On the Application of Lime to Early 19th Century Farmland (Parts 3 and 4)


In my last post, I partly published Sir John Sinclair’s missives on liming farmland in his General Report of the Agricultural State, Volume II. from 1814.  The man had divided his instructions into four parts and my design is to keep this format intact for both the readers of Of Woodbridge and Hedgely, who would enjoy further information on the agrarian chemistry mentioned in the novel, and also for those with a historical curiosity on the state of farming in the early 19th century.  Let’s get started:

3. How Land is Managed After Lime is Applied

Increased yields as a function of liming magnitude
Increased yields as a function of liming magnitude

Many farmers have found, to their cost, that land which has received a complete liming should be rested from cropping or laid down for pasture as early as can be accomplished. But this being often inconvenient, a gentle and easy mode of cropping is generally adopted, such as may be sufficient to counteract the effects that lime would otherwise produce. Alternate white and green crops are peculiarly calculated for obtaining so desirable an end, and if these are properly cultivated the soil will not soon be exhausted.

4. What Are the Effects of Lime?


In bringing in newer maiden soils the use of lime is found to be so essential that little good could be done without it. Its first application in particular gives a degree of permanent fertility to the soil which can be imparted by no other manure. Its effects indeed are hardly to be credited, but the correctness of the following facts cannot be disputed. Maiden soils in Lammermuir of a tolerable quality will, with the force of sheep’s dung or other animal manures, produce a middling crop of oats or rye, but the richest animal dung does not enable them to bring any other grain to maturity. Peas, barley, or wheat will at first assume the most promising appearance, but when the peas are in bloom and the other grains are putting forth the ear, they proceed no farther and dwindle away in fruitless abortion. The same soils after getting even a slight dressing of lime will produce every species of grain, and in good seasons, bring them to maturity, always supposing the ground to be under proper culture, and the climate adapted to the crop. Lime is also peculiarly beneficial in improving moorish soils by making them produce good herbage, where nothing but heath and unpalatable grasses grew formerly.