Fertility Value

Attempts have been made to express the actual value

of a good clover crop to the soil in terms of money. The number of

pounds of matter in the roots and stubble has been determined, and

analyses show the percentage of nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash

contained. The two crops harvested in the second year of its growth

likewise have their content of plant-food determined. If the total

amounts of nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash have their values

fixed by multiplying the number of pounds of each ingredient of

plant-food by their respective market values, as is the practice in the

case of commercial fertilizers, a total valuation may be placed upon

the clover, roots and top, as a fertilizer. Such valuation is so

misleading that it affords no true guidance to the farmer. In the first

place, the phosphoric acid and potash were taken out of the soil, and

while some part of these materials may have been without immediate

value to another crop until used by the clover, no one knows how much

value was given to them by the action of the clover. Again, no one

knows what percentage of the nitrogen in the clover came from the air,

and how much was drawn from the soil's stores. The proportion varies

with the fertility of the land, the percentage of nitrogen taken from

the air being greater in the case of badly depleted soils.

A big factor of error is found in the valuations of the ingredients

found in the crop. All plant-food is worth to the farmer only what he

can get out of it. He may be able to use 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre

in the form of nitrate of soda, at 18 cents a pound, when growing a

certain crop, but could not afford to buy, at market price of organic

nitrogen, all the nitrogen found in the clover crop, and therefore it

does not have that value to him.

On the other hand, these estimates do not embrace the great benefit to

the physical condition of the soil that results from the incorporation

of a large amount of vegetable matter.

Discussion has been given to this phase of the question in the interest

of accuracy. Values are only relative. The practical farmer can

determine the estimate he should put upon clover only by noting its

effect upon yields in the crop-rotation upon his own farm. It is our

best means of getting nitrogen from the air, it provides a large amount

of organic matter, it feeds in subsoil as well as in top soil, bringing

up fertility and filling all the soil with roots that affect physical

condition favorably, and it provides a feed for livestock that gives a

rich manure.

Pleasant, W. Va.]

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