Sinclair - Hortus Gramineus Woburnensis 1826
DISTINGUISHED Agriculturists and Farmers agree in opinion, that the knowledge of the comparative merits and value of all the different species and varieties of Grasses, and, consequently, of the best mode of cultivating them, is very much behind that of the other branches of Practical Agriculture.
Rye-grass (Lolium perenne) was, till lately, the only species employed for making artificial pastures : it was indebted most probably for this distinction, to its property of ripening an abundance of good seed, and its ready growth in most kinds of soil.
The first mention that I find made of ray-grass in early books on husbandry, is in “The Mystery of Husbandry, Discovered and Laid Open, by I. Worlidge, 1681.” “Ray-grass,” says he, “by which they improve any cold, sour, clay, weeping lands, for which it is best, but good also for drier upland grounds, especially stony, light, or sandy lands, which is unfit for sainfoin, hath the precedence of all other grasses” these are, “sainfoin, lucerne, clover, tares, spurrey, and trefoil,” which include all the plants he mentions as grasses. The account of ray-grass thus concludes : “Four acres of this grass hath yielded twenty quarters of seed and fourteen load of fodder, besides the spring and autumn feeding, whereon six or eight cattle usually grazed.”
There is no account of any other species of perennial grass being cultivated, till about forty years since, when meadow cat's-tail (Phleum pratense) was partially recommended for cultivation ; and lately the culture of* cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata) has been considerably extended, so as to supersede the use of rye-grass in some districts, through the successful practice and recommendation of Mr. Coke, of Norfolk.
Thus, out of 215 distinct species of grass, which are capable of being cultivated in this climate, (many of which differ in value from each other, as much as wheat does from pilcorn), two only have been cultivated separately to any extent. The cause of so much delay in the advancement of improvement in this important branch of the Farmer's art, may appear extraordinary ; but there have been serious difficulties in the way.
“Grass,” says Professor Martyn, “vulgarly forms one single idea ; and a husbandman, when he is looking over his enclosure, does not dream that there are upwards of three hundred species of grass, of which thirty or forty may be at present under his eye. They have scarcely had a name, besides the general one, till within these twenty years ; and the few particular names that have been given them are far from having obtained general use : so that we may fairly assert, that the knowledge of this most common and useful tribe of plants is yet in its infancy.” * [Martyn's Letters on the Elements of Botany. Letter XIII.] Botanists have ascertained that there are 133 distinct species and varieties of grass, natives of Great Britain : every one of these species differs, in a less or greater degree, from all others, in the qualities which alone render them of value to the Farmer : comparatively speaking, some grasses are of no value to him, whilst others constitute the foundation of his riches, as they are the staff of life to the most valuable domestic animals. Now, though the numerous species and varieties of grasses differ so widely from each other in value, yet the similarity which pervades their whole structure is too great to afford any certain marks of distinction, without having recourse to particular rules, made from a consideration of those parts of their structure which are not subject to vary from culture or change of situation. The botanical or discriminating characters, of which these rules consist, are often minute, and sometimes perplexing, even to professed Botanists : to those, therefore, who have made Botany no part of their study, the number and difference of value of all the species and varieties of grass will appear comparatively small, and the necessity and importance of a particular selection proportionally little. The natural consequence resulting from this is the want of seed, which the Farmer might select from the most valuable kinds, and employ the means of cultivating these, exclusive of the less valuable or useless.
Grasses have been recommended by persons who had formed their judgment of their merits on imperfect trials, which has caused disappointment, and discouraged many from farther endeavours at improvement. Conclusions that are drawn from the results of single or minute experiments, without accurately ascertaining the nature or qualities of the soils upon which they are made, will be found often fallacious, and, even in the latter instance, can only stand for single facts, which may lead to other trials, but cannot furnish sufficient grounds for a general recommendation. Nor should a grass Be too hastily rejected ; the results of one trial only will be found insufficient to form a true estimate of its real value : it may be a very profitable plant for permanent pasture, though not for the alternate husbandry, and it may be more valuable for hay than for permanent pasture : for instance, the meadow fox-tail (Alopecurus pratensis) is an early, productive, and nutritive grass, but requires a longer period to arrive at perfection from seed than two years : it is therefore, comparatively, unfit for the alternate husbandry, though highly valuable for permanent pasture. The meadow cat's-tail (Phleum pratense) is remarkable for its weighty produce of culms, which are more nutritive than those of any other grass, but the aftermath is very inconsiderable ; it is, in consequence, a most valuable grass for hay, but requires to be combined with other species of grass, whose produce consists principally of lattermath, to render its culture so profitable, as it doubtless is, for hay. Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata) arrives soon at perfection ; it is early, and abundantly productive of nutritive foliage throughout the season : its culms, or stalks, however, are but little nutritive : it is therefore most profitable for the alternate husbandry, or permanent pasture, where culms are less necessary. Under these different relations, therefore, a grass should be considered, before it be absolutely rejected, or indiscriminately recommended. But allowing that the different grasses were easily distinguished from each other with certainty, and that Farmers were in possession of the respective seeds, yet the length of time it would require to prove the relative value of any considerable number of them, by the usual mode of making experiments for this purpose, with the heavy expense attending on failures, would discourage almost any individual from an undertaking which, however beneficial the results might ultimately prove to the community at large, would be attended with a great and certain expense for an uncertain return.
The works of Linnaeus, Smith, Stillingfleet, Hudson, Curtis, Martyn, and many others, have been productive of much good, in calling the attention of Agriculturists to a more particular examination of the comparative merits of the different grasses, and in affording the means of distinguishing the different species and varieties with more certainty.
The valuable labours of the Agricultural Societies of Great Britain, of the Board of Agriculture of Stuttgart, and the patriotic exertions of eminent individuals in the same cause, have raised a spirit of inquiry, which cannot fail to produce the most beneficial effects in this important branch of practical Agriculture. A hope of promoting these views was the motive that induced the Duke of Bedford to institute the following series of experiments. But before entering into the details, the author may be permitted to say a few words respecting the additions which have been made to the work since the first edition in folio was printed.
In the original copy of this work, the catalogue of proper grasses contained upwards of three hundred and twenty species of grasses ; but in this edition the number of distinct species of the proper grasses enumerated, amounts to about one thousand five hundred. Particulars of the results of the author's researches and inquiries, in some of the richest and most fattening pastures in Devonshire, Lincolnshire, and in the Vale of Aylesbury, will also be found in their proper places. Those results were most satisfactory, being fully demonstrative of the truth of the conclusions which had been drawn from the results of former and of recent experiments made on those grasses, and other plants, which the author found to constitute the entire herbage of these celebrated pastures. The proportions in which the different grasses and plants were found combined in these pastures, were carefully ascertained by personal examinations of the pastures, and by the aid of portions of the turf being transplanted to the experimental grass-garden. The important subject of saving the seeds of the essential permanent pasture grasses on every farm, for the supply of its own wants, will be found pointed out, and directions given for putting it into immediate practice. The soils of the pastures most celebrated for fattening have been chemically examined, and the results stated. The comparative value of several new species of grasses, not mentioned in the former edition, is stated in this. The table of contents will shew the arrangement of the details of the work ; and the index will point out any particular object of inquiry connected with the cultivation of the grasses, and with the comparative value of the different species. The new mode of returning tillage land to pasture, named transplanting turf, is mentioned in the Appendix, and its merits discussed. The results of the author's inquiries respecting the best kinds of grasses for the supply of straw in the manufacture of straw bonnets, in imitation of the celebrated Leghorn manufacture, will also be found in the Appendix.
The figures of the seeds and of the plants of grasses, given in this work, except those of Holcus odoratus repens and Poa annua, are by Mr. Louis Parez, and drawn on stone. The figure of Holcus odoratus repens is engraved on copper, and that of the Poa annua on wood.
The author earnestly solicits such of his readers as may not yet have made Botany a part of their study, to examine well the dissections of the flowers of the grasses which are given in this work, and which accompany each figure, and to compare these with the flowers of the living plants ; and then, by the aid of the botanical description of the plant accompanying each figure, a sound, and not a superficial knowledge, will be obtained ; and by a little perseverance, every species of grass may soon be determined by the botanical description only.
It is high encouragement to the author, that the important subject of which this work treats is patronized by the illustrious and beneficent Monarch, the King of Wurtemberg ; and His Majesty's gracious permission, to so humble an individual as the author, to dedicate the German translation of this work to His Majesty, must ever continue to excite and encourage him to persevere in the laborious path of experimental research after useful knowledge.The task of translating this work into the German language has happily fallen into the very best hands ; for to superior acquirements in the languages, Mr. Schmidt adds the essential attainment of an intimate scientific and practical knowledge of the subject of the work.