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- Farmers of Forty Centuries - 3/48 -
crop, and yet the whole of the rice area produces at least one and sometimes two other crops each year.
The selection of the quick-maturing, drought-resisting millets as the great staple food crops to be grown wherever water is not available for irrigation, and the almost universal planting in hills or drills, permitting intertillage, thus adopting centuries ago the utilization of earth mulches in conserving soil moisture, has enabled these people to secure maximum returns in seasons of drought and where the rainfall is small. The millets thrive in the hot summer climates; they survive when the available soil moisture is reduced to a low limit, and they grow vigorously when the heavy rains come. Thus we find in the Far East, with more rainfall and a better distribution of it than occurs in the United States, and with warmer, longer seasons, that these people have with rare wisdom combined both irrigation and dry farming methods to an extent and with an intensity far beyond anything our people have ever dreamed, in order that they might maintain their dense populations.
Notwithstanding the fact that in each of these countries the soils are naturally more than ordinarily deep, inherently fertile and enduring, judicious and rational methods of fertilization are everywhere practiced; but not until recent years, and only in Japan, have mineral commercial fertilizers been used. For centuries, however, all cultivated lands, including adjacent hill and mountain sides, the canals, streams and the sea have been made to contribute what they could toward the fertilization of cultivated fields and these contributions in the aggregate have been large. In China, in Korea and in Japan all but the inaccessible portions of their vast extent of mountain and hill lands have long been taxed to their full capacity for fuel, lumber and herbage for green manure and compost material; and the ash of practically all of the fuel and of all of the lumber used at home finds its way ultimately to the fields as fertilizer.
In China enormous quantities of canal mud are applied to the fields, sometimes at the rate of even 70 and more tons per acre. So, too, where there are no canals, both soil and subsoil are carried into the villages and there between the intervals when needed they are, at the expense of great labor, composted with organic refuse and often afterwards dried and pulverized before being carried back and used on the fields as home-made fertilizers. Manure of all kinds, human and animal, is religiously saved and applied to the fields in a manner which secures an efficiency far above our own practices. Statistics obtained through the Bureau of Agriculture, Japan, place the amount of human waste in that country in 1908 at 23,950,295 tons, or 1.75 tons per acre of her cultivated land. The International Concession of the city of Shanghai, in 1908, sold to a Chinese contractor the privilege of entering residences and public places early in the morning of each day in the year and removing the night soil, receiving therefor more than $31,000, gold, for 78,000 tons of waste. All of this we not only throw away but expend much larger sums in doing so.
Japan's production of fertilizing material, regularly prepared and applied to the land annually, amounts to more than 4.5 tons per acre of cultivated field exclusive of the commercial fertilizers purchased. Between Shanhaikwan and Mukden in Manchuria we passed, on June 18th, thousands of tons of the dry highly nitrified compost soil recently carried into the fields and laid down in piles where it was waiting to be "fed to the crops."
It was not until 1888, and then after a prolonged war of more than thirty years, generaled by the best scientists of all Europe, that it was finally conceded as demonstrated that leguminous plants acting as hosts for lower organisms living on their roots are largely responsible for the maintenance of soil nitrogen, drawing it directly from the air to which it is returned through the processes of decay. But centuries of practice had taught the Far East farmers that the culture and use of these crops are essential to enduring fertility, and so in each of the three countries the growing of legumes in rotation with other crops very extensively for the express purpose of fertilizing the soil is one of their old, fixed practices.
Just before, or immediately after the rice crop is harvested, fields are often sowed to "clover" (Astragalus sinicus) which is allowed to grow until near the next transplanting time when it is either turned under directly, or more often stacked along the canals and saturated while doing so with soft mud dipped from the bottom of the canal. After fermenting twenty or thirty days it is applied to the field. And so it is literally true that these old world farmers whom we regard as ignorant, perhaps because they do not ride sulky plows as we do, have long included legumes in their crop rotation, regarding them as indispensable.
Time is a function of every life process as it is of every physical, chemical and mental reaction. The husbandman is an industrial biologist and as such is compelled to shape his operations so as to conform with the time requirements of his crops. The oriental farmer is a time economizer beyond all others. He utilizes the first and last minute and all that are between. The foreigner accuses the Chinaman of being always long on time, never in a fret, never in a hurry. This is quite true and made possible for the reason that they are a people who definitely set their faces toward the future and lead time by the forelock. They have long realized that much time is required to transform organic matter into forms available for plant food and although they are the heaviest users in the world, the largest portion of this organic matter is predigested with soil or subsoil before it is applied to their fields, and at an enormous cost of human time and labor, but it practically lengthens their growing season and enables them to adopt a system of multiple cropping which would not otherwise be possible. By planting in hills and rows with intertillage it is very common to see three crops growing upon the same field at one time, but in different stages of maturity, one nearly ready to harvest one just coming up, and the other at the stage when it is drawing most heavily upon the soil. By such practice, with heavy fertilization, and by supplemental irrigation when needful, the soil is made to do full duty throughout the growing season.
Then, notwithstanding the enormous acreage of rice planted each year in these countries, it is all set in hills and every spear is transplanted. Doing this, they save in many ways except in the matter of human labor, which is the one thing they have in excess. By thoroughly preparing the seed bed, fertilizing highly and giving the most careful attention, they are able to grow on one acre, during 30 to 50 days, enough plants to occupy ten acres and in the mean time on the other nine acres crops are maturing, being harvested and the fields being fitted to receive the rice when it is ready for transplanting, and in effect this interval of time is added to their growing season.
Silk culture is a great and, in some ways, one of the most remarkable industries of the Orient. Remarkable for its magnitude; for having had its birthplace apparently in oldest China at least 2700 years B. C.; for having been laid on the domestication of a wild insect of the woods; and for having lived through more than 4000 years, expanding until a million-dollar cargo of the product has been laid down on our western coast and rushed by special fast express to the cast for the Christmas trade.
A low estimate of China's production of raw silk would be 120,000,000 pounds annually, and this with the output of Japan, Korea and a small area of southern Manchuria, would probably exceed 150,000,000 pounds annually, representing a total value of perhaps $700,000,000, quite equaling in value the wheat crop of the United States, but produced on less than one-eighth the area of our wheat fields.
The cultivation of tea in China and Japan is another of the great industries of these nations, taking rank with that of sericulture if not above it in the important part it plays in the welfare of the people. There is little reason to doubt that this industry has its foundation in the need of something to render boiled water palatable for drinking purposes. The drinking of boiled water is universally adopted in these countries as an individually available and thoroughly efficient safeguard against that class of deadly disease germs which thus far it has been impossible to exclude from the drinking water of any densely peopled country.
Judged by the success of the most thorough sanitary measures thus far instituted, and taking into consideration the inherent difficulties which must increase enormously with increasing populations, it appears inevitable that modern methods must ultimately fail in sanitary efficiency and that absolute safety can be secured only in some manner having the equivalent effect of boiling drinking water, long ago adopted by the Mongolian races.
In the year 1907 Japan had 124,482 acres of land in tea plantations, producing 60,877,975 pounds of cured tea. In China the volume annually produced is much larger than that of Japan, 40,000,000 pounds going annually to Tibet alone from the Szechwan province and the direct export to foreign countries was, in 1905, 176,027,255 pounds, and in 1906 it was 180,271,000, so that their annual export must exceed 200,000,000 pounds with a total annual output more than double this amount of cured tea.
But above any other factor, and perhaps greater than all of them combined in contributing to the high maintenance efficiency attained in these countries must be placed the standard of living to which the industrial classes have been compelled to adjust themselves, combined with their remarkable industry and with the most intense economy they practice along every line of effort and of living.
Almost every foot of land is made to contribute material for food, fuel or fabric. Everything which can be made edible serves as food for man or domestic animals. Whatever cannot be eaten or worn is used for fuel. The wastes of the body, of fuel and of fabric worn beyond other use are taken back to the field; before doing so they are housed against waste from weather, compounded with intelligence and forethought and patiently labored with through one, three or even six months, to bring them into the most efficient form to serve as manure for the soil or as feed for the crop. It seems to be a golden rule with these industrial classes, or if not golden, then an inviolable one, that whenever an extra hour or day of labor can promise even a little larger return then that shall be given, and neither a rainy day nor the hottest sunshine shall be permitted to cancel the obligation or defer its execution.
FIRST GLIMPSES OF JAPAN
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