Chapter 20



Wanted, a New Fertilizer—How “Golden” Forests Drop Gold—Why the Fields Near Berlin are so Productive—How We Lose $5,000,000 a Year—The Peat Treasures of New Jersey—Fortunes in Phosphates—Millions of Fish on Land as well as in the Sea—$1,000,000 for Him Who will Pick It Up.

We are yet in the infancy of this important product. The desideratum is a fertilizer that will do the best work in the least bulk. The 4,565,000 farmers and vegetable growers of the United States will make independently rich the man who can produce a good fertilizer at small cost of transportation. The field of chemistry is particularly rich in suggestions; experiments in this line are constantly going on, and there is reason to hope that an agricultural Edison will soon arise. Meanwhile, there is money in the following fertilizers:

  1. Garbage.—Every truck load of garbage is worth at least a dollar for manuring purposes, and yet thousands of these loads are dumped every day into the water. Instead of the city paying a round sum for the removal of garbage, it ought to receive a bonus from a contractor who knows how to turn it to account.
  2. Leaves.—Rotted leaves form the rich base from which nearly all our forests, and indeed nearly all the vegetation of the earth, springs. The number of loads of leaves that fall from the trees in the autumn are entirely incalculable. The keeper of a country livery stable could add one half to his compost heap, and thus double his sale of fertilizers.
  3. Urban Sewage.—The best of all fertilizers is allowed to float out to sea and is lost. The Germans are wiser. They utilize all these waste products, and the surprising fertility of the soil near Berlin is the result of this wise employment of nature’s richest fertilizer. There are fortunes for those who will study the foreign system and apply it to the large cities of this country.
  4. Ashes.—We lose at least $5,000,000 annually in the waste of ashes. In the cultivation of gardens and city lots, where the expense of transportation is small, there is a field for the profitable use of this fertilizer. It could be combined with some product rich in phosphates, as, for example, bone dust, and then put up in barrels for sale. An Ash Fertilizer Company would pay.
  5. Phosphates.—The phosphate rocks of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia contain fortunes for the men who will develop those industries. The quantity is practically unlimited, and the price of phosphate is $18 a ton. Cheap freights will make these rocks mines of wealth.
  6. Cottonseed Meal.—This sells for $20 to $25 a ton, and being a waste product the cost is light. Its sale could be made more general among the farmers if they knew its value.
  7. City Stables.—Much of the product of city stables is carried to the country in barges and sold, but more is wasted; especially is this the case with single and small stables in the suburbs, where the accumulation is light, and the law does not require its removal. But a systematic collection of these products would pay any one who should undertake it on a large scale.
  8. Peat.—New Jersey has more than 1,000 square miles of peat lands, for the most part undeveloped. The peat is from three to six feet in depth. When phosphates are selling for $18 a ton, there ought to be a market for peat at $5, which would still leave a good margin of profit, if, as seems entirely reasonable, the labor and freightage could be covered for $3.
  9. Menhaden.—The farmers of the eastern end of Long Island have found this an excellent fertilizer. The fish are strewn whole upon the land. More than 1,000,000 of the tiny creatures, or upward of 100 tons, have been caught by one vessel in a single day. The industry is chiefly confined to the vicinity of Gardiner’s Island, but it might be made profitable along other parts of the coast.
  10. Fish Scrap.—The chemists’ valuation is $41 a ton, but it ordinarily sells for $35 to $38. It is, admirably adapted for plant food. One of the largest producers of dry ground fish claims that the farmer gets more for his money in this than in any other fertilizer.
  11. Soot.—For some crops soot is one of the most powerful of all fertilizers, and yet it is allowed to go to waste. The total amount of soot produced in London twenty years ago was 1,100,810 bushels, and is probably about the same for New York to-day. The average price was five cents a bushel, and the total worth $109,165. Probably in this country—at least until its worth is discovered—it could in most cases be obtained free by any one who will take the trouble to pick up this $100,000.

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