Peanuts: Culture and Uses Page: 4
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family) it would improve the soil rather than exhaust its fertility, as
under the present method of culture.
Like many other extensively cultivated plants, the peanut has not
been found in a truly wild state, and hence it is difficult to fix upon its
habitat. So widely has it been cultivated in eastern countries that
some botanists have attempted to trace its spread from China to Japan,
thence through the East India Islands to India, and thence to Africa,
where in the seventeenth century it was so extensively cultivated and
had become such an important article of native food that the slave
dealers loaded their vessels with it, using it as food for their cargoes
of captives. But the weight of authority seems to be in favor of
accepting it as a native of Brazil, thus adding the peanut to the four
other plants of commercial importance that America has contributed
to the agriculture of the world, namely, cotton, Indian corn, potato,
and tobacco. Though it may be a native of the Western Continent, it
early became a largely cultivated plant in the warmer portions of the
Old World, occupying a distinct place in the agriculture of those coun-
tries long before its merits were recognized in the land of its origin.
While the peanut has been cultivated in the United States to a lim-
ited extent for a number of years, it is only since 1866 that the crop
has become of primary importance in the eastern section of this
country, which seems peculiarly adapted to its production.
Between 1865 and 1870 the rapid spread of the culture of peanuts
was phenomenal, due probably to the knowledge of them acquired by
the individual members of the various armies which at one time or
another occupied the eastern section of Virginia. Each year doubled
and at times increased threefold its crop over that of the preceding
year, so that this country, from being a large importer of west African
nuts, was soon able to supply the domestic demand with the hone-raised
Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee produce a large part of the
peanut crop of the United States. This is due, possibly, to tihe fact
that their soil and climate are admirably adapted to the successful cul-
tivation of this plant, and also, no doubt, because of the large )profits
which the farmer was able to secure from the culture of peanuts at a time
when other agricultural industries were in a very depressed condition.
Within the last few years this crop has ceased to be as profitable as
heretofore. The method of culture-the annual planting of nuts on the
same land, the lack of proper rotation of crops, the complete removal
of all vegetation from the land, and the failure to replenish the soil by
means of fertilizers-has been a great factor in reducing the profits of
the crop by reducing the ability of the land to produce such crops as
were previously secured in that section, so that now instead of an aver-
age of 50 bushels per acre, with frequent yields of over 100 bushels,
the average in the peanut section is not over 20 bushels, while the
cost of cultivation has been but slightly reduced.
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Handy, R. B. (Robert Breckenridge), 1858-1923. Peanuts: Culture and Uses, pamphlet, 1896; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85508/m1/4/: accessed February 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.