Old Newspaper Articles from Capper’s Farmer May 1929: Sustainable Farming, Success of an Apple Orchard, and a John Deere Tractor Advertisement

Take a look at agriculture news stories from the May 1929 issue of Capper’s Farmer.

| Summer 2016

Johnstone farm house

An image from the May 1929 issue of Capper's Farmer, showing the Johnstone farm home.

Photo courtesy Capper's Farmer archives

A System That Builds Yields

By M.N. Beeler

The Johnstone farms originally had been fertile. But a generation or so ago, folks weren’t concerned with soil maintenance. Several years of tenant farming had reduced crop yields below the possibility of profit. So fertility was the first problem G.C. Johnstone had when he took over the two places just after he graduated from college 19 years ago. He knew how to meet it. Corn and oats made 30 bushels an acre on one of the places. Today, that same place is making upwards of 75 bushels of each crop.

Without those increases, the farms could not be operated at a profit under present conditions. It is unlikely that they paid any return 20 years ago. Mr. Johnstone knew that good yields are the foundation of any profitable system of farming. He adopted practices which ensure better yields. He is following the Illinois system of permanent fertility. It is designed to build and maintain fertility. It involves a rotation containing legumes, the application of limestone, manure and other fertilizers where conditions require. The farm organization and management program that goes with that system involves a maximum livestock project. The combination wins. It hasn’t failed wherever it has been practiced faithfully in Illinois or elsewhere. Mr. Johnstone included hogs, Shorthorns and draft horses in his livestock project. They gave a market for his grains and for the legume pasture which were so essential to fertility development. They provided manure.

“When I took charge of the farms, they had been rented for several years,” said Mr. Johnstone. “Corn, oats and some clover were the principal crops. No effort had been made to follow a definite rotation. I established one within three or four years, and have held to it ever since, even during the war.”

The rotation consisted of corn, oats and legume pasture. Lime, manure and phosphates have been applied where  needed. In connection with the rotation, Mr. Johnstone has maintained a livestock project, including beef cattle, hogs and draft horses. Two types of soil are found on the two farms, a black clay loam and a brown silt loam. The brown silt was the poorer and evidently had a lower fertility originally than the black. Greatest effort was expended on the brown, therefore, to bring crop yields up to the level of those on the black.

“The home place hadn’t been abused so extensively,” Mr. Johnstone explained. “Corn yields averaged about 40 bushels an acre, but that was too low. The other farm had been rented longer, and I believe it produced about 27 or 28 bushels of corn the last year it was rented. Oats made 30 bushels. In 1927, corn made 72 bushels, and the Iowa oats we harvested this year made 74. Corn on the home place made 74 bushels, and one 14-acre field made 93. That farm has been in the family since it was entered from the government at $1.25 an acre. It originally was fertile, but now it is making better yields and producing more than it did when it was virgin soil.”

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