UNDERDRAINING AND MOISTURE. In addition to what has been stated in the body of the work, we give place to some new matter Just made publib by a practical drainage expert of Ohib, who, speaking of earlier days, says : Many have probably passed through this country in an early day, who will remember it as a low, swampy land, unfit for anything but muskrats and fish to live in, full of ague, or " the shakes," as it was called. In consequence, this part of the country was given a wide berth until within the last fifteen years, when the farmers began to wake up to the fact that they had the best land that lies out of doors. 'The writer then relates his experience as follows : We first tried mole ditching, but this would not last but a year or so. Then our outlets were not good. Then we got the county interested, and our main ditches were dug by the county, each man being taxed, or he could dig his part to the value to which he was benefited. Our township ditches were con structed on the same plan. These big‘ ditches cost a great deal of money; most of them require cleaning out every year. Into these other ditches were dug to drain off the fields, but it was found they took up valuable ground, and would not draw the water from any distance.
- 71 We found tile would draw the water a rod on each side for each foot in depth ; this an open ditch will not do. In other words, is a good tile drain there is always a suction. An open ditch does not pay. It is a big expense to dig it, and then it is a constant source of expense, requiring cleaning. Stock gets in, especially sheep, while the first crop over the ditch would pay for the tile. The tile drain will last a life time. We have tile drains here that have six rows of six-inch tile in them, carrying enough water to run a saw mill. Does it pay? Yes. Before the tile was put in, the land was worth nothing ; now it will sell for $75 to $100 per acre, and will produce seventy-five to 100 bushels of corn per acre. Does tile draining lessen the soil moisture during droughts? No, emphatic ally no! It increases it, rather. If there is no moisture above the tile, it comes up from below; not water, but moisture such as the roots of corn or other plants need. This moisture goes up through the stalks of the plant, and into the air through the leaves. If you are the happy possessor of a farm, underdrain it, no matter whether it is wet or not. Our heavy, clayey soils need underdraining worse than the black ground. Talk about your fertilizers! Five hundred dollars invested in good underdraining will g•oduce more corn and wheat . than one thousand dollars in fertilizers. Hark! I hear some big Eastern farmer say, "I don't believe it ; how do you make that out?" Fertilizing has got to be done year after year ; but it is a good thing, and it beats nothing. But did you ever stop to think that Mother Earth has lying within her all the properties for plant life? The elements not in the earth are in the air. All you have to` do is to get them together. The • plant life of which the air is composed must circulate in the ground to a greater or less ex tent ; and that of the earth must combine with that of the air. Mix the two greater producers of plant life above and below ground. Then plant your seeds, tend them well, and you will be repaid a hundred fold. Underdraining is of vast importance. By a% thorough system the ground which heretofore has run together, been muddy, sticky, and so close that water would never get through it, and would only get away by evaporation, if rendered porous, the air cir culates through the tile and up into the soil, carrying moisture to the roots of the plants. In a wet time, when there is a surplus of water, it is carried off within two or three hours, so there can be no damage to the growing crops.. If your ground is underdrained it will never bake and crack, but it will break up like an ash heap. Another great advantage is that it takes only about half the labor to put out a crop and take care of it. The ground can be plowed while your neighbors are waiting for theirs to dry off. You need no roller, as there are no clods. The cost of digging the drains can be done for about seven cents per foot, or twenty-one cents per yard, for a ditch three feet deep. It is neces sary to have good outlets where there is much water to carry off. Sometimes it is well to put in two or three rows of tile in one drain. Each foot in depth will draw the water from a rod on each side. After a heavy rain is the best time to lay off drains. In a great many soils an out let can be dispensed with. An outlet is better if it can be had ; if it cannot, lay off the drain, dig about two and a half or three feet deep. In throwing out the dirt you can tell ground that is porous, such as gravel or sandy soil. Such a place will be the outlet. Now lay about a three inch tile, costing about seven cents per rod, cover them, and you have a good drain. ' A great many ponds and low places are merely basins ; when once broken through the water all seeps away. Where tile cannot be had, a drain can be dug with a shoulder in it, or, as some would mint, a step. Boards can be cut and laid in the drain, one end on the step, the other on the bottom of the drain, on the oppo site side. There is another way. Lay down two logs in the bottom of the drain and another on top of the two. This makes a cheap drain, and will last for years. Do not stop at draining the black, swampy land, but drain your heavy, clayey soil as well. Within a few years you will have a valuable farm. A breaking plow, with three horses, is a good thing to take off the top soil with. It can be made to cut a fur row eight inches deep. To fill in a drain after
the tile are laid, take a spade and cave the dirt in around the tile, so there will be no danger of disturbing them. Then hitch two horses to a scraper ; have them hitched out long so they will not get in the drain. It will take two men, one to.drive and the other to hold the scraper. Get the scraper back of the dirt, then drive up until the scraper comes to the brink of the drain so the dirt will fall in ; then back the horses, pull the scraper over, and go again. Two men, with a team, will lay the tile and fill in two hun dred rods of a drain a day. The dirt must' be all on one side of the drain to be filled in to an advantage with above plan. To fill in a drain where it is too wide for a scraper and a team, take a plank ten or twelve feet long. To this bolt the' wheels of a sulky corn-plow on each end. One-third the distance of the plank bore a hole for a clevis. To this a plow. Hitch two horses on the short end of the plank and one on the long end. With this arrangement the horses are away from all danger. You can fill in, with three hands, two hundred and fifty rods in a day. In digging the drains, a common hand will throw out six rods three feet deep in a day, while a good hand will do nine to ten rods. So a man can estimate the cost any way he chooses. On underdraining he will clear on his investment one hundred to a thousand per cent., provided he does the work in a good, systematic way. In relation to soil moisture, of soils drained and un drained, Prof. T. F. Hunt, assistant in Agircul ture University of Illinois, has continually made elaborate experiments, this very dry season, to test soil moisture in land tile-drained and un drained. We have already stated that the guess work theory of visionaries that drainage caused drought was entirely unfounded. So far as in creased soil moisture in drained as against un drained soil is concerned, the experience of prac tical men is in favor of the drained land during droughts. It is also a fixed fact that the soil moisture in cultivated land under the same condi tion is superior to that in undrained soil. It is not necessary to give the long details by which Prof. Hunt arrived at his conclusions. The summary is as follows: Eighty samples of soil, forty from the first foot in depth, anti forty from second, taken in Champaign, Marion and Han cock Counties, between August 1 and 19, 1887, gave an average of 13.2 per cent. of water. This in two feet of soil is equal to four inches of rain fall or 110,000 gallons of water per acre. This is about equal to the average monthly rainfall in this region, and is over four times the rainfall in Champaign County during the two months previous to making the tests as reported by the observer for the Illinois State Weather Service. Forty-four samples taken in Champaign County gave an average of 13.5 per cent. of water. This is a little more than one-fourth the amount con tained by a thoroughly saturated soil. Twenty two samples of first foot contained on an average 12.0 per cent., and a like number of secondloot 15.0 per cent. of water. The lowest per cent. of water found in first foot of soil was 8.5. It was found in two instances—in an oat stubble and a clover stubble. The clover was green and grow ing, while blue grass and timothy on adjacent soil containing an average of 9.7 per cent. of water, was parched. The highest per cent. in first foot, 16.0, was found in a broom-corn field in two instances, in one instance tiled and one untiled. Twelve per cent. was the lowestfound in second foot, being in an oat stubble, and 18.4 the highest, being in a corn field. Comparing the average of forty samples taken on tiled and untiled land, which are in some measure com parable, there was found to be in two feet of tiled soil 14.1 per cent. of water, and 13.2 in un tiled land. In first foot, 13.6 in tiled and 11.3 in untiled; in second foot, 14.5 in tiled and 15.0 in untiled. Comparing the average of samples, Nos. 9 to 16, which for reasons before given are the only samples strictly comparable as to the tiled and untiled land, there was found in two feet of soil 15.3 per cent. of water in tiled, and 14.0 in untiled land; in first foot, 14.4 in tiled and 13.3 in untiled; in second foot, 16.2 in tiled and 14.8 in untiled. As to conclusions : on the whole, it may be said, that no striking difference was found in the amount of water in tiled and untiled land. The difference in all probability amounts practically to nothing, but such as it is, it is in favor of tiled laud. There need be no fear, therefore, that thelaying of tile, which has been pushed forward with such enter prise and good judgment by the Illinois farmer, in the last ten years, will ever prove anything but a benefit, and he may keep on laying it at the rate of 12,000 miles annually with the per fect assurance that he will get abundant returns for the capital invested. On the other hand, the increased yield of crops claimed to be produced on tiled land during drought must be explained on other grounds than the increased percentage of moisture. Fifty-six samples of soil taken in fields growing cultivated and uncultivated crops, show somewhat more moisture in soil growing cultivated than in that growing uncultivated crops. In two feet deep there was an average of 13.6 per cent.; in first foot 12.0 vs. 10.3, and in second foot 15.0 vs. 12.8 per cent. respectively. In an artificial test of cultivated and uncultivated fallow land, the uncultivated was found to lose nearly twice as much moisture as the cultivated land. The excess of water lost in uncultivated land in one week was equal to a rainfall of one fourth of an inch. (See also Draining.)