THE ENGLISH AGRICULTURAL RETURNS FOR 1879.
The most striking feature of the Agricultural Returns for 1879, which were issued to the public in their complete form recently, is the fact that, in spite of a scries of bad agricultural years, the area of laud under cultivated crops and permanent pasture has increased. The increase for the whole <>f the United Kingdon is put down at 110,205 acres, or rather, that is the quantity which we get by deducting the total decrease from the total increase, the odd hundreds not being reckoned by Mr. Gillen in his introductory statement. A considerable proportion of the increase Mr. Giffen attributes to the greater correctness of the Returns ; hut it is known that some land has been reclaimed recently, so that we may safely conclude that there lias boon a real increase, though a small one. The whole of this increase, and more besides, is absorbed in the area of permanent pasture, all cultivated crops except green crops and flax having decreased in acreage since 1878. From the first tabic we derive the following summary —For the United Kingdom there is an increase ;n green crops of 39,301 acres, in permanent pasture of 330,511 acres, in flax of 15,984 acres, and in hare fallow of 88,020 acres, the total increase being 473,882 acres. Tbo decreased m cas aie coin crops, 252,710 acres ; clover and grasses under rotation, 100,843 acres ; and hops, 4,118 acres ; a total decrease of 363,077. The increase of bare fallow may be regarded as an accidental circumstance occasioned by inability to get some crops sown on account of the unfavorable seasons, and the destruction of others by the severe weather of last winter. Apart from that we find that the net decrease in the area of cultivated crops, 324,310 acres, is absorbed in the increase of permanent pasture, and more besides. Jhe increase in the area under green crops is chiefly due to a larger growth of potatoes ; but we are surprised to see also au increase in the acreage of vetches, after a winter which killed so much of the autumnsown crop. We may account for the increase in the growth of clovers ana cultivated grasses, as we may for that of corn crops, by the laying down of land in permanent pasture. Rye grass, intended to remain for only two years, has in many cases been left to become permanent pasture, with or without the aid of renovating grasses. Mr. Gifi’en remarks upon- the steady decrease in the growth of wheat, which is now nearly a million acres less than it was in 1869. Allowing for the unusual decrease of 328,000 acres since last year, as in great part the consequence of an unfavorable seed time, there is still a great reduction. There is nothing astonishing in this, as at the prices which have prevailed for wheat in recent years, there has been no inducement to go out of the way to grow it as there was in former times. Barley has to a considerable extent taken the ground lost by wheat, as from the comparatively high price of the former grain we might have expected it would. The growth of barley as a filth crop, after wheat, which has for some time bo 3ii an increasing practice, is alone sufficient to account for the decreased ai ea of wheat and the increased acreage of barley. Where this practice has token the place of the four-course system, wheat is grown once in five years instead of once in four, while barley is grown twice in five years instead of twice in eight. Longer rotations have an approximately similar result. The decrease in the area of hop gardens is, no doubt, chiefly owing to the low prices ; but there was a great increase a few years back. A reference to previous returns shows great fluctuations in the acreage of this crop. Thus we see that in 1808 the area was 04,455 acres ; in 1809, 01,785 acres ; in 1874, 00,000 acres ; in L 877, 71,239 acres; in 1878, 71,789 acres ; and in 1879, 07,071 acres. It will be seen that the area is still larger than it was ten years ago by nearly 10,000 acres. The increase in orchards to the extent of about 10,000 acres, is a subject for congratulation. Turning to the returns of live stock we find those for horses, which were not included in the abstract, commented on in our columns on August 25. We are glad to notice an increase in the number of horses, as returned by occupiers of land in the United Kingdom, by 28,328. The increase is chilly in unbroken horses and mares kept for breeding, and Mr. Gifl’on points out that since 1870 the horses thus classified in Great Britain alone have increased nearly fifty per cent. With respect to cattle, sheep, and pigs, the complete return gives fuller information than w’o are able to derive from the abstract, and slightly alters the figures. The increase the total number of cattle in the United Kingdom is 200,248, as compared with the number in 1878. In sheep and lambs there is a decrease of 33,000, and in pigs of 589,854. We are glad to notice that milch cows in Great Britain have increased in number by two per cent., and young cattle by seven per cent., as an increase in milk production and breeding was greatly to be desired. With respect to the decrease in sheep and lambs, the fact that sheep over a year in age have increased, shows that the falling off in the total for all ages is to be ascribed to the bad lambing season, and the losses which followed. As to pigs, with American pork coming into the country at extremely low prices, it is no wonder that home breeders should find their calling unromunerative, especially as most of them have not yet learned how to manufacture pork suitable to the public taste—neat small pigs, with a fair proportion of lean to the fat. On the whole, the Agricultural Returns for 1879 arc by no means discouraging, as they do not show the full extent of the distress which has only attained its maximum since they were collected. We greatly fear that the returns of next year will have a more unsatisfactory tale to tell. The returns for the present year contain a groat deal of useful information, either not previously given, or given by separate returns from the Board of Trade. The statement showing the acreage under hops in each county in which they are grown, and in each of certain districts of Kent, is interesting. AVc learn from it that out of 67,071 acres under hops this year 43,407 acres are in Kent, 9979 in Sussex, 5947 in Hereford, 3004 in Hants, 2009 in Worcester, 2370 in Surrey, 90 in Shropshire, 71 in Suffolk, 38 in Gloucester, 35 in Essex, 35 in Nottingham, 14 in Berks, 3 in Herts, 2in Lincoln, and 1 in Devon. The val uablo«r#turn moved for by Sir G. Balfour, showing the quantities and values of the imports of live stock and meat, and another return showing the quantities and values of other kind'of imported food are also given in the volume before us. Another valuable new table is that numbered 24, which is a return of f-be average prices qf various kinds of iqeat, and provisions in each year frem 1859 to 1878 inclusive. Tables 25, 26, and 27 are also new to the Agricultural Returns. They give the average prices of corn, wool, and butchers’ meat respectively, in each year from 1859 to 1878. Lastly, we may mention the table which comes last in the- volume, giving the population of the United Kingdom, and the value of the imports of live stock, corn, and flour, and various kinds of Bead meat and pi’ovisions in each year from 1859 to 1878 inclusive, with the proportion of value per head of population.
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