or many varieties of seed are sown, medium red clover is usually included in the mixture. It is sown because of the amount of the grazing which it furnishes the season after sowing, and with the expectation that it will virtually entirely disappear in the pastures in two or three seasons after it has been sown. When medium red clover is sown for being plowed under as green manure, it is always sown with a nurse crop. Some farmers, in localities well adapted to the growth of clover, sow more or less of the medium red variety on all, or nearly all, of the land devoted to the growth of such cereals as rye, wheat, barley and oats, when the land is to be plowed the autumn or spring following. Reduced quantities of seed are used. They believe that the benefit from the young clover plants to the land will more than pay for the cost of the seed and the sowing of the same. The amount of seed to sow will depend on the degree of suitability in the conditions for growing medium red clover. The more favorable these are, the less the necessity for using maximum quantities of seed, and vice versa. More seed is required when the clover is not grown with other grasses or clovers than when it is grown with these. When grown without admixture, 16 pounds of seed per acre may be named as the maximum quantity to sow and 8 pounds as the minimum, with 12 pounds as an average. With all the conditions quite favorable, 10 pounds should suffice. In New England and some of the Atlantic States, many growers sow much more seed than the quantities named, and it may be that the necessities of the land call for more. In Great Britain also, considerably larger quantities are sown. When sown in grass or clover mixtures, the amount of the seed required will vary with the other factors of the mixture, and the amount of each that is sown; that is, with the character of the hay or pasture that is sought. The seed is much more frequently sown with timothy than with any other kind of grass, and the average amount of each of these to sow per acre may be put at 8 pounds of clover and 6 pounds of timothy. When other clovers are added, as the mammoth or the alsike, for every pound of the seed of the former added, the seed of the medium red may be reduced by one pound, and for every pound of the alsike added it may be reduced by 1-1/2 pounds. In mixtures for permanent pastures, 6 pounds may be fixed upon as the maximum quantity of medium red clover seed to sow, and 3 pounds as the average quantity. When sown to provide green manure, maximum quantities of seed are used when it is desired to improve the soil quickly. Usually not less than 12 pounds per acre are sown, and quite frequently more. But when the gradual improvement of the land is sought, by sowing the seed on all land devoted to the small cereal grains, not more than 6 pounds per acre are used, and frequently even less than 4 pounds. The greater the hazard to the plants in sowing the seed thus, the less the quantities of the seed that are usually sown, with a view to reduce the loss in case of failure to secure a stand of the clover. A stand of medium red clover is sometimes secured by what may be termed self-sowing. For instance, where clover has been cut for hay and then allowed to mature even but a portion of the seed before being plowed under the same autumn, the seed thus buried remains in the ground without sprouting. When the land is again plowed to the same depth and sown with some kind of grain, the clover seed thus brought to the surface will germinate. If the plowing last referred to is done in the autumn, it ought to be done late rather than early, lest the seed should sprout in the autumn and perish in the winter, or be destroyed by the cultivation given in sowing the grain crop that follows. The same result may be obtained from clover pastured after the first cutting for the season, when the pasturing is not close. When medium red clover is much grown for seed, many of the ripe heads are not cut by the mower, since they lie near the ground, and many break off in the curing process. The seed thus becomes so distributed in the ground, that many plants come up and grow amid the grain every season. These may, of course, be grazed or plowed under for the enrichment of the land, as desired. Seed thus buried is, therefore, not lost by any means. The plants which grow will render much assistance in keeping the land in a good condition of tilth, as well as in enhancing its fertility. When clover seed is much grown, therefore, on any piece of land, the quantity of seed sown may be reduced materially. In fact, it may be so much reduced that it has been found possible to grow clover in rotation for many years without adding seed. The first growth of the clover was taken as hay, and the second growth as seed. The ground was then plowed and a crop of corn was taken. The corn land was then plowed and sown with some cereal, such as wheat, oats or barley.





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