Alfalfa.This leguminous plant was cultivated in ancient times by the Egyptians, Medes, Persians, Greeks and Romans. It is called lucerne in all countries of Europe, except Spain, where it is known by its Arabic namealfalfa. Early in the history of the western continent the Spaniards carried alfalfa to South America, where it escaped from cultivation and is said to be found today growing wild over large areas. Alfalfa was carried from Chile to California about the year 1853 and from there it has spread eastward to the Mississippi riverand beyond. It was also introduced into America by the Germans, who planted it in New York as early as 1820. Alfalfa was grown in Kansas earlier than 1891, but not until then does the Kansas State Board of Agriculture give a report of its acreage in its statistics on tame grasses. The table for 1891 shows three counties, Miami, Atchison, and Johnson as growing no alfalfa whatever. It shows the counties of Stanton, Ness, Neosho, Morton, Linn, Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Cherokee, Crawford, Doniphan, Franklin, Haskell, Jefferson and Leavenworth as growing 10 acres or less per county, the counties of Chase, Cloud, Gray, Kearney, Lyon, Saline, Sedgwick and Wabaunsee as growing more than 1,000 acres per county and Finney county as growing 5,717 acres; the total acreage for the whole state being 34,384.
Alfalfa is an upright, branching, smooth perennial plant, growing from one to three feet high. It is often called "Alfalfa clover," because of its resemblance to clover. It has a pea blossom and a leaf of three leaflets; is adapted to a wide range of soils and climate, and is considered by good authorities to be the best forage plant ever discovered. It is now grown in every county in Kansas and 90 per cent of the arable land is suitable for its production. There are only two conditions under which it will not grow. When rock is found within four or five feet of the surface and the soil is dry down to the rock, or where the soil is not drained and is wet a considerable part of the year. The young alfalfa plant is one of the weakest grown and is especially feeble in securing from the soil the nitrogen it needs to develop it. Mature alfalfa plants obtain their nitrogen from the air while their deep growing roots gather potash and phosphoric acid from the subsoil. Alfalfa from one seeding can be expected to live from three to fifteen or more years. Its value as a stock food and as an article of commerce has made it one of the foremost of Kansas crops. The experiment station at Manhattan has investigated its properties and tested its worth, and the recommendation given it has done to increase its growth in Kansas. The statistics of 1908 show alfalfa production in six counties as being less than 100 acres per county, thirty-three counties have areas from 10,000 to 35,000 acres each, and Jewell county had 60,018 acres in alfalfa, the acreage of the whole state reaching 878,283.
The growing appreciation of alfalfa as a stock and dairy food, the slight expense and little waste in handling it, have led to the manufacture of several food preparations. In some cases these are made by simply grinding the alfalfa into meal, and at other times they are a mixture of the meal with molasses or other ingredients. The manifold uses of alfalfa give it a prominent place in modern agriculture and large areas in western Kansas are giving a return of from $15 to $35 per acre from their alfalfa fields where but a few years ago the land was deemed worthless.Pages 57-58 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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