The following letter by Robert F. W. Allston was addressed to the Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office and apprises him of the current system of cultivation in use among large-scale rice planters, including Joshua John Ward, in the Peedee. It is one of the most informative documents reflecting on the issue of restoring nutritive elements to the soil of impoundment fields.
REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PATENTS FOR THE YEAR 1850. Part II: AgricultureHouse of Representatives, 13th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, D.C., 1851), pp. 323-25.Document # 32 Rice CultureMatanza Plantation on Pee Dee, near Georgetown, SC 6th January, 1851Sir:--My time has been so much otherwise engrossed since the harvest that it has not been in my power to communicate with you earlier, and now (if indeed it be not too late for your purpose) I must write briefly, and generally, in relation to the rice crop.Our lands are improving under the grateful influence of the fallows and rotation practiced by me, as that of a system, first in 1837-8, and they produce now rice of better quality than formerly. So much is this the fact, that there is a class of purchasers rec- ognized in the Charleston market who will be con- tent with nothing but the choicest samples, and for these they are willing to pay an extra price.This system, extended as it is, and greatly improved, in the hands of my observant, skilful, and judicious neighbors of Waccamaw and Sandy Island, by manuring with rice-straw, chaff, and even flour, has been one among the chief means of producing the beautiful ‘long-grain’ rice (cultivated now by the two most successful and experienced planters in this district, and by not more than two others, as far as I know) in the highest state of maturity.Rice straw has long been valued as an excellent manure, when listed in and rotted, for upland corn and potatoes. It has latterly been used in the same way as a dressing for rice in the fallow swamp-land, on Sandy Island, and with favorable results.Rice chaff, too, which formerly was discharged from the mill into the “race-way,” in order to get rid of it, since its analysis by Prof. Shepard, for our Agricul- tural Society, is now used to some extent in renovat- ing old lands. It is distributed over the surface, some three inches deep, and ploughed in, stimulating the production of the soil, and improving the quality of the grain.Rice flour, notoriously of value as food for hogs, cattle, and poultry, and selling readily, when corn is scarce, at from 12 to 20 cents per bushel, has, with a very few years past, contributed its share towards improving in both quality and quantity a particular crop in Waccamaw.The crop of last year, (1850-1), affording, as it does, a good portion of very prime rice, where the salt- water did not affect it, will prove to be some 10 per cent. Short, as estimated by us. This diminution is believed to be owing, chiefly, to the high winds which passed over the tide-lands about the middle of August last, when the greater half of the growing rice-plants were still in bloom.Rice is essentially a ‘swamp-seed’ here. We do not cultivate any on the upland.Every year, however, it is grown in small patches in the interior, and tended mostly with the plough.The best kind of rice for this purpose is, I believe, the old-fashioned ‘white-seed,’ which was the only variety cultivated in the State until late in the last century, when was introduced among tide-swamp planters the ‘gold-seed rice,’ which is now univer- sally approved. The ‘bearded rice,’ a variety of white rice, with a very long awn, was imported some years ago for this very purpose, (upland planting) but, I believe, it is now nowhere seen but to be eradicated.The ‘long-grain’ seed alluded to above, some account of which is given in the proceedings of the State Agricultural Society of South Carolina, is the choicest variety now cultivated in this region. Like the ordinary seed, it requires particular care and attention throughout the process of culture, to have it produced of the primest quality. But, when thus produced, if it be carefully milled and skillfully prepated, the long-grain rice will command in the winter market from 50 cents to $1 per 100 lbs. more than the very best qualities of the ordinary small grain.For example, during the month of December just past, the market in Charleston for small grain has ranged from $3 and $3.25 for prime, to $3.37 1⁄2 and $3.50 per 100 lbs. for choice. Whereas the market for long grain has been influenced by fancy. Prices have been obtained for this kind of $4.25 per 100 lbs., $4.50 also, and even $5 for a small fancy lot.These prices are never reported; but, having been informed that they were actually paid, I feel bound to mention the fact, when answering your inquiries as to improvements of the grain.A specimen of this grain, with the entire plant, in- cluding the root, has been prepared, and will be sent to the Great Fair in London,I have the honor to be, very respectfully,R. F. W. ALLSTON