Friday, February 3, 2012

1885 Rebellion and Dry Farming

The development of dry farming methods, were imperative for farming in the Canadian West, especially as the optimistic reports of those such as Henry Youle Hind, were far from the mark in terms of precipitation.  A.S. Morton noted in his History of Prairie Settlement (1938), Hind, touring the West in 1855-56, reported 82 inches of precipitation, while normal rates were closer to 20-25 inches.  Morton notes that the development of summer fallowing, a key dry farming method, may have been influenced by happenstance and the 1885 Rebellion.
Transport train en route from Swift Current to Saskatchewan Landing with supplies for General Middleton and Lt. Col. Otter. Photo donated by Reg. No. 4072, ex-S/Sargeant White.
RCMP Museum, Regina 34.25.III
Summer fallow ploughing on Indian Head farm of Francis, J. H.
Credit: Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-026134
The Bell farm near Indian Head, where one of the major experimental farms would evolve, lost a number of horses to the service of General Middleton's column.  Because of this, much of the ploughing had to wait until June.  In 1885, many of the fields were left on summer fallow as these were too late to plant.  Crops on these fields in 1886, a drought year, were remarkably productive, and summer fallow would later be proven to hold soil moisture for the following year.

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