18 February 1922: Is the soil of England and Wales being turned to the best account?

During the First World War there was a boom in British agriculture. Previously Britain had imported 80 per cent of its grain and 40 per cent of its meat. With trade routes cut off, the government was required to impose new systems and find labour to make Britain self-sufficient. But in the years that followed, land changed hands frequently – many of the 150,000 farmers who were conscripted did not return home – and peacetime trade deals were renegotiated. The Agriculture Act of 1920 supposedly guaranteed farmers’ wages and crop prices, but the Act was repealed a year later and the price of wheat plummeted. And so, in this piece from early 1922, our correspondent SLB considers, in a turbulent time for agriculture, the value and potential of a British acre, and how to make the most of the green and pleasant land.


Nowadays, when the question of the land’s real value is canvassed so frequently and with so small a measure of agreement, it is interesting to turn to figures that stand beyond dispute. Rather more than a year ago Daniel Hall, one of the “three-decker brains” of agriculture, delivered a lecture setting out the food production potentialities of land in terms of calories, the ugly word by which we express those heat or energy producing units that are needed by every human being to replace the tissues wasted by physical or mental effort. Food values cannot be canvassed safely in terms of weight, and consequently we fall back upon the calorie, the standard unit of energy of production. The average demand of a man is 3,000 calories daily, that is to say his food, if the human machine is to function adequately, must produce 8,000 energy units. …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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