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The culture of weeds in Western Canada, 1800-1950 : an environmental history Evans, Clinton Lorne 1996

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THE CULTURE OF WEEDS IN WESTERN CANADA, 1800-1950: AN ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY by CLINTON LORNE EVANS B.Sc. (Agriculture), The University of British Columbia, 1985 B.A., The University of British Columbia, 1989 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of History) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA^ June 1996 © Clinton Lome Evans, 1996 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) 11 ABSTRACT This study chronicles the course of an important but little known Canadian war: the war between people and weeds in Western Canada. Arising from intense competition between two groups of immigrants, this conflict started in Europe, spread to Eastern North America and reached a climax on the broad expanses of the Canadian Prairies. By the early 1940s weeds had gained the upper hand on their human competitors and many predicted the end to extensive grain production in the West. This did not occur, however, because of the timely development of 2,4-D and other selective herbicides immediately following the close of World War II. These potent chemical weapons gave prairie farmers new hope at a time when defeat seemed all but certain and they are largely responsible for the expensive standoff between farmers and weeds that persists to this day. Recounting the history of weeds and weed control in Western Canada between 1800 and 1950 serves a number of functions. One is to provide weed scientists with some historical background and an object lesson in the consequences of seeking simple solutions to complex, long-standing problems. Another is to remind historians that we cannot truly understand the history of western settlement and agriculture without understanding the practical issues that dominated the daily lives of past generations of farmers. Yet a third function is to introduce a specific environmental history approach to Canadian historians while, at the same time, encouraging them to pay more attention to recent developments in this American-dominated field. A fourth and final reason for investigating the historical relationship between people and weeds is that it can be used to symbolize something far larger: the relationship between culture and nature in general. An exploration of this issue is made possible by the curious iii relationship between people and weeds, a relationship summed up by the thesis that weeds are both the the products of and participants in culture. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of recent trends in weed science and, in particular, of the merits of the "new" doctrine of weed management. Canadian historians are lectured on the danger of ignoring nature when writing about history and readers are asked to consider what the terms "nature" and "culture" mean. Do they represent discrete subjects, separate spheres of existence, a dichotomy? Or, are they just different aspects of a larger, more complex whole? iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Table of Contents iv List of Figures vi Acknowledgement vii INTRODUCTION 1 Chapter One Weeds and Culture 11 What is a Weed? 12 A Short History of Definitions 22 Weeds and Culture 32 Chapter Two The Culture of Weeds in Britain, 1500-1900 41 Coexistence 43 Conflict 54 Cognition 70 Conclusion 83 Chapter Three From Colony to Nation: The Development of a Distinct Culture of Weeds in Ontario, 1800-1867 89 The "Rough Era," 1800-1865 91 Explaining Cultural Change 109 Conclusion 118 Chapter Four Dominion of the West, 1867-1905 120 Weeds and Weed Experts in Ontario, 1867-1900 121 A Colony of Ontario 133 Shaping a Western Identity 142 Conclusion 158 Chapter Five War on the Western Front, 1906-1945 163 Allies to the South 165 War-time Regulation, Bureaucracy and Troop Education 183 In the Trenches 200 Conclusion 216 Chapter Six The Bomb and Aftermath 220 Herbicide Development and Use in Western Canada to 1945 221 V 2,4-D and the Dawning of the "Hormone Era," 1945-1950 231 Fallout 241 Conclusion 254 CONCLUSION 259 Bibliography 276 Appendix 1 Line Drawings of the Leading Cast of Weeds 305 Appendix 2 The 1865 Canada Thistle Act of Upper Canada 316 vi LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Some common perennial weeds of Britain 49 2. Some common annual weeds of Britain 50 3. Imperial Oil writes the book on fighting weeds 195 4. Massey-Harris line of weedersca. 1930 204 5. Halting the westward march of weeds with Chipman Chemical's Atlacide 226 6. 2,4-D promises to solve the world's food problems 236 V l l A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T I would like to thank my Supervisor, Professor David Breen, for his constant support, quiet guidance and constructive criticism. Professor Bob MacDonald deserves thanks for much the same reasons as well as for forcing me to address a number of vital questions that I probably would have left unanswered. I also want to acknowledge the advice and emotional support provided by my neighbour in Special Collections, Louise Robert. Writing a thesis can be an isolating experience and it is nice to know that you are not the only person undergoing self-imposed exile from the real world. Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank my wife, Maureen, for her patience, timely encouragement and faith in my ability to get the job done; my daughters, Bronwyn and Gwyneth, for encouraging me to end this study on a positive note. 1 I N T R O D U C T I O N Weeds are plants which interfere with the growth of crops or lower the profits of farming or mar the appearance of the landscape. In a sense farming is a continual warfare against these intruders, the contending forces being man and crops on the one side and weeds on the other, with nature a neutral onlooker, but one ever ready to lend her aid to the side showing the greatest persistence. Bracken. Dry Farming in Western Canada (1921) This quote from John Bracken, Principal of the Manitoba Agricultural College and soon to be Premier of Manitoba, encapsulates much of what the following study is about. On the surface, it is about the war with weeds that raged in Western Canada between 1800 and 1950. Farmers fared poorly in this conflict from the outset and, by the close of the Second World War, the weed problem alone had cast the entire future of prairie agriculture into doubt. Conventional means of control had proven incapable of stemming the tide of weedy invasion and many believed that economic necessity would soon force farmers to abandon grain monoculture and retreat to the relative safety of mixed farming. Offering far better protection against weeds, mixed farming held its own fears for farmers and the situation looked grim until the 1945 release of 2,4-D. The first truly effective "selective" herbicide, 2,4-D rapidly supplanted more traditional methods of weed control. Within five years it had become a standard part of the prairie farmer's anti-weed arsenal and Western Canadian farmers bore the dubious distinction of using chemical weed killers "on a larger proportion of 2 . the cropland than any other comparable region of the world."1 On a deeper level, this study is about the relationship between culture, weeds and nature. Bracken describes this relationship as an oppositional one with weeds and people acting out their aggression in front of a neutral third party, nature. Was Bracken right or was he merely justifying the overtly hostile attitude towards weeds that had developed in Western Canada by the early 1920s? Weeds are, after all, curiously akin to nature. We have striven to control them for centuries yet many of our efforts have been in vain. Weeds still abound in waste areas, towns and cities, along roadsides and in ditches and rarely is a field, pasture, garden or lawn completely free of their presence. Much of their success can be attributed to their "natural" endowments—their competitiveness, powers of reproduction and adaptability— and they provide a striking example of what seems to be "nature's" ability to thrive in the face of human opposition. Weeds are, at the same time, intimately connected with culture. Even though we did not truly create them and they have defied our efforts at classification and control for centuries, they remain dependent on human activities for their habitat, and in a very real sense, for their physical and symbolic existence. Designating certain plants as weeds represents a cultural activity; generations of farmers have inadvertently bred weeds in much the same manner as they have deliberately bred domestic crops and livestock. Weeds are, in other words, both products of and participants in culture. If one accepts this hypothesis and the idea that weeds can be said to symbolize "nature" writ large, a logical conclusion is that nature and culture are not separate things. They are, instead, simply different aspects of a larger 1 J. Stan Rowe and Robert T. Coupland, "Vegetation of the Canadian Plains," Prairie Forum 9 (1984): 245. 3 phenomenon. Using a history of weeds and weed control in Western Canada to explore the relationship between nature and culture has merit on a number of levels. If nothing else, weeds cost farmers a great deal. As early as 1953, estimates of the annual cost of controlling and not controlling weeds in Canada alone ranged from a conservative low of 200 million dollars to a more realistic figure of over 500 million.2 Today, this figure must be in the billions. While these costs are significant, many people would argue that they represent only the most obvious and immediate ones. The weed scientist LeRoy Holm, for example, suggests "that more energy is expended for the weeding of man's crops than for any other single human task".3 Holm's contention is impossible to verify but it does hint at the scale of our association with these "plants out of place" and their potential impact on society. Our efforts to eradicate weeds have also had a powerful impact on the environment. Tillage to control weeds has been implicated as one of the leading causes of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and it remains a major contributor to the world-wide problem of agricultural soil erosion. An even greater cost may be borne by future generations because of our present reliance on chemical control and the agrochemical complex that herbicide use helps to support. Despite the economic, social and environmental significance of these plants, few historians have recognized their importance. There is a substantial body of literature on the history of crop pests and pest control in general but most of this is devoted to the study of insects and diseases.4 Oddly enough, this emphasis mirrors the distribution of funding and 2 Clarence Frankton, Weeds of Canada (Ottawa: Department of Agriculture, 1955), 1. 3 LeRoy Holm, "The Role of Weeds in Human Affairs," Weed Science 19 (1971): 485. 4 Most of the small number of histories on weeds and their control have been written by agricultural scientists. A good and frequently cited example of their work is: F.L. Timmons, 4 support for crop protection research in Canada. Even though "the losses caused by weeds" are believed to be "greater than the combined losses produced by animal diseases, plant diseases and insect pests", weeds have traditionally received considerably less attention than their smaller or more mobile brethren.5 Weed scientists have long attributed this disparity to the greater sense of urgency and drama that attends insect attacks and outbreaks of disease. It seems plausible that historical research has been guided by a similar taste for the dramatic. A dearth of historiography on weeds and weed control in Canada, and elsewhere for that matter, can also be attributed to the fact that most historians are neither equipped nor inclined to study natural phenomena. Some probably feel that weeds, in contradistinction to weed control, can have no history at all while others seem content to leave biological investigations to the sciences. An even more compelling reason for focusing on weeds has already been alluded to: "A History of Weed Control in the United States and Canada," Weed Science 18 (1970): 294-300. The prominent American environmental historian, Alfred Crosby, is the only historian to have addressed the issue of weeds in a substantive manner. His most notable treatment of the subject can be found in Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe. 900-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 145-170. George Ordish has written several popular books on the history of crop pests in which he consistently ignores weeds. For example, in The Constant Pest: A Short History of Pests and Their Control (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), he observes on page 75 that weeds in eighteenth century England were "the great pest of agricultural crops in those days—in fact, in these too," yet, he devotes all of two paragraphs to a discussion of weeds in his 240 page study. There are a number of recent academic studies on the history of insect pests and their control including: Thomas R. Dunlap, "Farmers, Scientists and Insects," Agricultural History 54 (1980): 93-107; Dunlap, DDT: Scientists. Citizens and Public Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981); Paul W. Riegert, From Arsenic to DDT: A History of Entomology in Western Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980) and Conner Sorenson, "The Rise of Government Sponsored Applied Entomology," Agricultural History 62, 2 (1988): 98-115. Plant pathology has received less attention but even it has been the subject of a book-length study: G.C. Ainsworth, Introduction to the History of Plant Pathology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981). 5 Frankton, 1. 5 our interactions with these "unsightly", unwanted or aggressive plants can be seen as simplified versions of our relations with nature in general. Studying our relationship with nature as a whole is problematic because of the bewildering array of organisms and processes that nature comprises and the equally bewildering complexity of our interactions with the environment. Weeds, in contrast, represent familiar objects that most of us encounter or interact with on a regular basis. These interactions occur on both physical and cognitive levels and although they are far from simple, they provide a tight focus and are supported by an impressive, relatively accessible body of documentation. A study of weeds sheds particular light on the enduring tendency of Western cultures to regard the human and natural realms as a duality or as separate spheres of existence. Traditionally, agriculturists have viewed our relationship with weeds as an oppositional one and weeds have been condemned as "useless," "noxious," or "the enemy" for centuries. North American agriculturists, in particular, have long been guilty of emphasizing this false dichotomy and they have consistently blamed weeds for the problems they cause rather than seeking solutions to weed problems through fundamental changes in North American farming systems. One consequence has been the persistence of a serious weed problem. Another is that farmers have become increasingly dependent on herbicides to preserve a style of farming-extensive grain monoculture—that actively encourages the development of serious weed infestations. The ideas and arguments presented so far have been inspired from personal experience and reading literature pertaining to weeds. American environmental historians, however, deserve most of the credit for the study's conceptual approach. This essentially involves studying complex, human-nature relationships on three distinct but related levels. Biology and 6 ecology comprise the subjects of the first level, deliberate interactions between people and the environment represent the focus of the second and human thoughts or consciousness provide the subject matter for the third. For the purposes of this study these levels have been termed coexistence, conflict and cognition. Collectively, they constitute the main elements of a "culture of weeds." Introducing this specific approach to Canadian historians represents one of the dissertation's primary goals. The ease with which it can be modified to suit the subject at hand suggests that it has considerable potential for investigating a wide range of historical interactions between people and the environment. Just as importantly, it serves to remind would-be environmental historians of the types of issues that can be, and perhaps should be, addressed. Another goal is to alert Canadian historians to the potential of broader developments in the American dominated field of environmental history while at the same time, emphasizing the potential of Canadian scholarship. Canadian scholars are well positioned to advance environmental history because of their traditional awareness of the environment, because of a greater receptivity towards comparative studies and because of the nature of Western Canadian sources. Unlike their American counterparts, Canadian scientists often preceded settlers. This means that their extensive records provide insights into the physical environment before it was extensively altered by European settlement. Canadian historians also need to be alerted to the following irony in Canadian agricultural and rural history: more attention has been paid to the political and social activities of past generations of farmers than to the practical issues that governed their daily lives. Take an issue like weeds. Most farmers almost certainly devoted much more time and energy to 7 thinking about weeds and attempting their eradication than they ever spent reflecting on politics, organizing co-operatives or socializing at their local farmers' institute. The latter, however, have been the subject of numerous monographs while historiography on the former consists of a handful of comments and the odd footnote. It is true that rural social activities have played an important role in shaping modern society but historians need to be reminded that the cumulative effect of mundane, practical activities such as weed control are hardly less significant. The first chapter of the dissertation provides the theoretical foundation upon which the rest of the study is based. Weeds and the dualities they comprise are discussed at length as are historical, expert definitions for the term "weed." The study's thesis and what is meant by terms such as "culture" and a "culture of weeds" are then presented in detail and linked to a more thorough discussion of the conceptual approach outlined above. Chapter two focuses on the culture of weeds in Britain between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is intended to be read as both a practical demonstration of the analytical technique advanced in chapter one and as a prelude to the subsequent evolution of a distinct culture of weeds in North America. The evolution from British antecedents of a new culture in Ontario provides the subject of chapter three. This culture was shaped by the combination of a weed-friendly environment and social conditions that were favourable to the growth and spread of weedy immigrant species. It is symbolized by Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.) and the passage of Canada's first noxious weed act in 1865.6 Chapter four chronicles the westward migration of Ontario weeds, weed legislation 6 Wherever possible, the Latin names cited in this study conform to the usage in Clarence Frankton and Gerald A. Mulligan, Weeds of Canada (Ottawa: Agriculture Canada, 1993). 8 and the ideas of experts between the time of Confederation and the 1905 creation of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Manitoba and the North-West Territories essentially began as a colonies of Ontario but the arrival of new immigrants and their weedy compatriots from Eastern Europe and the sheer scale of farming on the Prairies stimulated further change. State-funded agricultural scientists became the leading spokesmen for a rapidly maturing culture and the main source of information on weeds and their control during this period. The fifth chapter focuses on the increasingly heated conflict between people and weeds during the period bounded by the two World Wars. Canadian agriculturists co-operated closely with their cultural cousins to the south but their allied efforts were unable to check the inexorable advance of aggressive, foreign weeds. By 1945 the situation had become desperate for farmers in Western Canada and the Northern Tier States and it is interesting to speculate what would have happened if not for the release that year of 2,4-D. Chapter six surveys the history of herbicide development, the dramatic acceptance of 2,4-D and other selective herbicides between 1945 and 1950 and the connection between the discovery of effective herbicides and the emergence of weed science as a distinct field in the early 1950s. The chapter also considers the crucial role that Canadian governments played in support of the use of chemical weed killers. It concludes with a brief discussion of alternate views of weeds and recent trends in weed science literature. Ironically, over the last decade or so, Canadian and American weed scientists have increasingly called for a return to "good husbandry"~the traditional British solution to the problem of weeds. The main arguments advanced in the body of the work are briefly summarized in the study's conclusion. It then turns towards a consideration of broader issues. These include drawing explicit parallels between our relationship with weeds and with nature in general, a 9 discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of environmental history and reflections on the current status and future of Canadian rural and agricultural history. Having summarized what this dissertation embraces and hopes to accomplish, it is necessary to make a few qualifications. First, the weeds that are being considered are primarily those found on arable land. Arable weeds have traditionally received more attention from agriculturists than weeds in other places and literature on the subject is so extensive that it effectively precludes a consideration of the weedy flora of pastures, rangeland, gardens and urban areas. Secondly, this study is mainly based upon elite or expert written sources. As such, it is a study of only one aspect of a culture of weeds. One can justify this approach by trotting out the hackneyed excuses that it was the elite who left written evidence or that the specific sources dealing with weeds have rarely been consulted. A more convincing justification is to observe that noxious weed laws were primarily the statutory children of "progressive" agriculturists and agricultural scientists. Whatever the attitudes of the "average farmer", therefore, expert opinion ultimately carried the force of law. A similar argument can be made for the development and popularization of herbicides. Experts led the way in the use of chemical weed killers but as their rapid and enthusiastic acceptance by farmers suggests, experts were largely acting in response to the needs and demands of the larger farming public. Thirdly, although this study is set entirely within the context of capitalist agriculture, the issue of capitalism is never dealt with directly. The intention here is to keep the study focused on the relationship between culture, weeds and nature and to avoid placing too much emphasis on the human side of the equation. Capitalism may well be the single most important factor involved in the development of a distinct culture of weeds in Western 10 Canada. It is, however, by no means the only one and to assume a priori that it is, only obscures what this thesis is about. With this in mind, capitalism has been treated in much the same manner that historians have traditionally treated nature and the environment: as mere background to the central story. A simple lack of space and time discourages an investigation into the role played by agri-business. Perhaps this omission can be excused by observing that expert attitudes towards weeds were extremely favourable to the sale of both agricultural implements and herbicides and that since at least the turn-of-the-century, ties between government experts and the business community have been extremely close. Additionally, in Canada if not in the U.S., chemical companies only began to market and advertise herbicides aggressively in 1945. Canadian farmers had previously relied almost exclusively on federal and provincial government reports and press releases for news on advances in chemical weed control. Beginning in the early 1900s, various government agricultural extension agencies also took the lead in herbicide testing and demonstration as well as supplying farmers with both chemicals and sprayers. A final cautionary note has to do with the issue of diversity. While a study of expert ideas, attitudes and legislation reveals a high degree of uniformity in terms of concepts, control recommendations and common weed problems, this uniformity is strongly at odds with the startling diversity of weed populations and communities from region to region, between farms and even within individual fields. Populations of farmers are hardly less diverse. This leads one to suspect that the development of an expert culture of weeds was partly based on the rejection of the old adage: "one person's weed is another person's flower." 11 CHAPTER 1 WEEDS AND CULTURE "What is a weed?" is a seemingly simple question that has perplexed agriculturists for centuries. They continue to ask it, however, out of their pressing need to distinguish between weeds and more useful or less harmful plants. A history of weeds and our relationship with them must also begin with this question. One reason for addressing the issue is to identify some of the main features of an amorphous group of plants that we call weeds and explain why the term is so difficult to define. Another is to introduce the study's main cast of characters—both vegetative and human. The second section of this chapter provides a brief summary of expert attempts since the eighteenth century to define "weed." Many of these attempts have fallen afoul of the dual nature of weeds: the objective and subjective. There exists, as a result, a distinct tension between what weeds are and how agriculturists have perceived them. The third and final section attempts to reduce this tension by providing a working definition—"cultural artifacts"— that takes the split personality of weeds into account. Such a definition leads directly to a discussion of the central thesis—weeds as both products of and participants in culture—and the study's underlying conceptual approach. Although the thesis and approach have been specifically designed to explore the relationship between people and weeds, they apply equally well to our relationship with nature in general and both provide insights into how natural phenomena can be investigated using the traditional tools and techniques of the historian. 12 What is a Weed? Although the English word "weed" has been in everyday use for centuries and represents a concept familiar to most people of European descent, it is difficult to define with any degree of precision.1 W. Holzner, a highly respected authority on weeds, believes that this difficulty arises because "the term 'weed' comprises a strongly subjective view of a plant or vegetation, which makes it difficult to find an objective and generally valid definition."2 Botanists and plant taxonomists have provided little assistance in this search for meaning because they have long been conscious of the subjective and hence, anthropocentric nature of the term and the plants that it describes. Weeds are, therefore, anathema to these scientists because they are difficult if not impossible to fit into a logical, biological classification scheme. Most botanists avoid using the term "weed" and, according to one plant taxonomist, they have traditionally preferred "not even to think about them."3 When one does think about weeds, it becomes clear that designating a plant as such is highly subjective since it depends on the person, place and time. Labeling a plant as a weed typically results from a conjunction of all three. In other instances, a change in one factor is 1 For an introduction to the etymology of the term "weed" and its Western European language equivalents, see: Lawrence J. King, "Some Early Forms of the Weed Concept," Nature 179 (1957): 1366; and Lawrence J. King, Weeds of the World: Biology and Control (New York: Interscience Publishers, 1966), 1-6. 2 W. Holzner, "Concepts, Categories and Characteristics of Weeds," in Biology and Ecology of Weeds, eds. W. Holzner and M. Numata (The Hague: Dr. W. Junk Publishers, 1982), 3. 3 Edgar Anderson, Plants. Man, and Life (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1952), 32. In an early "scientific" treatise on agriculture, the cleric and estate manager, Adam Dickson, began his discussion of weeds with a comment upon the traditional distaste of botanists for the term. He observed that while weeds are considered to be "ufelefs" plants by agriculturists, botanists "deny that there is fuch a thing as an ufelefs plant in nature". Adam Dickson, A Treatise of Agriculture 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Printed for A. Kincaid and J. Bell, 1765), 85. 13 all that is required for a plant to be perceived in a new light. Richard Bradley, an eighteenth century Professor of Botany at Cambridge and an active writer on agricultural matters, provides a good example of the influence of the observer. In one of his farmers' calendars he warns to "take care to weed out the Plant call'd Alliaria or Sauce alone, or by fome, Jack in the Hedge" because of its ability to impart a strong onion flavour to the milk of cows that graze upon it. While Bradley, and presumably the farmers that he was addressing, clearly regarded this plant as a weed, he casually observes that it was regarded quite differently by a different class of people: "The Country People in many places eat the Leaves of this with Bread and Butter, making it ferve inftead of Onions."4 William Ellis, a contemporary of Bradley, similarly describes "Mustard Seed" as a problem "Weed" on wet ground only to subsequently remark that it "is annually gathered as a moft valuable Thing by the poor People."5 More recent examples of how specific plants mean very different things to different groups can be provided readily by anyone with experience in the weed control industry. Irate bee keepers forced the author to recognize this point on a number of occasions while he was engaged in spraying Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.). Canada thistle is highly regarded by bee keepers for the delicately flavoured honey that it produces yet agriculturist revile it as a very serious weed. On another occasion, while spraying a patch of common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris Mill.), a problem on rangeland despite its attractive, yellow snapdragon-like flowers, the author observed an elderly gentleman approaching. This man 4 Richard Bradley, The Country Gentleman and Farmer's Monthly Director. 6th ed. (London: Printed for D. Browne and T. Woodman, 1732), 83. 5 William Ellis, Chiltern and Vale Farming Explained (London: Printed for Weaver Bickerton, 1733), 296. 14 demonstrated the aptness of the old adage, "one person's weed is another person's flower," when he asked: "Why are you spraying the 'butter-and-eggs' that my wife and I planted around our house nearly sixty years ago?" Place or location is the second factor that encourages people to label plants as weeds. Few people, for example, view wheat or other cereals as anything but valued crops. Yet, when one species of grain is found growing in a field devoted to another, it can present a serious problem. The problem can be so serious, in fact, that weed scientists regard "volunteer cereals" as one of the worst weed problems in grain producing regions today.6 Another source of concern for weed scientists are the large weed populations of urbanized areas and disturbed sites. Weeds have been allowed to thrive unmolested in these areas partly because for many people, including many farmers, they have ceased to be weeds by virtue of where they are growing. Time is the third major factor involved in identifying a plant as a weed. Our views on what constitutes a crop, for instance, have changed considerably over the centuries and many species that were once chiefly regarded as crops have subsequently become widely disparaged as weeds. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.) and the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Weber) illustrate this point nicely. Anyone who has gardened in North America is probably quite familiar with the common, fleshy leafed, annual weed, purslane or pursley as it is sometimes called, which almost magically appears amongst the vegetables with the heat of July. Dandelion is so ubiquitous as to require no introduction. Today they are generally regarded as nuisances yet in the eighteenth century, they were highly esteemed as tasty 15 additions to salads. Ironically, even though we curse them for their prolific nature, they were considered difficult to grow and eighteenth century gardeners had to expend considerable care and attention to cultivate them successfully.7 Both species arrived in North America in the early seventeenth century, probably as members of the garden seed collections cherished by settlers, and they were still being sold through seed catalogues in the U.S. into the late nineteenth century.8 While crops can become weeds, the opposite can also occur. Sometimes this transformation takes place gradually. Other times, particularly during periods of crisis, a shift in perception can occur with startling rapidity. Near the end of the First World War, for example, the British Board of Agriculture published an article on the uses of common farm weeds in an effort "to make up deficiencies in supply" of medicines, dyes, animal fodder and human food.9 A far more dramatic example is presented by Russian thistle (Salsola pestifer Nels.) on the Canadian Prairies. Widely feared as one of the region's worst weeds, this species was transformed into an indispensable fodder plant during periods of drought. Towards the end of a long dry spell in 1924, for instance, the District Agriculturist for Medicine Hat remarked: The late rains were beneficial in that by furnishing a rank growth of weeds— 6 The problem of volunteer cereals is particularly acute on farms growing grain for seed. In extreme cases where pedigree seed is being grown, even a cereal of the same species as the crop but of a different variety can be considered a weed. 7 John Mortimer, The Whole Art of Husbandry: Or The Way of Managing and Improving Land. 2nd ed. (London: Printed by J.H. for H. Mortlock and J. Robinfon, 1708), 453, 470. 8 Edwin R. Spencer, Just Weeds (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940), 119; Claire S. Haughton, Green Immigrants: The Plants that Transformed America (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), 104-105; Richard N. Mack, "The Commercial Seed Trade: An Early Disperser of Weeds in the United States," Economic Botany 45 (1991): 263-264. 9 Winifred E. Brenchley, "Useful Farm Weeds," Journal of the Board of Agriculture 25 (1918/19): 949-958. 16 particularly Russian thistle—they helped out the supply of feed. When the ordinary feed crops are plentiful Russian thistle is not highly valued, but in years of scarcity it is not to be despised as it has been the means when cut at the proper time and well cured of pulling many a herd through the winter.10 By now it is clear that how a plant is perceived is largely dictated by circumstance and personal opinion. Identifying plants as weeds is not, however, simply a whimsical act on the part of an individual. When you think about it, the ability of experts to use the term and be understood, name and list species widely regarded as weeds, and ultimately, officially proscribe certain plants in noxious weed laws implies that many people within a culture share similar views on the identity of weeds. Suggesting that not all plants are equally regarded as weeds accords well with common sense. It is also supported by the observation that out of the whole world's flora, "only a very tiny fraction, probably amounting to no more than a few hundred species, is composed of weeds."11 The number of widespread and truly problematic species is even smaller. Of the approximately 250 plant species "regarded as important weeds" worldwide, only about 75 "are thought to be responsible for 90% of crop losses attributable to weeds."12 Similarly, a United States Department of Agriculture agronomist estimated that in the U.S., of: about 1,200 species of plants commonly called weeds...less than thirty are sufficiently aggressive to be able to survive indefinitely on crop-rotated land. These are the superweeds, the so-called noxious species, plants having such extreme tenacity for life that no ordinary good farming measures control them.13 Recognizing that only certain plants tend to become weeds further complicates the 1 0 Alberta, Department of Agriculture, Annual Report. 1924, 30. 1 1 Thomas A. Hill, The Biology of Weeds (London: Edward Arnold, 1977), 2. 1 2 A.M. Mortimer, "The Biology of Weeds," in Weed Control Handbook: Principles. 8th ed., eds. RJ. Hance and K. Holly (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1990), 2. 1 3 Clyde E. Leighty, "Crop Rotation," in Soils and Men: United States Department of Agriculture Yearbook. 1938 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1939), 417. 17 problem of determining what a weed is. They are, in a sense, plants with a curious split personality or a dual nature. On one hand, they are an anthropocentric category whose identification depends on subjective judgments. On the other hand, they can be singled out as a fairly select, "objective" group of organisms on the basis of a number of peculiar characteristics and a predilection for growing on human-disturbed sites. Although it is possible to objectify weeds, it is important to stress that weeds can only be loosely described as an "objective" class of plants on the strength of their biology or ecological behaviour. Typical "weedy" characteristics are not unique to plants generally regarded as weeds, nor can they be used alone to distinguish weeds from other plants. "Weediness" is, rather, "more a matter of the extreme development of some habit of growth or seeding that is shared by many plants other than weeds."14 Much has been written on what makes for success as a weed but, in the context of this study, a brief overview should suffice. Probably the most distinctive feature of weedy species is their ability to compete with crops for the essentials of life: light, water and nutrients. The idea that weeds reduce crop yields through competition has been around since the eighteenth century but the study of the actual mechanics of competition is still in its infancy. The process of competition, or crop interference as some prefer to call it, is still poorly understood because of the large number of variables involved.15 1 4 Clarence Frankton and Gerald A. Mulligan, Weeds of Canada (Ottawa: Agriculture Canada, 1993), 2. 1 5 For a concise, not overly technical review of competition studies and their inherent difficulties see: J. Glauninger and W. Holzner, "Interference Between Weeds and Crops: A Review of Literature," in Biology and Ecology of Weeds, eds. W. Holzner and M. Numata (The Hague: Dr. W. Junk Publishers, 1982), 149-159. Glauninger and Holzner would prefer to use the term "interference" to describe the detrimental relationship between crops and weeds as it embraces interactions such as the production of toxins (allelopathy) and subtle 18 An ability to contend with and, in many cases, out compete crops for light, water and nutrients is the function of a wide range of adaptations including deep or extensive root systems and rapid seedling establishment and growth. These adaptations help weeds compete under favourable conditions and often enable them to tolerate a wider range of conditions than can domesticates. A high degree of environmental tolerance also appears to be linked to an unusually high degree of interspecific variation within weedy species. Some species are genetically diverse and their populations are "morphologically, physiologically and ecologically very heterogeneous" as a result.16 This ensures that at least some members of a weed population can survive under specific adverse conditions and that a single species can exploit a number of different habitats. Other species rely less on genetic variation than on phenotypic variability or "plasticity". Phenotypic plasticity is a phrase coined to describe the ability of genetically identical plants to differ quite markedly in terms of size, seed production and growth habits on the basis of where they are growing.17 Weeds enhance their competitive abilities and chances of survival by a number of "weedy" reproductive strategies. A typical strategy, particularly for annual species, is the production of a vast number of seeds after a comparatively short growth period. Shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medic), a common weed of arable fields and gardens, can neighbour effects that are not properly described by the term competition. They bow, however, to standard practice and use the latter term in the body of their paper. For another "layperson's" introduction to weed-crop interference see: Hill, Biology of Weeds. 7-17. Readers interested in more recent and technical discussions of competition can consult R.J. Aldrich's Weed-Crop Ecology: Principles in Weed Management (North Scituate, Mass.: Breton Publishers, 1984), 159-243 and Mortimer, "Biology of Weeds," 23-39. 1 6 Holzner, "Concepts, Categories and Characteristics," 18. 1 7 For a discussion of "phenotypic plasticity" in weeds see: Jack R. Harlan and J.M.J. deWet, "Some Thoughts About Weeds.". Economic Botany 19 (1965): 21; Jack R. Harlan, Crops and 19 produce up to 38,500 seeds per plant under favourable conditions. Other frequently encountered weeds including broad-leaved plantain (Plantago major L.), a tenacious inhabitant of lawns throughout Canada, can produce a similar number and the equally ubiquitous species, purslane (Portujaca oleracea L.), has been known to produce in excess of 50,000.18 In addition to relying on sheer numbers of seeds for survival, many weeds have the ability to produce seeds of varying size and periods of dormancy. This strategy enables them to stagger their germination throughout the growing season and even between years as weed seeds commonly have the ability to lie dormant for decades.-9 Many perennial species rely on both sexual and asexual modes of reproduction. Anyone familiar with quack grass (Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv.), variously known as "couch," "quick" or "twitch" grass, with its tough, spreading rootstocks, will testify to the efficacy of asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction, whether by creeping rootstocks, stems or other devices, is also a very effective means of short-distance dispersal for long-lived species. For long distance dissemination, weeds depend on a host of other mechanisms. These frequently involve modifications to the seed or seed coat. Some species produce seeds with unusually thick and hard seed coats which allows them to pass undigested through the digestive tracts of animals. Others, such as the familiar species common burdock (Arctium minus (Hill) Bernh.), rely on burs or sticky seed coats and cooperative animals for their traveling. Bromus tectorum L., a winter annual native to Europe and known by the aliases downy brome, downy chess, cheat or cheatgrass, has used both methods to rapidly establish Man (Madison, Wise: American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America, 1975), 97-98 and Holzner, "Concepts, Categories and Characteristics," 17-18. 1 8 Wood P. Anderson, Weed Science: Principles (St.Paul, Minn.: West Publishing Co., 1977), 14. 20 itself on the cattle ranges of western Canada and the United States. Virtually unheard of in 1890, by 1928 it had become a ubiquitous and, in many cases, a dominant component of rangeland vegetation in British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and Utah.20 Many plants rely on wind and water for their dissemination. Irrigation ditches have long been identified as a major travel route for weeds and most people are familiar with the winged seeds of dandelions and thistles. Some of the most rapidly spreading weeds, notably Russian thistle (Salsola pestifer Nels.), prefer to travel in the manner of native tumbleweeds as a complete plant with seeds attached. In the words of an early twentieth century weed specialist, they "do not produce any means of flight; but they have slight connection with the earth and soon after the first frost will be off with any good wind which gives them a pressing invitation."21 The invitation must have been very pressing indeed for tumble mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum L.) in the fall of 1893. In that year, not long after the species was first reported in Saskatchewan, Angus MacKay, Superintendent of the Indian Head Experimental Farm, wrote: We were almost buried yesterday with a neighbour's tumble weed [tumble mustard]. A hurricane blew all day from the North-west, and the edge of the field adjoining the farm is now 10 feet deep with this weed. The trees are full and fences cannot be seen for bank [sic] of weeds. The result of yesterday's blow will be to give us many extra days' work next summer, for millions of seeds have been left on the farm. Looking between here and the town while the weeds were galloping along, the prairie seemed like the ocean with a big storm blowing.22 John L. Harper, Population Biology of Plants (New York: Academic Press, 1977), 70-71. 2 0 Richard N. Mack, "Invasion of Bromus tectorum L. into Western North America: An Ecological Chronicle," Agro-Ecosystems 7 (1981): 145-155. 2 1 Ada Hayden, "The Story of Weed Seed Dissemination," in The Weed Flora of Iowa, ed. L.H. Pammel and Charlotte M. King (Des Moines, Iowa: Iowa Geological Survey, 1926), 567-568. 2 2 Canada, Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report. 1893, 192. 21 Even though "natural" agents spread weeds in diverse ways, such agents are not their most favoured mode of travel. As one late nineteenth century authority observed: "the plants which have become weeds of the farm have spread more through the agency of man than through all the natural agencies combined."23 Weeds travel as contaminants of seed and animal feed, clinging to domesticated livestock and farm implements; they are carried along by buggies, railway cars and automobiles. They are accomplished ocean travelers and are known to have frequently stowed away in the ballast of sailing ships. Port cities have, as a result, historically been important sites for the initial establishment of weedy species. During colonial times weeds often traveled in considerable comfort, safely nestled in packing material or the straw of mattresses. Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.) reputedly used the latter conveyance for its introduction into Upper Canada during the eighteenth century.24 In many respects this species exemplifies the qualities necessary for success as a weed. Like most of the world's worst weeds, this long-lived, shiny-leafed member of the Composite Family is blessed with a multitude of attributes conferring weediness. It spreads both by winged seed and vegetatively through a deep, extensive root system and it is able to regenerate from fragments of root as small as 10cm or less. Canada thistle is consequently very difficult to eradicate by mechanical methods and it has been the bane of many a farmer for centuries. Able to tolerate a wide range of conditions, it has spread to all the farming districts of Canada since its introduction Lyster H. Dewey, "Migration of Weeds," Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture. 1896 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1897), 273. 2 4 Robert L. Jones, History of Agriculture in Ontario. 1616-1880 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946), 92. 22 into New France from Europe during the early seventeenth century.25, Cirsium arvense has considerable competitive powers that may be enhanced by the release of phytotoxic chemicals from its roots. Finally, researchers have recently attributed much of its adaptability to a marked ability "to alter its morphology in response to environmental conditions".26 A Short History of Definitions While botanists typically solve the dilemma of determining what a weed is by simply ignoring the issue, the importance of weeds to agriculture means that farming experts and agricultural scientists have not had this luxury. Agriculturists have written extensively on the subject of weeds since English-language farming manuals were first published in the sixteenth century. And, from near the outset, they seem to have been aware of the dual nature of weeds and the subsequent difficulty of definition. The earliest writers made little effort to define a term that was, after all, a subject of common knowledge. By the mid-eighteenth century, however, a widespread belief that agriculture was a "science" rather than just an "art" meant that explicit attempts at definition could no longer be avoided. Jethro Tull, a leading figure in the British "agricultural revolution," was one of the first agricultural improvers to commit his definition to writing. In his influential farming manual, The Horfe-Hoing Husbandry; or. an Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation (1733), Tull proposed that "Weeds" are "Plants, that come up in any Land, of a different Kind from the fown or planted Crop". Tull was not noted for either an even temper or a favourable 2 5 R.J. Moore, "The Biology of Canadian Weeds. 13. Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop." Canadian Journal of Plant Science 55 (1975): 1038. 2 6 L.B. Nadeau and W.H. Vanden Born, "The Root System of Canada Thistle," Canadian Journal of Plant Science 69 (1989): 1205. 23 attitude towards labourers and the lower classes, and he appears to have vented some of his irascibility on weeds. For, upon defining the term, he proceeded to rail against them as "hurtful," as "uninvited guests," and as "unprofitable" plants that are guilty of "robbing Legitimate (or Sown) Plants of their Nourifhment".27 Tull's treatment of weeds is notable for the intense antipathy that it conveys but it differs little in kind from the attitudes expressed by his contemporaries and immediate successors. Most were content with casting aspersions on weeds as useless and unwanted.28 The few who actually followed Tull's lead and defined the term "weed" simply did so as others described them. Two Scottish reformers, Francis Home and Adam Dickson, argued, for example, that "all fuch vegetables, as, being of no ufe to the farmer, are called weeds," and that as plants, weeds "are not only ufelefs; they are alfo noxious."29 These early definitions almost solely emphasized the subjective nature of weeds. But by identifying and naming weedy species and compiling them into lists, commentators implicitly supplied their objective side as well. Efforts to define "weed" became a standard feature of agricultural literature during the nineteenth century. Linked to this growing need for precise terminology was a concurrent movement to firmly establish agriculture as a "science." Agriculture did eventually become a science in more than just name and by 1900 it was widely institutionalized in universities, colleges and government-sponsored agricultural experiment stations in Europe and North 2 7 Jethro Tull, The Horfe-Hoing Husbandry: or. an Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation (London: Printed for the author, 1733), 37. 2 8 A marked tendency to describe weeds in strongly negative terms is not unique to the eighteenth century and earlier. In fact, it has remained a constant feature in literature on weeds up to today. 24 America. Despite these developments, however, many nineteenth century experts remained content with repeating the weed lore of the previous century. Eighteenth century-style definitions emphasizing the inherent differences between weeds and crops can be found in the works of such noted British authorities as John Morton and James Buckman, and in the writings of Canada's first Dominion Botanist, James Fletcher. In one his very popular agricultural encyclopedias, Morton effectively paraphrased Tull when he defined weeds as "every plant different from the crop, and growing with the crop to its hindrance."30 Morton was seconded by Buckman, a professor at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, who suggested in an influential 1855 essay "that every plant growing with the crop to its hindrance is a weed."31 Writing nearly forty years after Buckman, James Fletcher began one of the first of a long line of federal government bulletins on weeds with the statement: "There are many definitions of the word weed, but perhaps from a farmer's standpoint the best one is: 'any troublesome or unsightly plant that is at the same time useless or comparatively so.'"32 While Fletcher, Buckman and Morton remained content with paraphrasing eighteenth century expressions, many of their contemporaries were beginning to define a plant as a weed on the basis of where it was growing rather than on the basis of its negative qualities. An increasing emphasis on place may reflect recognition of the ability of crops to act like weeds 2 9 Francis Home, The Principles of Agriculture and Vegetation (Edinburgh: Printed for G. Hamilton and J. Balfour, 1757), 157; Dickson, Treatise of Agriculture. 85. 3 0 John C. Morton, ed., A Cyclopedia of Agriculture (London: Blackie and Son, 1855), 2:1110. 3 1 James Buckman, "On Agricultural,Weeds," Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England 16(1855): 359. 3 2 James Fletcher, Weeds. Canada, Department of Agriculture, Central Experimental Farm, Bulletin 28, 1897, 6. 25 under many circumstances and can be seen in definitions provided by two of the most popular nineteenth century British farming manuals: Henry Stephen's The Book of the Farm (1844) and J.C. Loudon's An Encyclopedia of Agriculture (1825). Both went through multiple editions and the fourth edition of Stephen's book was published as late as 1891. Loudon defined "weed" as "Every plant which appears where it is not wanted", and Stephens suggested "that wherever a plant is found to grow where it should not, it is a weed."33 Loudon and Stephens were not the only British authorities to stress the role of location in determining how a plant is perceived, but it was in North America where place became of paramount importance in defining weeds.34 There, one definition in particular became immensely popular, and by the close of the nineteenth century it had effectively become the standard definition: a weed is a plant out of place. The immense appeal of this expression likely stems from the fact that the majority of the most troublesome weeds in North America originate on other continents, most notably Europe. Most weeds in North America, in other words, can be considered out of place regardless of where they are found. J.C. Loudon, An Encyclopedia of Agriculture (London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 877; Henry Stephens, The Book of the Farm, vol.1 (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1844), 939. 3 4 While location was often stressed as a defining quality of weeds in late nineteenth and early twentieth century British weed literature, the most prominent British authorities continued to emphasize the useless or undesirable qualities of weeds in their definitions well into the twentieth century. For example, John Percival in his book Agricultural Botany: Theoretical and Practical, which was first published in London in 1900 and remained a standard text for over 30 years, defined "weed" as: "any plant whose growth interferes with that of the crop to which the soil for the time being is devoted. The idea of uselessness is always present in the mind when weeds are being spoken of." Agricultural Botany: Theoretical and Practical. 4th ed. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915), 571. Winifred Brenchley, a long-time employee at the Rothamstead Agricultural Research Station and perhaps, Britain's leading authority on agricultural weeds in the early twentieth century, similarly defined weeds of arable land as "any plant other than the crop sown." Weeds of Farm Land (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1920), 2. 26 The phrase is usually attributed to William J. Beal, a prominent late nineteenth century botanist and weed specialist at the Michigan State Agricultural College.35 But, while he certainly used and popularized the definition, its origins like many of the plants it purports to describe can be traced back to an earlier era in Britain.36 Federal, provincial and state departments of agriculture were particularly fond of defining weeds as plants out of place. Farmers were consequently introduced to the concept through widely circulated government weed bulletins.37 By the turn-of-the-century, rural school children were also being introduced to this concept along with some of the more traditional connotations attached to the term. In Charles James' widely distributed agricultural textbook, for example, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Ontario taught his young readers that: A weed is a plant just as much as wheat, corn, or clover. It has all the parts of plant, grows like other plants, and forms new plants. But it is a plant we do not want; it is a 3 5 A J . Pieters, "What is a Weed?" Journal of the American Society of Agronomy 27 (1935): 781; King, Weeds of the World. 6. 3 6 In his popular 1825 essay, "The Weeds of Agriculture," the English farmer and agricultural newspaper editor, Benjamin Holdich writes: "The term weed is not definite...but the best definition seems to be that given by an old botanist, namely, that 'a weed is a plant out of its proper place.'" Benjamin Holdich, "The Weeds of Agriculture," in Hortus Gramineus Woburnensis. 4th ed., by George Sinclair. (London: Ridgways, n.d.), 299. The American botanist, William Darlington, similarly defined "weed" as "a plant out of place" in his book, American Weeds and Useful Plants. Darlington's book, probably the first North American publication devoted to weeds, was first published in 1847. In introducing his definition for "weed", he described it as "the best definition that has yet been given" even if it "is the old one". William Darlington, American Weeds and Useful Plants. 2nd ed. (New York: Orange Judd Company, 1859), xiii. 3 7 Two very early government weed bulletins which defined weeds as plants out of place are J. Hoyes Panton, Weeds. Ontario Agricultural College, Bulletin 10, 1887, 3 and E.S. GofF, The Russian Thistle—A New and Dangerous Weed to Wisconsin. Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin 37, 1893, 6. 27 - plant out of its place, or, rather, its is a plant in the wrong place.38 "A plant out of place" or its near equivalent remained the standard definition for "weed" in North American literature well into the 1950s and it still graces the pages of some modern weed science textbooks.39 Although the expression has proven to be both popular and durable, it has provided a considerable source of unease for some North American weed experts since the 1890s. This sense of unease can be seen in the very publications that popularized the phrase : Canadian and American government weed bulletins. While most preface their remarks with a definition that emphasizes place, they promptly move on to a much lengthier discussion of the undesirable qualities of weeds and, in particular, of the innate characteristics of certain plants that predispose them towards a weedy lifestyle. In 1897, one weed expert challenged the standard definition directly. Speaking before the University of Vermont Botanical Club, F.A. Waugh, an agricultural scientist and botanist at the University of Vermont, complained: The common statement that "a weed is a plant out of place" is by no means satisfactory or final to the student. He is still left to ask how it is that certain species have such pronounced ability for getting out of place. Almost any plant may accidentally get where it is not wanted, but comparatively few usually and persistently get in the way. 3 Charles C. James, Agriculture (Toronto: George N. Morang and Co., 1899), 71. James' school book was widely distributed to schools in Ontario, Western Canada and even the American Mid-West. 3 9 Floyd M. Ashton and Thomas J. Monaco, Weed Science: Principles and Practices. 3rd ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1991), 5. In 1956, the year of the inaugural meeting of the Weed Society of America, the first professional association of American and Canadian weed scientists, the society adopted as its official definition: "Weed. A plant growing where it is not wanted." Weed Society of America, Terminology Committee, "Terminology Committee Report," Weeds 4 (1956): 283. 4 0 F.A. Waugh, "Some Phases of Weed Evolution," Science. New Series, 5 (May 21, 1897): 789. 28 -Waugh never ventured to offer his own definition but a number of the leading American authorities on weeds were more forthcoming during the 1920s and early 30s. Their definitions appeared during a time of increasing interest in weed control amongst agricultural scientists—an interest that was sparked by some promising developments in chemical weed killers. These scientists were, like Waugh, dissatisfied with defining weeds on the basis of where they were growing because of the arbitrariness of the phrase and its tendency to obscure the marked propensity of certain plants to get out of place. The definitions that they devised, however, continued to emphasize the subjective nature of weeds at the expense of their objective dimension. Elmer G. Campbell, a well-known agronomist at Purdue University, proposed the following "workable" definition in 1923: "A weed is an independent plant whose species is persistently obnoxious on cultivation areas."41 A year later, a noted authority on weeds and their control at the North Dakota Agricultural College, O.A. Stevens, expressed reservations about ever being able to develop a "scientific" definition for the term. But, because the "word seems to serve a purpose in common use," he suggested that it "might be said to refer to a plant which is detrimental to man's interest, displeasing to the eye or of no evident value."42 A. J. Pieters, an agronomist employed by the United States Department of Agriculture, was also dissatisfied with defining weeds as plants out of place. For reasons similar to Campbell and Stevens, he rejected "the definition which has been pretty generally accepted" and added that it did not conform to "long established usage" in which the term "meant an injurious plant with no good in it." He proposed instead in 1935 that "a weed is a plant whose 4 1 Elmer G. Campbell, "What is a Weed?" Science 58 (July-December, 1923): 50. 4 2 O.A. Stevens, "What is a Weed?" Science 59 (April 18, 1924): 361. 29 potentialities for harm are greater than its potentialities for good." Pieters was motivated to redefine the term both because of the inadequacies of past definitions and out of a conviction that agronomists and other agricultural scientists needed to "be able to define their concepts as comprehensively and accurately as possible".44 A need for precision became even more acute in the 1950s and 1960s. Weed science emerged as a distinct field within the agricultural sciences during this period largely as a result of the success of 2,4-D and the development of other selective herbicides following the close of World War II. The enhanced status accorded to the study of weeds and weed control brought with it a pressing need for precise definitions and statements of principle, both to justify and direct the infant discipline. Attempts to define the term "weed" proliferated during these decades and the activity remains a favourite pastime of weed scientists. Since the early 1960s there has been a distinct shift away from purely subjective definitions towards a more "objective" view of weeds. This trend undoubtedly represents a response to the irony of basing an "objective" science on the study of a "subjective" class of plants.45 In extreme cases, notably A.H. Bunting's popular 4 3 Pieters, "What is a Weed?," 781-783. 4 4 Ibid., 781. 4 5 Attempts to provide an objective definition for the term weed have proliferated over the last few decades but modern weed scientists are not the first to attempt to define weeds in an objective manner. In 1877 for example, a professor at Ohio's Antioch College told his listeners at a meeting of the Montreal Horticultural Society that by "the term 'weed' we mean those plants to which the surroundings are so suitable that they increase and multiply, year after year, more rapidly than others by which they are surrounded." E.W. Claypole, "On the Migration of Plants from Europe to America, with an Attempt to Explain Certain Phenomena Connected Therewith," Report of the Montreal Horticultural Society and Fruit Growers' Association of the Province of Quebec 3 (1877): 82. Asa Gray, probably the leading American botanist of the nineteenth century, responded to some of the arguments presented by Claypole. In doing so he offered his own definition for "weed": "We may for present purposes consider weeds to be plants which tend to take prevalent possession of soil used for 30 definition~"weeds are pioneers of secondary succession"~the link between weeds and people is effectively severed.46 More typical 1960s definitions preserve a sense of the anthropocentric dimension of weeds while placing a considerably greater emphasis on the autonomy and agency of these plants than earlier definitions were wont to do.47 Jack Harlan and J.M.J. deWet, for example, argue that a weed might be "defined as a generally unwanted organism that thrives in habitats disturbed by man." Another prominent weed specialist and plant ecologist, Herbert Baker, sounds a similar note when he writes: "a plant is 'weed' if, in any specified geographical area, its populations grow entirely or predominantly in situations markedly disturbed by man."48 Definitions by Bunting, Harlan and deWet and Baker have proven popular and continue to be cited but they have not resolved the debate over what is a weed. Thomas Muzik, an agronomy professor at Washington State University, proposed in 1970 that a weed, "in the broadest sense, may be considered as an organism that diverts energy from a direction man's purposes, irrespective of his will." Asa Gray, "The Pertinacity and Predominance of Weeds," The American Journal of Science and Arts. Third Series, 18 (1879): 161. Occasionally, even government publications defined weeds in an objective manner. For example, in a popular 1932 pamphlet issued by the National Research Council of Canada, weeds are defined as "plants that have adapted themselves to their environment with such success that they crowd out or otherwise hinder the growth of our cultivated crops." G.P. McRostie, L.E. Kirk, G. Godel, W.G. Smith and J.M. Manson, Weeds and Their Control. Canada, National Research Council, Report 27, 1932, 8. 4 6 A.H. Bunting, "Some Reflections on the Ecology of Weeds," in The Biology of Weeds, ed. John L. Harper (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1960), 12. 4 7 Several weed scientists and plant ecologists have surveyed twentieth century definitions for "weed" in an effort to establish a viable, working definition. Overviews of twentieth century definitions can be found in: King, Weeds of the World. 1-6; Harlan, Crops and Man. 85-88; Holzner, "Concepts, Categories and Characteristics," 4-5; and M.-L. Navas, "Using Plant Population Biology in Weed Research: A Strategy to Improve Weed Management," Weed Research 31 (1991): 172-174. 48Harlan and deWet, "Some Thoughts about Weeds," 19; Herbert G. Baker, "The Continuing Evolution of Weeds," Economic Botany 45 (1991): 445. 31 desired by man." Eight years later, W. Holzner submitted that weeds "are plants adapted to manmade habitats and interfering there with human activities." R.J. Aldrich entered the fray in 1984 with his important book on weed-crop ecology. In it he defines weed as "a plant that originated under a natural environment and, in response to imposed and natural environments, evolved, and continues to do so, as an interfering associate with our crops and activities."49 Finally, in 1991, M.-L. Navas, a French weed specialist, concluded his survey of weed definitions with yet another: "a plant that forms populations that are able to enter habitats cultivated, markedly disturbed or occupied by man and potentially depress or displace the resident plant populations which are deliberately cultivated or are of ecological and/or aesthetic interest."50 Navas' definition is significant for at least two reasons. First, as one of the latest in a long line of definitions, it suggests that the search for meaning is ongoing and unlikely to end in the near future. Secondly, it is quite typical in form and emphasis of the more influential definitions devised since 1960. Since then attention has been squarely focused on the world's worst and most widespread weeds and like most recent definitions, Navas' certainly does a much better job in isolating, describing and defining these persistently troublesome plants than did earlier, purely subjective definitions. Also, unlike more traditional attempts at explication, it clearly attributes a significant degree of agency to weeds. According to Navas and most of his colleagues, weeds are more than just victims of circumstance and human opinion. Rather, they can be simultaneously viewed as both victims and aggressors in the complex ecological drama of farming. 4 9 Thomas J. Muzik, Weed Biology and Control (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970), 2; Holzner, "Concepts, Categories and Characteristics," 5; Aldrich, Weed-Crop Ecology. 6. 32 The general tendency of modern, scientific definitions to objectify weeds suggests that weed scientists have been no more successful in reconciling the dual nature of weeds than were their less specialized predecessors. While their definitions may be suited to the practice of a modern, "objective" western science, they seriously downplay the subjective side of the weed concept. As weed scientists are well aware, weeds would not exist if it were not for people and their activities. More importantly, they would not exist if people ceased to consider them to be weeds. Before providing his own definition, Navas himself observes that "the only common attributes of weeds are their occurrence in habitats disturbed by man and their undesirability."51 Weeds and Culture By downplaying weeds as a subjective category of plants, weed scientists run the risk of missing a vital point about what weeds are and how they are to be controlled or tolerated. Because weeds are inextricably both products of psychology and ecology, weed problems are best addressed by considering not only the agro-ecosystems that produce them but also the culture that underlies how we farm and how we think. Recognition of this point is potentially threatening and subversive, for it challenges the very social structure of farming upon which the employment of weed scientists depends. It does so by suggesting that in order to address a weed problem, you must first change the culture that has created it. In order to link weeds with culture and thereby, reconcile the two contradictory dimensions of weeds, it is instructive to dwell on the familiar if usually trivialized observation Navas, "Using Plant Population Biology," 174. 5 1 Ibid., 173. 33 that weeds are "the inevitable corollaries of crops." Weeds are concomitants of agriculture because they, or something akin to them, are effectively created by the act of distinguishing between more and less desirable plants. Non-European cultures such as North American Indians appear to make this distinction, adding additional support to the contention that there is a direct and, indeed, inseparable structural relationship between arable farming and the creation of weeds as a subjective category of plants.53 Herbert Baker, a leading North American authority on weeds, sums up this relationship when he argues that agriculture necessarily implies "the creation of a class of plants which we call weeds."54 Once weeds are created on a cognitive level, subsequent human activities play a key role in transforming them into an objective reality. Farming over the millennia has exerted strong evolutionary pressures on both crop and non-crop species which has resulted in the successful adaptation of "weedy" species to human disturbed environments. One evolutionary strategy has been the development of the weedy characteristics discussed earlier in this chapter. The world's most widespread weeds have found this strategy so successful that they Brenchley, Weeds of Farm Land. 1. 5 3 A recent study conducted amongst traditional agriculturists in southern Mexico suggests that native farmers do distinguish between desirable and less desirable plants but not necessarily in a way that is directly comparable to the European distinction between weeds and crops. Rather, traditional farmers seem to recognize several gradations of goodness or badness amongst non-crop plant species. J.C. Chacon and S.R. Gliessman, "Use of the 'Non-weed" Concept in Traditional Tropical Agroecosystems of South-Eastern Mexico," Agro-ecosystems 8 (1982): 1-11. Several historians have noted that North American Indians were often more conscientious weeders than were European settlers and that weeding comprised an important activity in many traditional North American farming systems. For examples, see: William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians. Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983), 42-45, 127; R. Douglas Hurt, Indian Agriculture in America: Prehistory to the Present (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1987), 1, 11, 31-34, 45, 55-59; Carolyn Merchant, Ecological Revolutions: Nature. Gender and Science in New England (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 74-80, 108. 34 often benefit more from human cultural activities than do the crops that these activities are supposed to favour. Other species have developed unusually intimate relationships with specific domesticates, often as a result of the evolution of weedy strains of crops or through crop^ weed hybridization. Many weed species have come to mimic the morphology and life-cycles of crops so closely that they are virtually impossible to eradicate either through the use of chemicals or more traditional methods of weed control.55 Some people even suggest that the association between weeds and domesticates has reached the point where the two can only be distinguished by their different "degree of dependence on man for success in permanently disturbed man-made habitats."56 While weed scientists are familiar with the argument that weeds are concomitants of agriculture and thus inevitable, they have little time to explore the implications of this point because of their pressing need to produce practical solutions to all-too-real problems. When the issue is pursued further, however, it becomes possible to deduce a third type of definition for the term weed. One of the first to do so was the plant taxonomist, Edgar Anderson. In his popular book, Plants. Man, and Life (1952), Anderson confronts his profession's traditional neglect of the plants that mean the most to people-crops and weeds-and his study is now considered a classic in the fields of weed science and economic botany. Anderson is most frequently quoted for his powerful yet succinct summary of the age-old relationship between people and their unwelcome vegetative neighbours: "the history of weeds is the 5 4 Herbert G. Baker, "Human Influences on Plant Evolution," Economic Botany 26 (1972): 32. 5 5 For a detailed discussion of crop mimicry in weeds, see: Spencer C.H. Barrett, "Crop Mimicry in Weeds," Economic Botany 37 (1983): 255-282. 5 6J.M.J. deWet and JR. Harlan, "Weeds and Domesticates: Evolution in the Man-Made Habitat," Economic Botany 29 (1975): 100. 35 history of man." Of even more importance in the context of this study is his explanation for what crops and weeds "really are". They "are artifacts" which by definition are: something produced by man, something which we would not have had if man had not come into being... Though man did not wittingly produce all of them, some are as much dependent upon him, as much a result of his culture, as a temple or a vase or an automobile.57 Historians familiar with the work of Alfred Crosby will have encountered already some of the concepts expressed above and, at least implicitly, the idea that weeds can be defined as "cultural artifacts."58 His work provides an additional insight into the nature of weeds and their relationship with culture by portraying them as unintentional allies in the European conquest of the New World. Weeds are more than just products of culture; they are active participants in culture. People, after all, did not actually create weeds and these plants have displayed an amazing ability to thwart our actions and attempts at classification for millennia. Modern definitions pay tribute to the agency of weeds and their agency is implicit in the design of cropping systems the world over. The phrase "a culture of weeds" aptly summarizes the reciprocal relationship between weeds and people. Its meaning, however, is subject to change depending on the context and the way in which the term "culture" is used. Choosing to use rather than define the word "culture" represents a prudent course of action in light of the problems associated with defining the equally ambiguous term "weed." It also serves to encourage readers to think about what culture means to them, what culture has meant in the past, how these different 5 7 Anderson, Plants. Man, and Life. 9, 15. 5 8 Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe. 900-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 145-170. For a readable book that abounds with many intriguing examples of the links between weeds and culture, consult Sir Edward Salisbury's Weeds and Aliens (London: Collins, 1961). Salisbury was a botanist who for many years served as the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. 36 meanings are related and how culture and nature intersect. Culture is used in three main ways throughout the study. One parodies the most traditional usage of the term, as in the breeding or growing of domesticated animals and crops. According to Charles Darwin, both weeds and domesticates evolve in response to similar evolutionary pressures, the only difference being that the latter are deliberately cultured whereas the former are the result of "unintentional culture".59 Another meaning refers to the high culture of scientific agriculturists and agricultural scientists who shared a wide range of assumptions and ideas about weeds and their eradication. The very weeds under consideration are also, in a sense, an elite as they are the most troublesome species whose status is indicated by inclusion in official noxious weed lists and lengthy treatment in agricultural literature. Yet a third and final meaning reflects the more conventional, anthropological usage of the term: culture as "patterns of learned behaviour." The particular patterns under investigation arise from the interaction between people and plants in a particular social and environmental setting over time. It is important to view these interactions as reciprocal ones for several reasons. If we regard weeds solely as products of human culture, acted upon rather than actors, it may be possible to explain why weed problems and methods of addressing them differ between Britain and North America by reference to different social and environmental conditions. Unfortunately, it becomes much more difficult to explain why the weed problem rose to unprecedented heights in North America when it did, and why the problem has persisted despite the enactment of increasingly draconian laws, the advent of tractors, new methods of Charles Darwin, The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. American Edition (New York: Orange Judd and Co., 1868), 1:383. 37 cultivation and, since World War II, the development of a staggering array of ever increasingly potent herbicides. If weeds are merely passive organisms, how do we explain the persistence of violent rhetoric in the writings of North American weed experts since the 1860s? Particularly between the 1880s and 1940s virtually every North American publication, on weeds cast the human-weed relationship as an oppositional one and American and Canadian experts regularly carried the rhetoric of war further than their British contemporaries cared or dared to. Advances in weed control techniques did little to encourage a less hostile view of weeds and, if anything, hostility towards weeds has intensified as the twentieth century has progressed. Because the relationship between people and weeds is reciprocal, complex and dynamic, it is difficult to conceptualize without breaking it down into several main topic areas or levels of analysis. This approach tends to do violence to the concept of culture as a dynamic whole but it has long been used to good effect by social, cultural and labour historians. The first level of analysis involves a consideration of weed biology and ecology and of those elements of human society that coexist and regularly interact with weeds. Because people unconsciously play a key role in weed ecology, the second level focuses on deliberate interactions between the two groups. Agriculturists have traditionally regarded agricultural production as a contest with weeds and, as such, it is appropriate to view this as a study of conflict. Cognition is the third main element. Issues addressed at this level include conscious thoughts about undesirable plants and our relationship with them, the poorly articulated ideas implicit in these thoughts and how both fit into broader discourses. Although human learning is emphasized, it is important to note that weeds also display patterns of learned behaviour. 38 -They regularly "learn" to avoid the hostile intentions of people by growing where they will not be disturbed. They also practice avoidance by altering their morphology. A familiar example of this technique is the ability of dandelions (Taraxacum officinale Weber) growing in lawns to produce much shorter flower stalks than their brethren on nearby, undisturbed sites. Dandelions are consequently able to flower and set seed despite repeated mowings. An even more striking example of the "learning" ability of weeds is the recent development of herbicide resistance by a number of species in response to a range of chemicals. An ability to conceptualize the culture of weeds in this manner owes much to recent work in the field of environmental history. A 1990 Journal of American History round table discussion on environmental history has proven particularly useful.60 It brings together papers from many of the field's leading American practitioners—Donald Worster, Alfred Crosby, Carolyn Merchant, Richard White, William Cronon and Stephen Pyne—who, despite advancing their own specific research agendas, are united on a number of key issues. One is a determination to advance the common goal of locating human history within the larger realm of nature by studying interactions between people and the environment over time. Implicit in their objective is the belief that natural phenomena, not just people, are independent causal agents in history. They mitigate an obvious danger of lapsing into crude environmental determinism by stressing that while natural forces can act independently, human-nature relationships are usually reciprocal and rarely simple. Of even greater importance for this study is the shared belief that while these interactions are extremely complex and highly dynamic, they can be analyzed on three 6 0 "Round Table on Environmental History," Journal of American History 76 (1990): 1087-1147. 39 fundamental, if arbitrary, conceptual levels. The first is a biological or ecological level, the second is a level of production and the third is comprised of human consciousness. All three interact with each other and they correspond nicely with what seems to be the main elements of a culture of weeds: coexistence, conflict and cognition. Carolyn Merchant and other "ecofeminists" would prefer to add "reproduction" as a fourth level but they probably would concede the validity of the simpler scheme.61 This chapter has attempted to demonstrate that weeds can be viewed simultaneously as both a subjective and objective group of plants. Weed experts have long been cognizant of this point but they have had little success in reconciling the dual nature of weeds in their attempts to define the term. Since at least the 1890s, authorities on the subject have increasingly emphasized the term's objective side at the expense of its subjective, anthropocentric element. The end result is that weed scientists are in danger of forgetting the intimate link between weed problems and the human cultures that spawn them. A way of reconciling the split personality of weeds and for making them a valid subject of study by historians is to define them as cultural artifacts. It is equally important to view them as active participants in culture. Through the centuries weeds have proven to be quite capable of resisting the hostile actions of farmers and they have probably forced as many changes in 6 1 For a good summary of Merchant's conceptual scheme, see her article, "The Theoretical Structure of Ecological Revolutions," Environmental Review 11 (1987): 265-274. Analyzing human-nature relationships using a tri-level conceptual scheme has been coined "an interactive theory of nature and culture" by Arthur McEvoy in his essay, "Toward an Interactive Theory of Nature and Culture: Ecology, Production and Cognition in the California Fishing Industry," in The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History, ed. Donald Worster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 211-228. In the context of this paper, however, I much prefer to use phrases such as "conceptual framework" or "levels of analysis" to describe what is little more than an artificial if convenient method for ordering a complex body of information. 40 human farming systems as people have wrought in weed populations. 41 CHAPTER 2 THE CULTURE OF WEEDS IN BRITAIN, 1500-1900 Historians have extensively cultivated the history of British agriculture between 1500 and 1900. In an effort to till such a large and complex field, however, they have not been able to cover all areas equally and many specific issues have been neglected. One of these is the relationship between weeds and farmers. To some this relationship may appear somewhat trivial and obscure, but it has been of vital interest to agriculturists for centuries. Their interest is reflected in the sheer wealth of information on the subject. This embarrassment of riches can prove daunting for someone embarking upon a survey of the history of weeds and their relationship with people in the British Isles. Perhaps it is fitting, however, that the task of chronicling what agriculturists did and thought bears some faint resemblance to the far more arduous task of keeping the land clean and relatively free of weeds using traditional tools and techniques. Filling a void in historical scholarship represents one goal of this chapter; demonstrating and expanding upon the conceptual scheme outlined in chapter one is another. With an eye to the latter, this chapter has been divided into three sections that correspond to the main elements of a culture of weeds: coexistence, conflict and cognition. The study's conceptual framework will be relegated to the background in subsequent chapters in an effort to stress the interrelationships between the three analytical levels and the artificiality of treating them as separate issues. 42 Because many elements of British weed culture were exported across the Atlantic, this chapter can be read as a preface to the development of a distinct culture of weeds in North America. It can also be read in the context of literature on the nature of agricultural change in Britain between the sixteenth and late nineteenth centuries. Historians have traditionally portrayed this period as one of rapid and radical change and all or significant parts of it have been dubbed the "agricultural revolution."1 A study of a single dimension of arable farming— the culture of weeds—precludes making any definitive statements as to the nature of change as a whole but does provide support for depicting change over these centuries as more evolutionary than revolutionary. 1 The term "agricultural revolution" was widely popularized in the mid-1960s by the publication of two books~J.D. Chambers and G.E. Mingay, The Agricultural Revolution. 1750-1880 (London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1966) and Eric Kerridge, The Agricultural Revolution (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967)~and the heated debate that ensued between the authors. Chambers and Mingay argue that a revolution in British agriculture occurred between 1750 and 1880 as a result of the "classical enclosure movement" of the late 1700s and the subsequent reorganization and enlargement of production units. Chambers and Mingay, 2-4. Kerridge, by contrast, identifies the agricultural revolution as the period between the mid-sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries and he contends that it involved the widespread adoption of a new crops and farming techniques. Kerridge, 40, 328. The phrase "agricultural revolution" is still heard today but its popularity has suffered greatly since the late 1960s at which time scholars began to question the use of the word "revolution" to describe a process of change that took place over several centuries and one that is still ongoing. David J. Brandenburg, "Commentary on Eighteenth-Century British Agriculture," Agricultural History 43 (1969): 20. Since the mid-70s, even G.E. Mingay has become leery of using the phrase. As he explained in 1977: "Considered in the broadest sense, the development of modern farming can be seen as stretching back into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, gathering pace in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and proceeding at its fastest in the present century. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that recent historians have produced a profusion of agricultural revolutions, one for the two centuries before 1750, another emphasizing the century after 1650, a third for the period 1750-1880, and a fourth for the middle decades of the nineteenth century; and no doubt there is also much to be said for calling the post-1914 changes revolutionary." G.E. Mingay, ed., The Agricultural Revolution: Changes in Agriculture 1650-1880 (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1977), 5. 43 Coexistence Weeds and humans have coexisted in the British Isles for millennia since their arrival as "alien" invaders from Continental Europe.2 Often they arrived together with weeds traveling as seed contaminants or even as crop seeds themselves; in other instances they traveled separately. Pollen evidence indicates that a number of common weedy species such as wild carrot (Caucus carota L.), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Weber), perennial sow-thistle (Sonchus arvensis L.), lamb's-quarters (Chenopodium album L.) and mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum L.) were present in Britain prior to human occupation, or at the very least, before the arrival of the first farmers.3 Successive waves of agrarian settlement added to the ranks of these early weedy settlers. The Romans are thought to have introduced corn marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum L.) and the prickly annual sow-thistle (Sonchus asper (L.) Hill), and weedy invaders undoubtedly arrived along with their fellow Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Normans.4 Britain's long history of human and weedy invasions had drawn to a close by 1500. Most of today's widespread and problematic weeds were well established by this date and had effectively become part of the "native plant population".5 The weed flora of Britain changed surprisingly little over the next four hundred years, for although new and exotic plants were 2 Sir Edward Salisbury, Weeds and Aliens (London: Collins, 1961), 24. 3 Several weedy species appear to have arrived in Britain via a land bridge across the Channel and parts of the North Sea that was exposed during glacial periods. Glaciers further aided the establishment of these species by destroying native vegetation and providing the disturbed sites upon which most weeds thrive. H. Godwin, "The History of Weeds in Britain," in The Biology of Weeds, ed. John L. Harper (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1960), 2-4. 4 Thomas A. HilU The Biology of Weeds (London: Edward Arnold, 1977), 5. 5 Winifred E. Brenchley, Weeds of Farm Land (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1920), 1. 44 regularly introduced, very few species succeeded "in establishing themselves as damaging weeds."6 The ethnic mix of Britain's rural human population was also relatively stable during this period. Historians have written extensively about these people, their activities and their institutions and there is, as a result, little point in dwelling on them.7 About all that is required is a brief discussion of the changes in human society that had a significant impact on the culture of weeds. Probably the most significant development was the appearance of a new literary genre and a new way of expressing ideas about and attitudes towards unwanted plants. British farming manuals were first published in English in the early sixteenth century, and what began as a trickle of titles became a veritable flood by the late seventeenth century. The more popular works went through numerous editions and many sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century titles were still being cited by British agriculturists in the opening decades of this century. Some are narrowly focused on specific reforms, crops or techniques while others offer advice on diverse topics related to good husbandry. Not all of them deal with the issue of unwanted vegetation but, because a knowledge of weeds and their eradication is an integral part of farming, very few of the more general volumes ignore the issue entirely.8 6 A.M. Mortimer, "The Biology of Weeds," in Weed Control Handbook: Principles. 8th. ed., eds. RJ. Hance and K. Holly (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1990), 10. For a similar argument and further examples of weedy plant introductions since the seventeenth century see Salisbury, 50-80. 7 The 1960s studies by Kerridge and Chambers and Mingay are still considered standard references on the history of British agriculture from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. P.R. Finberg and Joan Thirsk, eds., The Agrarian History of England and Wales. 8 Vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967-) represents the richest single source on Britain's agrarian history. 8 Until the 1960s, British agricultural history relied heavily and at times, exclusively on farming manuals as sources and agricultural improvers were typically cast in the heroic role of innovators (the great men who shaped and directed the course of agricultural improvement). 45 The writers of these manuals were not united by a common background—some were mere armchair farmers while others were experienced, practical husbandmen with keen powers of observation—but despite their diversity, their works do express several common themes. One is a desire to reform traditional agriculture out of the conviction that a nation's wealth, power and well-being rests on the health and vigour of its agrarian economy. Another is a common audience: the landed gentry and other rural elites.9 They represented the For a hugely influential book that fits and largely defined this model see: Lord Ernie, English Farming Past and Present (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1912). Historians have mounted a sustained challenge to Ernie's position and use of sources since the revisionist decade of the 1960s. Today, most scholars believe that while agricultural writers helped publicize and popularize farming improvements, their role as innovators was relatively minor. Studies that cast agricultural writers as publicists rather than innovators include: Chambers and Mingay, 73-75; Kerridge, 15; G.E. Fussell, "Science and Practice in Eighteenth-Century Agriculture," Agricultural History 43 (1969): 18; Joan Thirsk, "Agricultural Innovations and their Diffusion," in The Agrarian History of England and Wales, vol. 5.2, 1640-1750: Agrarian Change, ed. Joan Thirsk (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 537 and Stewart Richards, "Agricultural Science in Higher Education: Problems of Identity in Britain's First Chair of Agriculture, Edinburgh 1790-cl831," Agricultural History Review 33 (1985): 59. For articles that suggest that the true source of innovation and information was none other than the average, well-informed farmer, see: Stuart MacDonald, "The Diffusion of Knowledge among Northumberland Farmers, 1780-1815," Agricultural History Review 27 (1979): 30-39; Stuart MacDonald, "Agricultural Improvement and the Neglected Labourer," Agricultural History Review 31 (1983): 81-90; Nicholas Goddard, "The Development and Influence of Agricultural Periodicals and Newspapers, 1780-1880," Agricultural History Review 31 (1983): 116-131. Although the reputation of Britain's agricultural improvers has suffered considerably over the past three decades, few historians would deny that many agricultural writers were sincerely committed to farming reform and that their reputations as experts on agriculture in their own times were, and still are, justly deserved. Many were experienced farmers who devoted most of their adult lives to studying their profession, most were well traveled and educated by the standards of the day and not a few of them were counted amongst Britain's scientific elite. While their writings heavily reflect personal hopes, aspirations and prejudices, they also contain a wealth of information on standard farming practices and faithfully convey common, if not innovative or revolutionary, knowledge. 9 A recent article by Andrew McRae suggests that a number of the more popular sixteenth and seventeenth century husbandry manuals must have been read by members of "the lower socio-economic orders" rather than just by the gentry and their social superiors. Andrew McRae, "Husbandry Manuals and the Language of Agrarian Improvement," in Culture and Cultivation 46 segment of rural society that combined literacy with the financial resources to purchase books. Beginning in the sixteenth century, they created a large demand for both classical and contemporary agricultural literature. Much of this demand was created by a need for practical advice as more and more landowners began to farm and manage their own estates actively rather than simply leasing them out as they had done typically during the previous century.10 An appeal to the reader's desire for profit represents a third commonality. Most agricultural manuals are prefaced with promises of increased production and profits and specific reforms or innovations are regularly justified on economic grounds.11 A strong desire to see agriculture, or as one writer described it, this "Noble, though heretofore neglected Science", elevated from the status of a mere art constitutes a fourth theme.12 Almost all improver literature published after the mid-seventeenth century was dedicated to transforming agriculture into a science and thereby to freeing production from the twin constraints of superstition and tradition. Agriculture did eventually achieve recognition as a bona fide science during the 1800s but this new science had only a limited impact on British farming until the early twentieth century.13 It also had little impact on the physical relationship between people and weeds in Early Modern England: Writing and the Land, eds. Michael Leslie and Timothy Raylor (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1992), 44-45. 1 0 Joan Thirsk, "Making a Fresh Start: Sixteenth-Century Agriculture and the Classical Inspiration," in Culture and Cultivation in Early Modern England: Writing and the Land, eds. Michael Leslie and Timothy Raylor (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1992), 15-16. 1 1 For a discussion of the use of the term "profit" in early farming manuals and for "the gradual emergence of the modern usage of the word" in sixteenth century improvement literature, see: McRae, 36-37, 48-49. 1 2 John Worlidge, Systema Agriculturae: the Mystery of Husbandry Discovered. 3rd ed. (London: Printed for Thomas Dring, 1681), in unpaginated dedication. 1 3 Many scholars argue that agriculture only became a "true" science in the nineteenth century with the development of agricultural chemistry. They also contend that the discoveries of 47 before 1900, and some might argue, even before the 1940s. Britain's first scientific investigations into weed biology, ecology and eradication were conducted in the late 1890s, but scientific weed research was not truly institutionalized until much later.14 Prior to 1900, botany was the only science that had a significant, if decidedly limited, impact on the relationship between farmers and their vegetative adversaries. Botanists and plant taxonomists helped agriculturists achieve a better understanding of general plant taxonomy, biology and physiology but they had little specifically to say about weeds because of a traditional bias against studying domesticated plants and their weedy competitors. Botany's influence was further diluted by the difficulty of translating general, scientific principles into specific, economically viable practices and conveying new ideas to a largely illiterate farming public. Although traditional British weed lore is more akin to "common" than "scientific" knowledge, it is surprisingly deep and profound. Centuries of coexistence, observation, hard experience and countless trial and error experiments had taught agriculturists a great deal agricultural scientists only began to be successfully applied to British farming in the last half of the nineteenth century and even then, only by the largest and wealthiest landowners. Christabel S. Orwin and Edith H. Whetham, History of British Agriculture. 1846-1914 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1964), 28; Sir John Russell, A History of Agricultural Science in Great Britain. 1620-1954 (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1966), 10; Fussell, "Science and Practice," 7-18; Fussell, "Agricultural Science and Experiment in the Eighteenth Century: an Attempt at a Definition," Agricultural History Review 24 (1976): 44-47; Mingay, The Agricultural Revolution: Changes. 4, 65; Richards, 59. 1 4 The earliest British weed experiments that include enough controls and replications to be described as truly "scientific" were conducted in 1898 by J. A. Voelcker. They consisted of a series of simple spraying trials using iron and copper sulphate to eradicate charlock. J. Augustus Voelcker, "The Destruction of Charlock," Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. 3rd Series, 10 (1899): 766-775. One of Britain's leading agricultural scientists during the first half of the twentieth century, Sir John Russell, argues that the first scientific research into weed biology and ecology in Britain was begun in 1905 at the Rothamstead Research Station under the direction of Winifred Brenchley. Russell, 439. 48 about the unwelcome plants that inhabited their fields, and in many cases, even to anticipate the findings of twentieth century science. Agricultural improvers, farmers and farm labourers were at the very least familiar with the most widespread and troublesome weeds (see Fig. 1 and 2). Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, for example, was not conveying any startling news when he describes "thiftyll" as one of the "wedes" that "greue moofte" in The Boke of Hvsbandry (1523), the very first farming manual written and published in English.15 Fitzherbert's thistle could be any number of species but it was most likely the ubiquitous British weed, Cirsium aryense (L.) Scop.16 Cirsium arvense or the "common thiftle" was all too familiar to William Marshall, the man who has been described as "the soundest writer and the one with the most comprehensive understanding of agricultural practice" to ply a pen during the eighteenth century.17 Marshall regularly encountered this prickly member of the Composite Family during his extensive travels and often lengthy sojourns throughout England and he describes it as one of the most prevalent weeds in both pastures and arable fields in districts as diverse as 1 5 Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, The Boke of Hvsbandry (London: T. Berthelet, 1534), 16. Fitzherbert's treatise was first published in 1523. 1 6 Frequent references to weeds and lists of the most widespread weed problems are common features of British farming manuals published from the sixteenth century onwards. Unfortunately, until the late eighteenth century, most writers identified weeds by their common or provincial names. Common names provide insights into how plants are perceived by different people but they often make it difficult to determine the exact species under consideration. A single species can have many local identities and not infrequently, two quite different plants can share the same common name. While I have endeavored to provide scientific names wherever possible, in light of this difficulty, they often represent educated guesses rather than positive identifications. In determining scientific names I have relied heavily on the following sources for their fairly detailed lists of both the current and historic names associated with common British weeds: Brenchley, Weeds of Farm Land. 206-226 and Plant Protection Limited, Common Farm Weeds Illustrated (London: Butterworths Scientific Publications, 1952). 1 7 Chambers and Mingay, 73. 49 1 8 William Marshall, The Rural Economy of Yorkshire (London: Printed for T. Caddell, 1788), 1:355; Marshall, The Rural Economy of Glocestershire (Glocester: Printed by R. Raikes for G. Nicol, 1789), 1:92; and Marshall, The Rural Economy of the Midland Counties (London: Printed for G. Nicol, 1790), 1:211. 50 Fig. 2. Some common annual weeds from Thomas Hale, A Compleat Body of Husbandry (1756) Wild mustard (Sinapsis arvensis L.) or "charlock" is also regularly mentioned in farming manuals and it appears to have been equally ubiquitous throughout most of the British Isles. Numerous provincial names attest to the wide distribution of this species and one early twentieth century authority lists no less than fifty-seven common names in Britain alone for SL arvensis.19 Quack grass (Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv.) was another claimant for the title of Britain's worst weed. It too had a host of local identities~"couch", "quick" and "twitch" to name but a few-and in some districts this tenacious, hard-to-eradicate perennial grass was so 1 9 Brenchley, Weeds of Farm Land. 209. 51 prevalent that "couching" entered the farmer's lexicon as a distinct farming operation.20 Few species are mentioned with such regularity, or are so roundly cursed, as thistles, charlock and couch. They are not, however, the only weeds identified in agricultural improvement literature. Many species posed equally serious problems but were less widely distributed. The always observant William Marshall was conscious of this point and he regularly comments in his popular Rural Economies on the distinctive regional flavour to Britain's weed population. In one he notes that "wild hemp" or "hemp-nettle" (Galeopsis tetrahit L.) was of little consequence on farms in the Vale of Gloucester, while in "Yorkfhire it ranks with the more prevailing weeds. In the midland counties it is ftill more prevalent".21 Marshall's interest in establishing what weeds grew where prefigures modern, scientific weed surveys and it reflects the importance of tailoring weed eradication measures to suit the species actually present.22 Local variations in weed populations are often far more dramatic than variations on a regional scale. Both the identity and density of weeds can differ greatly between neighbouring farms, between fields within a farm and even between different areas within a field. One of the many causes of this high degree of variation is the type of crop grown and the farming practices that favour both the crop and its associated weeds.23 Unraveling the genetic and 2 0 William Marshall, Minutes of Agriculture (London: Printed for J. Dodsley, 1778), entries for April 20, 27, and 29, 1775. 2 1 Marshall. Rural Economy of Glocestershire. 1:91. 2 2 A modern study which illustrates the tendency of specific weed problems to vary quite markedly between counties in England is: RJ. Chancellor and RJ. Froud-Williams, "A Second Survey of Cereal Weeds in Central Southern England," Weed Research 24 (1984): 29-36. Regional variation in the species composition of weed populations can be attributed to the influence of regional climates, soils and farming systems. 2 3 For a detailed discussion of the relationship between crops and weeds in Britain, see: Brenchley, Weeds of Farm Land. 158-174. 52 cultural connections between specific weeds and crops is a twentieth century phenomenon but a basic understanding of the relationship has been part of British weed lore since at least the time of Fitzherbert.24 Agricultural writers consistently identified the common weed-crop associations and some even organized their discussions of weeds on the basis of these relationships. The prolific eighteenth century writer, William Ellis, provides a typical example of the emphasis placed on the link between specific weeds and domesticates when he begins his description of "Crow or wild Garlick" (Allium vineale L.) with the statement that "it chiefly grows among Wheat and Barley, and not fo much among Oats and Peafe".25 Comments of this nature reveal both considerable powers of observation and more than just a passing familiarity with different weeds and crops. Sometimes, however, neither was required as many common names include references to the crops that certain weeds tend to associate with. Corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas L.), for example, is so named because of its near exclusive tendency to haunt arable fields seeded to grain. The population of this once abundant British weed has declined dramatically over the last century-a decline that can be directly correlated to reductions in the acreage devoted to wheat through much of this period and to the growing popularity of herbicides since the close of the Second World War. Another important factor that determines the density and species mix of a resident weed population is soil type.26 This too has been a subject of common knowledge for 2 4 Fitzhherbert, 16-18. 2 5 William Ellis, The Modern Husbandman, or. the Practice of Farming (London: Printed for T. Osborne and M. Cooper, 1744), 2, Month of May: 42. A, vineale was an early immigrant to North America and it has become a serious weed in the Virginia's and neighbouring states. 2 6 Beginning in 1910, Winifred Brenchley, a weed specialist at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, embarked on a series of annual surveys to explore a question that "has been well to 53 centuries. Gervase Markham, a popular early seventeenth century writer, expresses this idea in general terms when he observes that on "hard barren grounds...weeds, efpecially great, ftrong, and offenfiue weeds" are rarely a problem because they "are the iffues of rich and fertile foyles".27 Later writers such as John Mortimer, a Fellow of the Royal Society and author of the popular early eighteenth century manual, The Whole Art of Husbandry, were often more specific. For example, Mortimer writes that "Tine, Poppies, May-weed, etc." were the "natural Produce" of chalk soils whereas on "Black Mould," one could expect to find "Thiftles, Docks, and all Sorts of rank Weeds, and Grafs."28 Edward Lisle, a Hampshire landowner, diarist and contemporary of Mortimer's, was also conscious of the intimate connection between soils and vegetation. On one occasion he noted that "cow garlick was a great whore in corn...in the dry fandy grounds; and yet it is no whore to them who fow it in the clays; for there it will not grow". On another he observed: "there was an infinite quantity of charlock in cold red clays, both peas-land and barley-land; but in white or lighter land the charlock did not over-run it".29 the fore" during "the last fifty years": "the relationship between the soil and the plants that grow upon it". Brenchley, "Weeds in Relation to Soils," The Journal of the Board of Agriculture 18 (1911/12): 18. For a concise summary of her findings see: Brenchley, "Weeds on Arable Land and their Suppression," Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England 76 (1915): 18-22. 2 7 Gervase Markham, Markham's Farewell to Hvsbandry (London: Published by M.F. for Roger Jackson, 1625), 13. 2 8 John Mortimer, The Whole Art of Husbandry: Or. The Way of Managing and Improving of Land. 2nd. ed. (London: Printed by J.H. for H. Mortlock and J. Robinfon, 1708), 57, 64. 2 9 Edward Lisle, Observations in Husbandry, ed. Thomas Lisle (London: Printed by J. Hughs for C. Hitch, L. Hawes, J. Rivington, J. Fletcher, W. Sandby and R.& J. Dodsley, 1757), 389, 398. Lisle appears to have had some notion of publishing his observations but he died in 1722 before he realized his ambition. His writings were subsequently collected and published by his son, Thomas. 54 Conflict Much more could and has been written about Britain's rich and highly diverse weed flora but it is time to move on to a consideration of a third, and probably the most important, factor that determines the weeds of a farm: deliberate human actions. As Lisle's final observation implies, physical interactions between weeds and people have long been portrayed as a form of conflict, both on the part of weeds and their human adversaries. Conflict is inherently dynamic and it suggests at least a degree of reciprocity. This seems to describe the conscious relationship between farmers and weeds quite well. Few if any farms have ever been completely free of weeds, their seeds or other propagules and maintaining a "clean" field requires careful vigilance and prompt action. Unwanted plants are constantly mounting new sorties, arriving openly by seed blown from a neighbour's field or stealthily in the hay imported to feed livestock over the winter. Sometimes even the best farmers can see years of hard work undone in a single season because tillage was delayed by an unusually wet spring or through the accidental use of dirty seed. The weed flora of adjacent farms can differ markedly depending on the skill, energy and resources available to different farmers and it can change dramatically on a single farm over the course of a few years with changes in ownership or tenancy. The scale of the human conflict with weeds in Britain before 1900 is truly staggering. Arable land seems to have been particularly "dirty" during the medieval period and one economic historian has even suggested that weeds were a "major reason" for the chronically low yields of grain in medieval England.30 Weeds continued to be "the great Difficulty the W. Harwood Long, "The Low Yields of Corn in Medieval England," Economic History Review 32 (1979): 469. Long's argument has been recently challenged by David Postles. 55 Farmer has to ftruggle with" in the eighteenth century.31 Jethro Tull, a leading early eighteenth century figure in the "agricultural revolution," asked his readers to "Queftion, Whether the Mifchief Weeds do to our Corn, is not as great as the Value of the Rent of all the Arable Lands in England'?2 A few years later, one of Scotland's earliest agricultural improvers proposed: "I am quite fatisfied that Weeds themfelves take more Strength from British Ground, befides the other Mifchiefs they do, than all the Dung in Britain gives it."33 Towards the end of the eighteenth century, William Marshall estimated "that one fourth of the produce of the arable lands of the kingdom is loft through a WANT OF TILLAGE". 3 4 The subsequent growth of weeds and unwanted plants continued to plague British farmers throughout the nineteenth century "wherever a crop will grow".35 The ongoing success of weeds between 1500 and 1900 was achieved in the face of regular, and at times rigorous, human opposition. One prominent weed scientist has described this opposition as largely "incidental to crop production", but his contention is not borne out by a careful reading of period sources.36 Traditional British efforts to combat the growth and After a careful analysis of contemporary sources, Postles concludes that "although weediness may have been a contributory cause of low yields of grain", low yields were the "consequence of a failure to adopt" a number of intensive farming practices. Weediness in short, "was a contributory factor, but not a sole determinant." David Postles, "Cleaning the Medieval Arable." Agricultural History Review 37 (1989V 130, 142. 3 1 Thomas Hale, A Compleat Body of Husbandry (London: Printed for T. Osborne, J. Shipton, J. Hodges, T. Trye, S. Crowder and H. Woodgate, 1756), 365. 3 2 Jethro Tull, The Horfe-Hoing Husbandry: orT an Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation (London: Printed for the Author, 1733), 38. 3 3 Robert Maxwell, The Practical Hufbandman (Edinburgh: Printed by C. Wright and Company, for the author, 1757), 307. 3 4 Marshall, Rural Economy of Glocestershire. 1:72. 3 5 James Buckman, "On Agricultural Weeds," Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England 16 (1855): 374. 3 6 F.L. Timmons, "A History of Weed Control in the United States and Canada," Weed Science 18 (1970): 295. 56 spread of weeds were central rather than merely incidental to crop production and the need to suppress the growth of unwanted vegetation dictated many farming practices. William Marshall's Rural Economy of the West of England (1796) provides a graphic example in support of this argument. While in Devonshire, Marshall noted that farmers seeded their wheat one to two months later than elsewhere in England or: "from October to near Chriftmas." Upon inquiring into the origins of this practice he was told that it was because "early fown crops are liable to weeds."37 Late sowing is an example of an indirect, or in the language of modern weed science, a cultural method of weed "control."38 As such, it represents an example of the most important type of defense traditionally employed by British farmers in their conflict with weeds-discouraging the growth of unwanted vegetation by altering the culture of domesticated crops. British farmers rarely, however, relied on cultural techniques alone and they were usually employed in conjunction with more direct attempts to extirpate troublesome plants. These included: hand weeding, digging and cutting, the use of animal drawn cultivation implements, 3 7 William Marshall, The Rural Economy of the West of England (London: Printed for G. Nicol, G.G. and J. Robinson, and J. Debrett, 1796), 1:188. 3 8 Weed scientists generally divide practices used to restrict the growth of unwanted vegetation into prevention, eradication and control. In the standard weed science lexicon, prevention refers to efforts to prevent or restrict the introduction, propagation and spread of weeds in a previously uninfested area and it is usually achieved through legislative means. Eradication refers to the complete destruction of a weed in a specific area. Because complete eradication is rarely if ever achieved, weed scientists prefer to use the term "control" to refer to mechanical, chemical, biological and cultural efforts to maintain weed populations at acceptable levels. Wood Powell Anderson, Weed Science: Principles (St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1977), 63-64. Although the term "control" more accurately describes standard farming practices aimed at suppressing weeds, I avoid using it in this chapter because it only came into common usage during the opening decades of the twentieth century. Instead of "control," British agricultural writers used terms such as "eradication," "extirpation," "destroying," or "killing" even though they too were aware of the difficulty if not impossibility of completely exterminating weeds. 57 and not infrequently, the employment of various biological agents such as domestic sheep and pigs. The more direct methods will be considered first because, in addition to supplementing cultural practices, they often acted as an indispensable component of these practices. Manual weeding represents the simplest and most direct method of meeting the challenge of weeds on arable land. Virtually all farming manuals refer to this technique and its desirability but there is considerable evidence to suggest that most farmers found weeding, particularly of field crops, more trouble than it was worth. Medieval sources mention regular weeding of cereals and the activity figures prominently in Fitzherbert's Book of Husbandry (1523) and Thomas Tusser's Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry (1574).39 The "old Remedy" for weeds is also discussed at length in eighteenth century farming manuals.40 The technology of weeding appears to have changed little over the intervening years and farmers were still being taught that "in the common Hufbandry of fowing Grain broad Caft...the Weed Hook and Hand are the moft common Inftruments for weeding Corn".41 William Marshall recorded that in late eighteenth century Norfolk, "HAND-WEEDING is...carefully attended to by farmers in general"; similarly in Glocestershire THE HOEING OF CROPS IN GENERAL...[is] nearly in full practice. Not only the leguminous crops, which are planted in rows; but WHEAT, which is fown at random, are hoed: not by a few individuals, only; but by hufbandmen in general: the wheat crop being hoed, here, as cuftomarily as the turnep crop is in Norfolk.42 3 9 Walter of Henley, Husbandry (ca 1286) in Walter of Henlev and Other Treatises on Estate Management and Accounting, ed. and trans. Dorothea Oschinsky (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 323; Fitzherbert, 17; Thomas Tusser, Fiue Hundreth Points of Good Hufbandry (London: Richard Tottell, 1574), 48; Postles, 137. 4 0 Tull, The Horfe-Hoing Husbandry. 39 4 1 Ellis, The Modern Husbandman, 2, Month of May: 36. 4 2 William Marshall, The Rural Economy of Norfolk (London: Printed for T. Caddell, 1787), 1:226; Marshall, The Rural Economy of Glocestershire. 1:98-99. Hand hoeing of turnips was a standard practice in East Anglia by the eighteenth century. Turnips were hoed to thin and space the crop and to subdue weeds. / 58 Hoes, weed hooks and "thistle drawers" were still being used during the nineteenth century and manual weeding continued to play a part in the human conflict with weeds.43 Just how important its role was, however, is a subject for debate. Peter Bowden, a contributor to Cambridge University's massive Agrarian History of England and Wales Project, contends that farmers "attached little importance to the practice" during the century and a half following 1500 and he makes a similar claim for the period 1640 to 1750: Also of comparatively small consequence as a cost in the cultivation of field crops (as opposed to garden crops) were expenditures on weeding, an activity infrequently undertaken, and then usually by women at about half the normal daily wage rate for men. Juveniles were also employed on this and other suitable tasks.44 Bowden's contention seems to apply also to the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. William Marshall, for one, followed his praise of the farmers of Glocestershire for their "due ATTENTION TO CROPS WHILE VEGETATING" with the observation that it was, unfortunately, "a fpecies of attention, which, in the management of the kingdom at large, is entirely omitted; excepting, perhaps, what is beftowed on an imperfect handweeding: In general terms, it may be faid, that, in moft other diftricts, crops remain 99/100 in a ftate of 4 3 J.C. Loudon, An Encyclopedia of Agriculture (London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, 1825), 363-364. Loudon's "weeding pincers or thistle drawers" bear a striking resemblance to Fitzherbert's weeding tongs. Sources that portray weeding as a common practice in the nineteenth century include: Henry Stephens, The Book of the Farm (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1844), 3:941-942; James Caird, English Agriculture in 1850-51. 2d. ed. (London: Frank Cass and Co., 1967; reprint of 1852 edition with a new introduction by G.E. Mingay), 138; John Percival, "Weeds and Their Suppression," The Journal of the Board of Agriculture 10 (1903/1904): 465; Orwin and Whetham, 10. 4 4 Peter J. Bowden, "Agricultural Prices, Farm Profits, and Rents," in The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Vol.4, 1500-1640. ed. Joan Thirsk (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 662; "Agricultural Prices, Wages, Farm Profits and Rents," in The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Vol.5.2, 1640-1750: Agrarian Change, ed. Joan Thirsk (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 92. 59 neglect, from feed time to harveft."45 Marshall's contention was supported by his rival, Arthur Young, who wrote that "niner-tenths of the farmers" in the North of England "treat the idea of hoeing with contempt".46 Sir John Sinclair, the President of the Board of Agriculture, reached a similar conclusion in 1817: "From a perusal of the County Reports, it appears, that both in England and Scotland, weeding is too often neglected".47 Most farmers were probably less than punctilious in their attention to weeding because of the activity's time consuming and labour intensive nature. Manual weeding also caused considerable damage in broadcast sown crops through trampling and the careless use of weeding tools.48 A far more popular and nearly universal method of freeing fields from unwanted vegetation was to destroy weeds prior to sowing by using a variety of animal drawn tillage implements. The most important of these was the plow. Plowing is central to most traditional arable farming systems and it serves a number of vital functions. These include incorporating manures and crop stubble, converting pasture into arable, preparing the soil for seeding, drainage, and last but not least: it kills the Weeds by turning up of the Roots to the Sun and Air, and Kills not only the Weeds that grow with the laft Corn; but wild Oats, Darnel, and other Weeds, that fow themfelves, and that as foon as they begin to peep out of the Ground, fo that they have no time to fuck out any of the Heart of the Land 4 9 4 5 Marshall, Rural Economy of Glocestershire. 1:99-100. 4 6 Arthur Young, A Six Months Tour Through the North of England (Dublin: Printed for P. Wilson, J. Exshaw, H. Saunders, W. Sleater, D. Chamberlaine, J. Potts, J. Hoey Jr., J. Williams, W. Colles, J. Porter, C. Ingham, and T. Walker, 1770), 3:82. 4 7 Sir John Sinclair, The Code of Agriculture (London: B. McMillan, 1817), 235. 4 8 Weeding damage was particularly acute in crops sown by the broadcast method. Peas and beans were commonly set in rows by the early eighteenth century but this innovation was not regularly applied to the most important field crops—wheat and other grains—until the mid-nineteenth century. 4 9 Mortimer, Whole Art of Husbandry. 45. 60 Improving the structure or "tilth" of the soil represents the most important function of plowing but, as numerous writers have argued since the sixteenth century, it is a mistake to consider eradicating weeds as merely a secondary benefit of this activity.50 Some improvers such as William Marshall even suggested that a need to extirpate weeds should dictate plow design and how the implement was used. In his Rural Economy of the West of England (1796), for instance, Marshall argues that the "foul ftate of the Soil" in much of Devonshire is less a result of "the fmall number of PLOWINGS it receives, than to the defect...in the conftruction of the PLOW, and the injudicious manner of ufing it."51 Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, British farmers normally plowed their arable fields once between crops. The timing of plowing varied widely depending on the nature of the soil, weather, crops and weeds present. Plowed fields were usually harrowed shortly before planting or seeding in order to break down large clods, level the seed-bed and rid the soil of both annual and perennial weeds. The various tillage operations occurring between crops are collectively referred to as "fallowing," regardless of "whether thefe plowings, &c. be given in two or twelve months".52 As William Marshall explained, both the length of the fallow and the number of tillage operations depended: on the number and the nature of the weeds to be deftroyed. If the fpring feafon be found infufficient to effectuate the purgation,—take the fummer, and even the autumn, 5 0 Thomas Tusser was perhaps the first English writer to stress the intimate connection between plowing and eradicating weeds: "Good tilth bring feedes, ill tilture weedes". Tusser, 39. Many seventeenth and eighteenth century improvers also made this connection and they described the eradication of weeds as one of the main aims of plowing rather than as an incidental benefit. Included amongst them are such popular and highly respected writers as: Walter Blith, The English Improver Improved (n.p., 1652), 109; Worlidge, 35; Mortimer, 45 and Adam Dickson, A Treatise of Agriculture. 2d ed. (Edinburgh: Printed for A. Kincaid and J. Bell, 1765), 1:84. 5 1 Marshall, Rural Economy of the West of England. 1:138. 5 2 Marshall, Rural Economy of Yorkshire. 1:361-362. 61 the winter, and the enfuing frping, rather than crop an under-worked fallow, which is but little fuperior to a fingle plowing...To begin a fallow without continuing it until its intention be fully accomplifhed, is throwing away labour unprofitably.53 Fallowing throughout the summer is referred to as a "bare summer fallow" and even though this practice entails the loss of an entire season's crop, it was the single most important direct method used by British farmers in their efforts to rid the soil of weeds. English farmers were practicing summer fallowing during the medieval era and by the sixteenth century it was considered "essential to keep down weeds".54 Sixteenth and seventeenth century farmers usually fallowed a field every second or third year, during which time the field was plowed between two and four times.55 By the eighteenth century, many agricultural improvers considered this amount of tillage to be inadequate for destroying a number of perennial weeds. Some even advocated extending the fallow for a second year to extirpate wild oats and other annual species whose seeds had an annoying tendency to lie dormant throughout the first year of fallow.56 By the mid-nineteenth century , the farmers of Essex appear to have taken this advice to heart. James Caird reports that summer fallowing was common in the county and that fallows were "ploughed and harrowed as often during the summer as the farmer thinks it 5 4 Joan Thirsk, "Farming Techniques," in The Agrarian History of England and Wales, vol.4, 1500-1640. ed. Joan Thirsk (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 179. Walter of Henley discusses summer fallowing at some length in his thirteenth century treatise on estate management. Walter of Henley, 321. Some historians argue that while summer fallowing was practiced in England between the twelfth and fourteenth century, it was neither an extensive nor overly effective procedure because of certain technological limitations. Long, 463-465; Postles, 142-143. Both Fitzherbert and Tusser also discuss fallowing in detail and they held it in high regard "for deftroying of wede". Tusser, 53; Fitzherbert, 15-16, 18. 5 5 Thirsk, "Farming Techniques," 179. 5 6 Tull, The Horfe-Hoing Husbandry. 38-39; Hale, 712; Marshall, Minutes of Agriculture. Nov.5, 1774 and May 21, 1776; Marshall, Rural Economy of Glocestershire. 1:69-70. 62 necessary, never less than five or six, and occasionally as often as eight times."57 Farming experts continued to advocate summer fallowing throughout the nineteenth century but by then, reliance on cleaning fallows appears to have declined.58 In the Code of Agriculture (1817), Sir John Sinclair attributed the reduced incidence of summer fallowing on light soils to the adoption of new crop rotations and, in particular, to the increasing popularity of turnips as a regular course in rotations.59 Turnips and other root crops were known as "cleaning" crops because they were rigorously hoed during the growing season. James Caird made a similar comment thirty-five years later, by which time another innovation—row cropping—was further lessening the need for effective but costly fallows.60 Seed drilling and horse hoeing, the basic activities upon which nineteenth century row cropping was based, have traditionally been credited to the Berkshire farmer, innovator and agricultural improver, Jethro Tull.61 Lord Ernie describes Tull as the "'greatest individual improver' that British agriculture has ever known" and argues that Tull's book, The Horfe-5 7 Caird, 137. 5 8 Prominent nineteenth century agriculturists that strongly advocated summer fallowing include: Sinclair, The Code of Agriculture, 228; Benjamin Holdich, "The Weeds of Agriculture," in George Sinclair, Hortus Gramineus Woburnensis. 4th ed. (London: Ridgways, [1825]), 317; Buckman, 375. Jonathan Brown and H.A. Beecham argue that "the need for a cleaning fallow" was reduced after 1750 through the adoption of more intensive farming practices. These practices include longer, more complex crop rotations and more "thorough cultivation and cleaning techniques practiced throughout the course of cropping". Jonathan Brown and H.A. Beecham, "Farming Practices," in The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Vol.6, 1750-1850. ed. G.E. Mingay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 282-283. David Grigg suggests that the demise of summer fallowing can be directly linked to changes in sowing techniques: "As long as crops were broadcast—as most of them were until the nineteenth century—crops could not be weeded while the crop was growing; thus a fallow was essential if land was to be properly cleared of weeds." David Grigg, English Agriculture: An Historical Perspective (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 48. 5 9 Sinclair, The Code of Agriculture. 227. 6 0 Caird, 299, 320. 63 Hoing Husbandry (1733), provided the principles "on which was based an agricultural revolution in tillage."62 Tull's "revolutionary" system involved mechanically seeding or "drilling" field crops in rows and subsequently "breaking or dividing the Soil by Tillage, whilft the Corn or other Plants are growing thereon."63 The soil between rows was stirred by a "horse-hoe" (essentially a modified light plow) while the more traditional hand hoe was used to cultivate within rows. Tull argued that the main benefits of drilling and regular tillage were twofold. First, seeding in rows enabled farmers to cultivate their growing crops intensely and, in consequence, greatly increase uptake of finely pulverized soil particles. Tull believed that these particles provided the main source of "Nourifhment" for plants and he was confident that his system would largely eliminate the need for crop rotations and regular additions of manure. He also suggested that it would permit farmers to sow the same crop for many years in succession without any significant decreases in yield.64 Tull was not concerned with the increase in weeds that inevitably accompanies continuous cropping because of the second major advantage to horse-hoeing husbandry: it allowed farmers to kill weeds quickly and relatively easily during the growing season without causing extensive crop damage. Britain's greatest individual improver was so confident in his system's ability to keep weeds in check that he rashly predicted that the "New Hoing-Husbandry in time will probably make fuch an utter Ridance of all forts of Weeds, except fuch as come in the Air, that as long as this 6 1 For the most recent biography of Tull, see: Norman Hidden, "Jethro Tull I, II, and III," Agricultural History Review 37 (1989): 26-35. 6 2 Lord Ernie, English Farming Past and Present. 6th ed. (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1961), 169. 6 3 Tull, The Horfe-Hoing Husbandry. 25. Tull did not actually invent drilling and horse-hoeing although he deserves a great deal of credit for improving and publicizing the technique. 64 management is properly continued, there is no Danger to be apprehended from them".65 Tull's soil particle theory of plant nutrition was subsequently proven wrong but his reputation as the father of clean husbandry is justly deserved.66 Seed drilling and inter-row hoeing, however, only came into widespread use during the mid-nineteenth century despite having received considerable attention and publicity. It seems that prior to this time, horse-hoeing husbandry was considered suitable only for well-drained and easily cultivated soils, and even there the vast majority of farmers preferred to sow their seed broad-cast and put up with the weeds rather than face the practical difficulties and labour costs of drilling and hoeing.67 Reasons for the slow adoption of Tull's "new husbandry" include the traditional resistance of farmers to new and potentially risky innovations, technological limitations and a variety of labour-related problems.68 A final, direct method of freeing land from weeds required only minimal labour inputs 6 4 Ibid., 25-37. 6 5 Ibid., 39. 6 6 Tull's heroic stature has been repeatedly challenged since the 1920s largely because of his erroneous views on plant nutrition and his dismissal of the need for manuring and crop rotations. Tull was right in suggesting that tillage can increase crop yields even in the absence of weeds but this phenomena is now known to be due to factors such as improved soil aeration or better water infiltration rather than increased uptake of soil particles. He deserves credit, however, for being the first agricultural improver to stress the importance of regular tillage throughout the growing season-even if he was right for all the wrong reasons (we now know that it works primarily through suppressing weeds). For a concise summary of Tull's changing reputation in the eyes of historians since Ernie and a balanced assessment of his contributions to British husbandry see: E.R. Wicker, "A Note on Jethro Tull: Innovator or Crank?" Agricultural History 31 (1957): 46-48. 6 7 Chambers and Mingay, 70. 6 8 For contemporary explanations for the slow adoption of Tull's horse-hoeing husbandry see: Arthur Young, Rural Oeconomy (London: Printed for T. Beckett, 1770), 316 and Patrick Brodie, "On the Destruction of Weeds," Communications to the Board of Agriculture 7 (1811): 67. Roger Wilkes' essay, "The Diffusion of Drill Husbandry, 1731-1850," in Agricultural Improvement: Medieval and Modern, ed. Walter Minchinton (Exeter: University of Exeter, 1981): 65-94, provides a comprehensive, historical analysis of this issue. 65 and almost no technology: pasturing livestock on arable fields. It did, however, depend upon the active co-operation of domestic sheep and swine and their ability to selectively graze upon weeds in fields of beans and wheat.69 This approach seems to have been quite effective and was understandably popular with traditionalist farmers. Some progressive improvers, however, dismissed it as a "flovenly cuftom".70 Their primary objection was that it only became practical when fields were heavily infested with weeds and as such, it was a sure sign of slovenly culture. It was also a tacit admission of the failure of farmers to heed one of the central tenets of good husbandry: "prevention is the better cure".71 British farmers employed a wide range of cultural techniques to prevent and suppress the growth of weeds. The easiest in theory, if not in practice, was simply to avoid introducing them into fields in the first place. The use of well composted manure, eradicating weeds on land adjacent to fields and attempting to sow only clean seed were three of the most heavily promoted preventative measures. Although they seem to have been common practices, they were not always effective, and judging from the volume of complaints by agricultural improvers, they were not always carefully conducted. To compost manure properly, for example, requires a considerable effort in terms of collecting and turning and many farmers found it easier to manure their fields through the expediency of pasturing livestock on fallows, temporary pasture or stubble. Complicating matters further, the seeds of some weedy species 6 9 William Ellis mentions in 1744 that sheep were regularly used in the Chiltern Vales for cleaning charlock out of bean crops. Ellis, The Modern Husbandman. 1, Month of March: 17. Later in the eighteenth century William Marshall commented that in Norfolk: "If wheat abound with 'red weed'—poppies—fwine are frequently turned upon it to eat out this troublefome weed; which they will do, with little or no damage to the wheat." Marshall, Rural Economy of Norfolk. 1:226. 7 0 Young, Six Months Tour. 1:49, 25. 7 1 Brodie, 69. 66 can remain viable in even the most thoroughly composted manure. Cutting weeds in the unfilled corners of fields, in ditches and along fencelines, hedges and roads also requires a considerable amount of time and energy. This activity was common enough to acquire its own name—"discumbering"~but agricultural improvers argued that it was all too often neglected.72 Agriculturists have stressed the importance of using clean seed since the sixteenth century and seed cleaning appears to have been a common activity for at least as long.73 For instance, Tusser mentions several methods for cleaning barley: Some bfeth to winnew, some bfeth to fan, Some bfeth to caft it as cleane as they can, for feede go and caft it, for malting not fo: but get out the cockle, and then let it go.74 Farmers continued to fan and winnow their seed grain in the eighteenth century and their individual efforts were augmented in the nineteenth by the advent of commercially cleaned seed and seed testing facilities.75 The use of clean seed remains a standard anti-weed measure to this day but as numerous grain drill surveys have shown, modern farmers continue to sow 7 2 Marshall, Minutes of Agriculture. July 1, 1775. Eighteenth and nineteenth century writers who complained about the neglect of weeds in uncropped areas adjacent to arable fields include: Dickson, 1:105 and Stephens, 3:944-947. 7 3 Eighteenth and nineteenth century improvers regularly stressed the importance of using clean seed. For fairly detailed treatments of the subject see: William Ellis, Chiltern and Vale Farming Explained (London: Printed for Weaver Bickerton, 1733), 304; Sinclair, Code of Agriculture. 247 and Buckman, 376-377. 7 4 Tusser, 23. 7 5 A recent British weed control manual describes fanning and winnowing as "widespread" practices by the eighteenth century. Efforts to procure clean seed were facilitated in the nineteenth century by commercial seed cleaning and by the establishment of a seed testing service by the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1871. The British government opened several official seed testing stations in 1914. J.A.R. Lockhart, A. Samuel and M.P. Greaves, "The Evolution of Weed Control in British Agriculture," in Weed Control Handbook: 67 weed-infested seed on an all too regular basis. This suggests that despite the best efforts of farmers and improvers alike, the use of dirty seed did much to perpetuate the conflict with weeds in Britain between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Because farmers were never able to prevent the introduction of unwanted plants into their arable fields entirely, they often cultured their crops in a manner designed to suppress the germination and growth of the weeds that were already there. A very traditional method was to sow heavily because: it greatly prevents the Growth of thofe Weeds, whofe Mifchiefs feldom are over at the Barn; but too often are known to infinuate themfelves into a Growth in the Field...The Growth of Weeds is often abfolutely hindered, by the plenary Furniture that the Ground enjoys from the Roots of the Grain.76 Efforts to crowd out weeds were intensified during the eighteenth century through the use of specialized crops such as buckwheat, a plant whose growth "is fo rapid as to outftrip and Another almoft every fpecies of weeds".77 The use of smother crops necessarily implies that the land was also being used for other, more lucrative purposes. Farmers were growing other crops; they were practicing crop rotation. Crop rotation was a common practice by the sixteenth century and as the centuries progressed, the taking of "crop upon crop...for grediness fake" became a thing of the past.78 Principles. 8th ed., eds. R.J. Hance and K. Holly (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1990), 53-54. 7 6 Ellis, Chiltern and Vale Farming. 329. David Postles argues that "intensive sowing to smother weeds" was practiced in England during the medieval period. Postles, 142. Adjusting seeding rates to discourage the growth of weeds was advocated by many agricultural improvers beginning with Thomas Tusser in the sixteenth century. Tusser, 17. 7 7 Marshall, Rural Economy of Norfolk. 1:254. Two of the earliest references to the use of smother crops are: William Ellis, Agriculture Improv'd (London: Printed for T. Osborne, 1746), 1:12-13; Francis Home, The Principles of Agriculture and Vegetation (Edinburgh: Printed for G. Hamilton and J. Balfour, 1757), 159. 7 8 Thirsk, "Farming Techniques," 177; Tusser, 17. 68 Sixteenth and seventeenth century rotation schemes varied widely but they were usually quite simple. Arable fields in the north of England were typically seeded to grains and legumes for two to four years and then were allowed to rest under grass for up to ten years.79 In the more fertile regions further south, cultivated land was commonly cropped for two years before being fallowed for one, and on the brecklands of Norfolk, farmers followed a four-course system of barley-rye-barley-fallow.80 Four-course rotations that included root crops, new legumes and forage grasses became commonplace during the eighteenth century and the incidence of summer fallowing declined accordingly. In backwards districts, however, and on heavy soils where legumes and turnips did poorly, farmers continued to follow the traditional course of wheat-beans- fallow well into the nineteenth century.81 Nineteenth century rotations tended to be more varied, complex and longer than ever before but they were still designed to fulfill "the principle of keeping the land DRY, CLEAN, and RICH".8 2 Subduing weeds was not the only function of crop rotation but as one early nineteenth century improver observed: "every rotation and course of cropping ought to render the land cleaner and freer from weeds, which it will certainly do in a judicious system with due attention."83 Traditional British crop rotations discouraged the germination, growth and spread of weeds in a number of ways: The growing of a succession of different crops on a field varied the competitive environment of the weed population. The working of the land in spring, the date of seedbed preparation, the seasonal presence or absence of the crop canopy, the time of 7 9 Thirsk, "Farming Techniques," 177. 8 0 Ibid., 178. 8 1 Orwin and Whetham, 5; Chambers and Mingay, 58-59; Grigg, 49. 8 2Caird, 503. 8 3 William Pitt, "On the Subject of Weeding; or the Improvements to be Effected in Agriculture by the Extirpation of Weeds," Communications to the Board of Agriculture 5 (1806): 255. 69 harvest and subsequent cultivation all changed from year to year, so that no one weed species could benefit from a consistently favourable environment and thereby gain dominance. In addition 'cleaning' crops such as turnips or potatoes which allowed mechanical weed control during their active growth were balanced against 'fouling' crops (usually the cereals) which did not. An effective rotation struck a balance that involved living with weeds which were never absent but seldom serious and usually under control.84 Many agricultural improvers believed that cleaning crops, particularly turnips, were the key to a successful rotation. Rotations were considered in turn, the key to successfully subduing weeds.85 By the mid-seventeenth century turnips were widely grown for fodder in various parts of East Anglia and Southern England and by the late eighteenth century they had become a standard course in the Norfolk system and other similar four-course schemes.86 Unlike the various grains and legumes, turnips were often carefully hoed by hand during the growing season both to thin and space the crop and to reduce competition from weeds. Turnip culture reached its apogee in Norfolk. There, according to William Marshall, turnip hoeing became a way of life: "A boy in Norfolk, by the time he is the height of a hoe, begins to make ufe of one: confequently, every man who has been bred to country-bufinefs is a turnep-hoer; yet not always, even with this advantage, an expert one."87 Arthur Young argued that inexpert hoeing or even worse, no hoeing at all, effectively negated the value of turnips in rotations: Suppofe the turneps, which I ftate as the firft crop in the propofed fiftem, are managed after the manner of many whole counties, that is not hoed at all, but left at their utmoft thicknefs, and full of weeds, as fuch crops moftly are; this management does not affect only the turnep crop, but every one that follow: for the crop of turneps, which is the 8 4 Lockhart, Samuel and Greaves, 44-45. 8 5 Some improvers such as Sir John Sinclair argued that the adoption of turnips in rotations had significantly reduced the incidence of weeds on arable land by the early 1800s. Sinclair, The Code of Agriculture. 235. 8 6 Chambers and Mingay, 61. 8 7 Marshall. Rural Economy of Norfolk. 1:267-268. 70 firft in the courfe, if it is badly managed, will much prejudice even the wheat one, which is the laft...In this manner, every crop is fuccefively injured by the weeds, until the laft is almoft deftroyed by them: and then the circle goes round again upon the fame principles, in fo much, that every courfe increafes thefe grand enemies, until at laft the ground, however good it may naturally be, becomes quite exhaufted, and will yield nothing but trumpery.88 Young's analysis of the consequences of failing to hoe reveals that even the most effective techniques for keeping weeds at bay were ineffective when used alone. It also suggests that the conflict with weeds was not a single or discrete activity.89 Instead, it is best perceived as highly complex and integral aspect of arable farming, an "essential part of cultivation" and as "one of the most important parts of an improved husbandry."90 Cognition By now it is clear that the issue of weeds was central to both how farmers farmed and 8 8 Young, Rural Oeconomv. 82-84. 8 9 Determining what combination of techniques most farmers used in their conflict with weeds is difficult because few farmers were able or inclined to record such mundane activities. One that did was William Marshall and his Minutes of Agriculture (1778) provides a detailed account of one farmer's struggle with weeds. In his entries for 1775 alone, Marshall mentions using virtually all of the weed control techniques discussed in this chapter. He may not have been an "average farmer" but it is worth noting that the Minutes of Agriculture represents the published version of a journal that he began to keep as a young man after firing an incompetent bailiff and assuming the active management of his farm in 1774. Marshall describes this period in his life as "an Apprenticefhip to farming" and there is, as a result, little reason to regard his activities as particularly unusual or exceptional. Marshall, Minutes of Agriculture. July 29, 1775. 9 0 Pitt, 233; Brodie, 64. Lockhart, Samuel and Greaves similarly argue that: "From the 18th century onwards there was an increasing awareness that efficient weed control was essential to successful crop production, and the husbandry of those days increasingly incorporated control measures into all systems of land and crop management. Success depended on the operation of three measures, the rotation of crops, the disturbance of the soil by cultivation and the removal of weed seed from crop seed. Until the coming of chemical herbicides these three were central features of the art of husbandry." Lockhart, Samuel and Greaves, 44. 71 the practical advice offered in improver literature. Agricultural improvers were not, however, solely concerned with immediately practical matters and they devoted considerable space to less tangible issues such as the origin and nature of weeds and weed problems in general. Their writings on these and other subjects provide intriguing insights into scientific, economic and religious thought and how these larger cultural contexts helped shape specific ideas about, and attitudes towards, undesirable plants. Agricultural writers have traditionally expressed considerable dislike for the weedy denizens of cultivated fields. In doing so they probably echoed the prevailing opinion of British farmers. Since at least the sixteenth century, English farmers appear to have drawn "rigid distinctions" between crops and weeds.91 As one historian explains: to "the agriculturalist a weed was an obscenity, the vegetable equivalent of vermin...Even today there are few farmers who are cheered by the sight of poppies in their corn."92 Sixteenth-century writers commonly described poppies, thistles and other weeds as "yli", "comberfome", "lothfome" and "noyous" and more than one seventeenth century writer characterized them as a "great annoyance".93 These or similar invectives remained popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but by the 1730s many writers were beginning to express their dislike through the use of far harsher terms. One of the first to escalate the war of words against weeds was Jethro Tull. He described them as "thefe Enemies," the "fpurious Kindred" of "Legitimate (or 9 1 Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England. 1500-1800 (London: Penguin Books, 1983), 270. 9 2 Ibid. 9 3 Fitzherbert, 17; Tusser, 37; Conrad Heresbach, Fovre Bookes of Hufbandry. ed. and trans, by Barnabe Googe (London: Printed for Richard Watkins, 1577), 18; Thomas Hill, The Profitable Art of Gardening (London: Henry Bynneman, 1579), 18; Blith, 120; Worlidge, 214. 72 Sown) Plants" and accused them of "robbing" and "Rapine".94 Tull's polemics were rivaled and even surpassed by those of his contemporary, William Ellis. Ellis regularly used terms such as "abominable", "ftinking", "venomous" and "rampant" to describe some of the more troublesome weeds.95 Probably the most inveterate and high profile weed haters of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were the president and secretary of the Board of Agriculture, Sir John Sinclair and Arthur Young. They portrayed weeds as "trumpery" and "bad company," they condemned them as "robbers of the soil" and they called for eternal vigilance against this "pertinacious host of enemies to the profitable crops".96 Sinclair was one of the last of the prominent agricultural improvers to defame weeds in such a colourful manner. His nineteenth century successors still expressed their dislike for unwanted plants but they did so less often, less violently, and usually through the use of more traditional expressions of antipathy.97 The identification of a persistently negative attitude towards weeds and the use of harsher anti^ weed rhetoric between the opening decades of the eighteenth century and the close of the Napoleonic Wars has a number of important implications. The first is that despite improvements in tools and techniques, weeds continued to plague farmers and arouse their hostility throughout the period 1500 to 1900. This in turn implicitly testifies to the agency of weeds, or as one essayist lamented, their ability to "hold almost all our endeavours to destroy 9 4 Tull, The Horfe-Hoing Husbandry. 25, 37-38. 9 5 Ellis, Chiltern and Vale Farming. 293; Ellis, The Modern Husbandman. 4, Month of March: 17. 9 6 Young, Rural Oeconomy. 83-84; Sir John Sinclair, An Account of the Systems of Husbandry Adopted in the More Improved Districts of Scotland. 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Printed for James Bellantyne and Company, 1813), 1:364. 9 7 For evidence of this change of style, consult any of the nineteenth century references cited in this chapter. 73 them at defiance."98 Agricultural improvers paid grudging tribute to the agency of weeds on a regular basis and in a number of ways. Some emphasized their "Pre-eminence over all other Vegetables" because of their superior hardiness and tenacity of growth, whereas others imbued them with human motives and abilities.99 The latter was either accomplished through the use of anthropomorphic adjectives or, less subtly, by miscasting weeds as actors in complex and unmistakably human dramas. One early Scottish improver, for instance, warned in a letter to the Earl of Stair that "They, the Weeds, fteal in like a Thief in the Night, thruft themfelves where Corn would grow, and dwarf it, drawing the Nourifhnment from it, or they choke and kill what grows befide them".100 A third insight that can be drawn from expressions of antipathy is that the strength of feeling that weeds aroused can be linked to a number of more purely human developments. These include changes in the price and supply of labour, a better understanding of weed costs, competition and eradication, and finally the sheer frustration felt by improvers over the failure of farmers to heed their advice. As outlined in the previous section on conflict, traditional British approaches to weed problems were generally very labour intensive and there is some evidence to suggest that by the eighteenth century the cost of hand-weeding had become 9 8 Brodie, 64. 9 9 Ellis, Chiltern and Vale Farming. 304. Echoing Ellis' statement, William Pitt writes: "The vegetables we term weeds, are more hardy and tenacious of growth than any others; nor indeed can it be otherwise than that those plants, which succeed in spite of opposition, must be of the most hardy kind." Pitt, 233. Scholars have written extensively on the near universal tendency of people to anthropomorphize other organisms and natural phenomena and as such, it is clear that weeds were not being singled out for special treatment. Their literary treatment does, however, provide a good example of an enduring human trait and the ability of people to push rhetorical devices into the realm of absurdity. 1 0 0 Maxwell, 234. 74 prohibitively expensive.101 It is plausible that higher labour costs discouraged farmers from attending to the finer points of weed eradication and that their neglect, in turn, aroused the ire of reformers such as Ellis and Tull. After all, agricultural improvers had been calling for more attention to weeding since the reign of Henry VIII. It would be hardly surprising if eighteenth century writers adopted the device of defaming weeds in an effort to impress their readers with the danger that weeds represented. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries long drawn-out wars against France did little to improve the labour situation and it is probably no coincidence that both anti-weed polemics and interest in weeds peaked during this time.102 During this period essays solely devoted to weeds and their eradication first made their appearance, as did attempts to estimate the cost of weeds and the economic benefits of weeding.103 Some improvers were so alarmed over the spread of weeds that they even called for the passing of some form of 1 0 1 George Ordish, The Constant Pest: A Short History of Pests and their Control (New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1976), 75. 1 0 2 Further evidence of a link between the price and supply of labour and a negative attitude towards weeds is supplied by events during and immediately following World War I. For a discussion of how war related labour disruptions sparked a renewed interest in weeds and an escalation in anti-weed rhetoric, see Chapter 5. 1 0 3 The first British publication solely devoted to the issue of weeds and weeding that I am aware of is Pitt's 1806 essay "On the Subject of Weeding; or the Improvements to be effected in Agriculture by the Extirpation of Weeds," Communications to the Board of Agriculture. 5 (1806): 233-271. Probably the earliest attempt to estimate the cost of weeds and the profits of weeding can be found in Arthur Young's A Six Months Tour Through the North of England (1770). Young calculated the benefits of hoeing and clean farming for a number of crops and he concluded that "the profit of this hufbandry is very great; if well executed it is two hundred per cent, more advantageous than the common methods." Young, Six Months Tour. 3:74-86. For a later but much more rigorous and systematic attempt to estimate weed losses and the economic benefits of weeding, see: John Wright, "Experiments on Weeding Broad-cast Crops," Communications to the Board of Agriculture. 6, Part 2 (1810): 387-388. 75 noxious weed legislation. At the same time as the cost of attending to weeds was rising, agricultural improvers were becoming increasingly aware of the fact that weed problems, unlike diseases and other crop maladies, were neither mysterious nor impossible to solve using existing tools and techniques. The causes of plant diseases, for example, were not widely understood until well into the nineteenth century, whereas agricultural writers displayed a fairly modern grasp of the nature of weeds and weed competition by a comparatively early date.105 By the mid-eighteenth century, earlier notions were being widely ridiculed. These included the idea that weeds could be generated spontaneously from soils, that crops transmutated into weeds and 0 4 Improvers that called for some form of noxious weed legislation include: Marshall, Rural Economy of the Midland Counties. 2:152; Pitt, 257; and George Rennie, "On Weeding or Cleaning Land," Communications to the Board of Agriculture 7, part 2 (1813): 297. Sir John Sinclair was one of the last to agitate for weed laws. In The Code of Agriculture. 248, he comments upon the existence of weed laws in France and Denmark and remarks that in Britain, a "clause enforcing the extirpation of weeds in hedges, along the sides of roads, passed the House of Commons; but was thrown out by the Lords." 1 0 5 Sir Joseph Banks for example, probably was the first British writer to alert British agriculturists to the true nature of blight or rust in wheat. In a well-known 1805 paper, Banks discounts such fanciful notions as the influence of the heaven or malignant vapours when he writes: "BOTANISTS have long known that the blight in corn is occasioned by the growth of a minute parasitic fungus or mushroom on the leaves, stems, and glumes of the living plant. Felice Fotana published in the year 1767 an elaborate account of this mischievous weed...Agriculturists do not appear to have paid, on this head, sufficient attention to the discoveries of their fellow-labourers in the field of nature; for though scarce any English writer of note on the subject of rural economy has failed to state his opinion of the origin of this evil, no one of them has yet attributed it to the real cause, unless Mr. Kirby's excellent papers on some diseases of corn, published in the Transactions of the Linnaean Society, are considered as agricultural essays." Sir Joseph Banks, "A Short Account of the Cause of the Disease in Corn, called by Farmers the Blight, the Mildew, and the Rust," Communications to the Board of Agriculture 4 (1805): 399. G.C. Ainsworth, a plant disease expert and former director of the Commonwealth Mycological Institute suggests the concept of pathogenicity was not widely accepted until 1850 and that even amongst mycologists, there was widespread confusion over the origin of diseases until the turn-of-the-century. G.C. Ainsworth, Introduction to the History of Plant Pathology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 8, 34-35. 76 that weeds and crops did not compete for food because different plants drew upon different types of "juice" in the soil.106 The early eighteenth-century farmer and diarist Edward Lisle, for example, dismisses the idea of "equivocal" generation when he writes: "Surely we have great reafon to conclude...that the earth does not produce the moft contemptible weed without a feed; and we find that even at the beginning God took not that method".107 Other eighteenth century writers were equally adamant that all plants growing in the same soil are "nourifed by the fame Sort of Food" for: If it were true that every plant drew from the Earth a particular Juice for its Nourifhment, which fuited its Purpofe, and that no other kind, then Thiftles Bluebottles, Corn Marygold, and other weeds fo frequent among Corn, would do it no Harm; becaufe they would take only fuch Juices as the Corn would not: but juft the contrary is found in Fact.108 By the mid-eighteenth century, agricultural improvers had arrived at an essentially modern understanding of the basis of weed competition. Today's weed scientists, for example, would find little to fault in Adam Dickson's 1765 explanation for how weeds act as "impediments to vegetation": THEY rob the plants we defirei to cultivate of their food; they prevent thefe plants from branching out from the root, and fome kinds of them leffen the vegetable pafture 1 0 6 The popular early seventeenth century writer Gervase Markham argued in favour of spontaneous generation or the ability of soils to "bring forth" weeds on their "own accord. Francis Bacon also believed in spontaneous generation as well as the "tranfmutation" of one species into another and he proposed that compatibility between plants or a lack thereof depended on the type of "juice" that each species drew from the earth. The eighteenth century Cambridge botany professor and agricultural writer, Richard Bradley, was one of the last authorities to espouse Bacon's juice theory of plant nutrition. He maintained that while weeds could physically "choke" out crops, they did not "rob crops" of food because different plants drew on different types of nourishment in the soil. Markham, 22; Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum. or a Naturall Hiftory in Ten Centuries (London: Printed for W. Lee, 1628), 120, 131-134, 139-140; Richard Bradley, The Country Gentleman and Farmer's Monthly Director. 6th ed. (London: Printed for D. Browne and T. Woodman, 1732), 133-135. 1 0 7 Lisle, 44-45. 1 0 8 Tull, The New Horfe-Houghing Husbandry. 32; Hale, 273. 77 in the land, where they are fuffered to grow...Experience convinces the farmer of the truth of this: for he finds, that his crop is bad in proportion to the quantity and kinds of weeds with which his land is infefted.109 By the mid-eighteenth century, improvers had also arrived at the conclusion that while weeds presented serious impediments to crop production, "their feveral Mifchiefs" could be overcome by "Care and Diligence".110 William Marshall added that not only was it possible for the farmer to keep land "in a high ftate of tillage, and beautifully clean", but that it was "little more than his duty as a hufbandman."111 The frustration of agricultural improvers over the failure of farmers to attend to their duty largely disappeared after the close of the Napoleonic Wars. Their anti-weed polemics softened accordingly. The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed the re-establishment of a healthy agricultural labour market and the renewed ability of farmers to keep weed populations in check. It also witnessed the widespread adoption of most of the anti-weed measures that reformers had been championing for a century or more. Row cropping and the use of cleaning crops in rotations became commonplace, intensive or "high" farming was spreading and farmers simply seem to have become more conscious of the economic benefits of reducing weed populations on their land.112 1 0 9 Dickson, 85-86. 1 1 0 Ellis, Chiltern and Vale Farming. 292. 1 1 1 Marshall, Rural Economy of Glocestershire. 1:70. 1 1 2 A few early nineteenth century commentaries suggest that some farmers were already managing to reduce weed populations in their fields. George Rennie, a Scottish improver, commented in 1813 that "by paying due attention" to careful cultivation, drilling and hoeing, "many farms which, not forty years ago, were a nest of seed-weeds, have now been brought into order, that is to say, the weeds are kept under subjection and easily managed." Rennie, 297. Sir John Sinclair similarly remarked that in both England and Scotland, "since the introduction of the turnip husbandry, and a more correct mode of fallowing, in several districts the ground is kept much cleaner." Sinclair, Code of Agriculture. 235. James Caird's survey of mid-nineteenth century English agriculture frequently praises farmers for keeping "the land 78 Having established the main factors encouraging a hostile attitude towards weeds, it is important to note that that even the most inveterate weed haters recognized certain limits to their rhetorical flourishes. Most improvers, for instance, were familiar with a variety of alternate uses for weedy species-uses that made it difficult to portray them as entirely without value. Seemingly against his will, William Ellis concedes this point in his 1744 account of some enterprising hay producers: A Neighbour of mine...miftook his Road, which obliged him to arrive late at a fingle Public-houfe, near this Village of Newton, where he put up his Horfe; and when the Landlord came to rack up the Horfe for all Night, he brought a Parcel of Hay, to my Neighbour's Surprize, made of Thiftles, and other Weeds. On afking the Reafon of this, the Landlord faid, that feveral of his neighbours were fuch indolent People, that they would not fow their Land with Beans, becaufe the Thiftle, wild Oat, wild Parfnip, yellow Curlock, Hale-weed, May-weed, and other Sorts of Weeds would choak and ruin the Crop; and therefore they let thefe Weeds grow, in order to mow them for Hay, and, when it was well made, they efteemed it good Hay; for that they took Care to mow the Thiftles and Weeds, before they grew too old, rank, and hard; and then they made fuch good Hay, that they fell it by Weight.113 Probably the most comprehensive list of alternate uses for weeds was compiled in 1806 by William Pitt. Pitt was more explicit than Ellis about the value of weeds. He even suggested that their eradication was attended by some negative consequences: The plants we term weeds, considered as respecting mankind, are not totally useless; many of them have valuable medical qualities, and some of them may be applied to uses so as to pay something towards the expense of clearing them from the ground: thus, sowthistles are good food for rabbits or hogs: the hog-weed (Heracleum) is good for either hogs or cattle: horses are said to be fond of young thistles when partially dried, and the seed may be prevented from spreading by gathering the down, which make good pillows...Chadlock, when drawn, may be given to cows, who are very fond of it...It has been observed, that bees have not thriven so well in this island very clean and free of weeds" and a number of historians have also concluded that from the 1840s onwards, British farmers were generally keeping their land much cleaner than their predecessors had been able or wont to do. Caird, 136; Orwin and Whetham, 114-116; Brown and Beecham, 288. 1 1 3 Ellis, The Modern Husbandman. 4, Month of December: 29. 79 since the extirpation of weeds has been more attended to. Many agricultural writers were forced to concede that weeds were only relatively, not absolutely, less valuable than crop plants; none could avoid acknowledging that weeds, unlike crops, were natural components of the native flora. Recognition of this point acted as an effective curb to many a slanderous pen.115 Jethro Tull may have hated weeds with a passion but even he was unable to deny them occupancy rights in arable fields: WEEDS, and their seed, in the Fields where they grow naturally...are thought to have been, originally, the natural Product of our Climate; therefore, moft other Plants, being Exoticks, many of them, as to their Individuals, require Culture, and change of Soil, without which they are liable, more or lefs, to degenerate.116 William Ellis also acknowledged the native status of weeds and the advantages this conferred: "Now all are fenfible that a Weed out-runs the Corn; becaufe one has its Production naturally from the Earth, while the other is brought forward in fome meafure by the help of Art".1 1 7 A traditional awareness of the native status of weeds and their natural advantages led, by the mid-eighteenth century, to the realization that weeds were inevitable. Thomas Hale clearly articulated this idea in his 1756 farming manual: Weeds are in this Manner to be expected in all Places; and they will out-grow all Crops. This rifes from a plain Reafon: they are Natives of the Soil and Climate; and will therefore thrive better in it, than fuch as are raifed by Art...THE Confideration of Weeds is very effential to the Hufbandman, becaufe fcarce any of his Land efcapes from being abundantly infefted with them; and none is ever entirely free. 1 1 4 Pitt, 234. 1 1 5 Agricultural improvers have made explicit references to the native status of weeds since at least the seventeenth century. Eighteenth century writers typically described them as the "natural Produce" of the land and by the nineteenth century, weeds were generally described as "native" or "indigenous" plants. Blith, 109; Mortimer, 56-66; Buckman, 359; John C. Morton, ed., A Cyclopedia of Agriculture (Glasgow: Blackie and Son, 1855), 2:1118. 1 1 6 Tull, The New Horfe-Houghing Husbandry. 43-44. 1 1 7 Ellis, Chiltern and Vale Farming. 327-328. 1 1 8 Hale, 711-712. 80 By the nineteenth century, a sense of the inevitability of weeds had become even stronger. Most nineteenth century writers impressed their readers with the need to learn to farm profitably in the presence of weeds. They also stressed the impossibility of "complete extirpation" because "the seeds of wild plants constituting weeds are so universally distributed, that...wherever a crop will grow, there also will weeds flourish, if allowed."119 Nineteenth century authorities preferred instead, to portray conflict as a balancing act or as an exercise in keeping "weeds within bounds".120 Religion was the final factor that both shaped how weeds were perceived and curbed rhetorical excesses. On one hand the Christian tradition encouraged an oppositional view of weeds by stressing the need for humankind to gain ascendancy over nature. This theological emphasis seems to have been particularly strong during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and it left its mark on contemporary agricultural improvement literature.121 Gervase Markham, for example, began his 1625 treatise on freeing barren ground from unwanted vegetation with the statement that: Thou whom it hath pleafed God to place vpon a barren and hard foile, whofe bread muft euermore be grounded with fweat and labour, that maieft nobly and victorioufly boaft the conqueft of the Earth, hauing conquered Nature by altering Nature, and yet made Nature better than fhe was before".122 1 1 9 Rennie, 296; Buckman, 374. 1 2 0 Rennie, 296. 1 2 1 Joan Thirsk argues that between 1500 and 1640: "In the cultivation of the land, contemporaries regarded the labours of the husbandman as a continuous war upon nature to preserve the land from reverting to scrub and woodland". Thirsk, "Farming Techniques," 163. For a detailed discussion of the theological emphasis on man's dominion over creation in Tudor and early Stuart England and a subsequent shift in emphasis during the seventeenth and early eighteenth century towards stressing the benevolence of God's design, see Thomas, 17-21. 1 2 2 Markham, 3-4. 81 Although the Christian tradition both fostered and justified an antagonistic attitude towards weeds, it simultaneously encouraged agricultural writers to regard weeds as evidence of poor stewardship.123 The seventeenth century improver Walter Blith hints at this when he writes that God intended "Man to Husbandize the fruits of the Earth, and dreffe, and keepe them for the ufe of the whole Creation."124 A century later, William Ellis portrayed weeds "as Beacons to the paffing Travelers, to let them know there lives a bad Hufbandman in the Neighbourhood".125 Another William observed in 1806 that: man, possessed of reason, reflection, and intelligence, has powers and abilities to select and cultivate such vegetables as are adapted to his use, and proper for his sustenance, and to destroy and extirpate others; and thus to appropriate to himself what proportion he thinks proper of the earth's surface; which if he neglects to dress and cultivate properly, it will, in some degree, revert to its natural state, producing the hardier and more acrid plants for the sustenance of numberless tribes of insects, and for an infinity of other known and unknown uses.126 The passage above illustrates how the Christian tradition reinforced the ideas that weeds were natural and as much the product of human neglect as they were evidence of nature's opposition. These ideas were further reinforced by an explicit statement in Genesis 3.17-18 concerning God's punishment of Adam and Eve: "cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you". Agricultural improvers frequently referred or alluded to the Biblical explanation for the origin of weeds and references to God's curse can still be found in modern weed science literature. The unequivocal nature "of the Curfe entailed on Man's Pofterity, for his 1 2 3 Keith Thomas, unlike most American environmental historians, is keenly aware of the "deeply ambivalent" nature of the "Judaeo-Christian inheritance". He elaborates: "Side by side with the emphasis on man's right to exploit the inferior species went a distinctive doctrine of human stewardship and responsibility for God's creatures." Thomas, 24. 1 2 4 Blith, 3. 1 2 5 Ellis, The Modern Husbandman. 2, Month of May: 47. 82 Difobedience to his Creator" made it virtually impossible for writers steeped in the Christian tradition to cast weeds as inherently evil because they were after all, God's creations.127 Weeds were, instead, generally regarded as symptoms of human failings from the original sin of Adam and Eve to a lack of stewardship and the evil of poor husbandry. The strength of their religious convictions forced many improvers to search for something positive in God's curse. Some found satisfaction in praising weeds as worthy opponents and as evidence of the superiority of God's design over the vegetable products of human art. Others contented themselves with listing alternate uses for the native species that favoured arable fields. Probably the most ingenious solution, however, was to suggest that weeds existed to stimulate and exercise human industry. This notion was articulated a number of times between 1500 and 1900 but no one expressed it more artfully than the farmer, editor and essayist, Benjamin Holdich.128 Holdich's 1825 essay, "The Weeds of Agriculture," went through several editions both as a separate piece and part of George Sinclair's Hortus Gramineus Woburnesis and it remained a standard reference article on British weeds well into the twentieth century.129 Part of the enduring success of this essay can be attributed to the 1 2 6 Pitt, 233-234. 1 2 7 Ellis, Chiltern and Vale Farming. 292. 1 2 8 According to Keith Thomas, Henry More justified the existence of weeds as a stimulus to human industry in 1655. Thomas, 20. In 1806, William Pitt described weeds as a check to "the indolence of the human race" and in 1811, Patrick Brodie speculated that weeds served "to stimulate the industry of man, in so far, that while he is destroying one plant, he may increase the culture of another, more useful to himself or domestic animals." Pitt, 234; Brodie, 65. 1 2 9 The popular and prolific nineteenth century agricultural writer Henry Stephens describes Holdich as the "first writer of practice" to deal with the issue of weeds and he criticizes earlier essays by William Pitt and others as mere botanical exercises rather than practical guides to "the weeds you may expect to encounter, when cultivating a particular kind of soil, or raising a particular crop." Stephens, 3:950. Holdich was regularly cited as an authority on weeds by such noted early twentieth century British weed experts as H.C. Long and Winifred 83 writer's extensive, practical knowledge of weeds and their eradication. It can also be attributed to Holdich's writing ability and his gift for encapsulating the essential cognitive elements of the culture of weeds in Britain: Now, what is the inference from the facts, that couch-grass and thistles can by no means be extirpated? Is it not perpetual exertions, fallowing, and agricultural labour? Some may be inclined to say, "A melancholy reflection! "--But I say wo~not at all. Providence could not have better contrived than that exertions should be perpetual, and that success should be in proportion. There is not a weed that we ought to wish out of our fields, unless we remove and destroy it; because, if there were none, or very few, all fields would be clean, and no praise could light on superior modes of tillage...Does any man think that our various soils would have been sufficiently pulverized and worked; had there been no enemies of this sort to challenge forth our labour?...The necessity of subsistence produces industrious hands for every department of labour; but the sluggish nature of man requires every stimulus to exertion. The weeds of the fields excite emulation among farmers, and foul fields are always a reproach to the occupier. Thus we are compelled, by an unseen hand, to better habits and more active industry.130 Conclusion Holdich's explanation for the weeds of the fields brings to a close this overview of weeds and their relationship with agriculturists in Britain between 1500 and 1900. Interactions between the two parties on both physical and cognitive levels created a complex and highly dynamic culture that is marked by a high degree of variation and constant change on a local scale. A consideration of the diverse and dynamic relationship between individual farmers and their weedy neighbours, however, tends to obscure a number of commonalities and long-term trends. One feature that most farmers shared in common was experience with Brenchley. Long quoted Holdich several times in a series of articles on "The Identification and Eradication of Some Common Weeds" published in the 1911/12 and 1912/13 volumes of the Journal of the Board of Agriculture as did Brenchley in her Weeds of Farm Land (1920). For a brief biography of Holdich and the publication history of his essay "On the Weeds of Agriculture," consult G.E. Fussell, The Old English Farming Books, vol.3, 1793-1839 (London: The Pindar Press, 1983), 111-112. 84 several widespread and particularly troublesome weeds. Thistles, couch grass, wild mustard and wild oats were, amongst others, ubiquitous throughout much of the British Isles and they enjoyed the dubious distinction of being Britain's worst weeds during the entire period covered by this study. Part of this distinction reflects the impressive weedy abilities of the species in question; part reflects the general failure of foreign weeds to challenge "native" species for the occupancy of arable land. Indigenous weed populations did not, however, explode in the absence of foreign invaders and it seems likely that field densities declined significantly between 1500 and 1900. Most of this decline probably occurred after the close of the Napoleonic Wars. By this time the anti-weed measures that agricultural improvers had long agitated for were finally being widely applied and farmers seem to have been more conscious of the deleterious effects of weeds. Economic considerations probably had more to do with the adoption of these measures than did the efforts of agricultural improvers but improvers certainly deserve credit for increasing public awareness of the consequences of weeds and publicizing practical methods aimed at their suppression. The basic nature of the tools and techniques used to discourage the growth of unwanted vegetation changed surprisingly little over the centuries. For example, of the ten general methods for "suppressing" weeds that are discussed in a 1904 Board of Agriculture and Fisheries leaflet, only one—the use of chemical sprays against charlock—would have been considered new to agriculturists in the eighteenth, seventeenth or even sixteenth centuries.131 This conclusion may be somewhat new to historians, but as early as 1947 agricultural Holdich, 323-324. 85 scientists were arguing "that from the time when the plough was invented up to half a century ago there were no radical changes in the techniques available for killing weeds."132 Even TulPs "new husbandry" cannot be described as a radical innovation, for it was simply a refinement of a cropping technique that gardeners had employed for centuries and one that farmers had used in certain crops for generations. Throughout the period 1500 to 1900, British farmers generally employed a combination of direct and cultural practices in their struggle with weeds and the design of most arable farming systems consistently took weeds into account. From the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century onwards, however, the intensity of conflict increased considerably.133 A greater emphasis on weeds and their destruction can be linked to the classical enclosure movement that was underway during this period and the era of intensive farming that it ushered in. Intensive farming involved longer, more effective rotations, seed drilling and horse hoeing, deeper plowing and more frequent tillage operations. It was greatly facilitated by concurrent improvements in the design and construction of plows, harrows and cultivators.134 These developments may not represent revolutionary changes but they certainly enabled British farmers to eradicate weeds with greater vigour, speed and efficiency than ever before. Great Britain, Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, Weeds and their Suppression. Leaflet No. 112, 1904, 2-4. 1 3 2 G.E. Blackman, "Recent Developments in the Control of Weeds," Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society 73 (1948): 134. Blackman first delivered his paper in 1947. 1 3 3 Three British weed specialists suggest that: "From the 18th century onwards there was an increasing awareness that efficient weed control was essential to successful crop production, and the husbandry of those days increasingly incorporated control measures into all systems of land and crop management." Lockhart, Samuel and Greaves, 44. 1 3 4 For a similar argument and more detailed treatments of these issues see: Brown and Beecham, 282-283, 288; Grigg, 70, 156-158; Lockhart, Samuel and Greaves, 43-53. 86 Cognition, like coexistence and conflict, also displays a pattern of continuity and change over time. That it does so is not surprising as all three analytical levels are intimately interconnected. An understanding of weed biology and ecology, for example, helps explain their survival in the face of human opposition and the persistence of a hostile attitude towards weeds on the part of agriculturists. The hostility of agriculturists was further aroused by the deleterious effect of weeds on production and profit. It even received a certain amount of religious sanction from a theological emphasis on the need for humanity to contest with, conquer and improve upon nature. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, agricultural improvers had a tendency to carry expressions of dislike to extremes. A heightened sense of animosity towards weeds can be linked to the negative impact of rising labour costs and war-related labour shortages on the ability of farmers to keep weeds in check. Agricultural improvers grew frustrated over a lack of response to their advice and they appear to have adopted the device of dramatizing the deleterious effects of weeds in an effort to remind farmers of their duty. Their frustration was also increased by the slow rate of agricultural reform, knowledge that weed problems were not insurmountable, the growing force of the capitalist imperative and a better sense of the impact of weeds on the pursuit of agrarian profit. Improved labour conditions and the widespread implementation of long-called-for anti-weed measures after the close of the Napoleonic Wars resulted in a softening of attitudes towards weeds and a return to the use of traditional invectives. Even when anti-weed rhetoric was at its height, however, most agricultural writers recognized that there were distinct limits to the aspersions they were able to cast. Familiarity with a host of traditional uses for weedy plants, for example, discouraged them from describing weeds as completely worthless or 87 without value. Similarly, because weeds clearly meant different things to different people in different places, they could only be cast as an "evil" or "the enemy" within the confines of the farm. Agricultural improvers could not even deny weeds occupancy rights in arable fields out of respect for their native status and natural advantages over crops. Weeds, in short, were seen as undesirable but accepted as inevitable. The Christian idea of stewardship and the Biblical explanation for the origin of weeds helped agriculturists accept the presence of unwanted plants in their fields. Both also reinforced the traditional idea that weeds were not inherently evil. Rather, they were best seen as the expression of a human evil—both the original sin of Adam and Eve and the evil of poor husbandry. Strong religious convictions and a belief in the superiority of God's design even led some improvers to posit an eminently positive role for weeds: weeds were Providence's device for countering the natural indolence and sloth of humanity and compelling farmers to farm better and more industriously. In general, traditional British agricultural literature conveys a surprisingly balanced view of weeds. Weeds were portrayed as being both active agents and acted upon; as an identifiable category of plants and yet one with a large subjective dimension. Although they were consistently vilified, their vilification was usually described as the consequence of poor farming and calls for the extirpation, extermination or destruction of weeds were countered by the admission that weeds were inevitable and that farmers had to learn to live with them. The physical relationship between weeds and people in Britain from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries was far from harmonious, but it too was surprisingly balanced. Over the short term, particularly on the level of the farm, this balance was frequently tipped in favour of one side or the other as a result of changes in weather, land tenancy, ownership and 88 management. Over the long term, however, no clear winner emerged from the ongoing conflict. Weed populations may have declined but the weed "problem" remained a serious one and the success of British arable farming continued to depend on the observance of time-honoured, cultural rituals that had evolved alongside the plants that they were designed to suppress. As we will see in the chapters that follow, the traditional weed culture of Britain was subtly transformed when it was transported to North America. The new environmental and social setting was unfavourable to the application of many of the techniques that made coexistence possible in Britain, and this in combination with a weed-friendly environment, rapidly led to an unprecedented problem with European weeds. By the late nineteenth century, the sheer success of immigrant plants encouraged North American agriculturists to adopt a harsh, and at times blindly oppositional, view of weeds and agricultural scientists and government authorities were forced to search for immediate solutions to an ever worsening problem. This search often obscured the need for fundamental changes in North American farming systems and the culpability of farmers was consistently downplayed because their active co-operation was so desperately needed. The advent of effective herbicides in the 1940s helped to perpetuate a sense of weeds as enemies. It is only within the last decade or so that North American weed scientists have begun to pay serious attention to the traditional British insight that the true enemy to profitable farming is a style of agriculture that actively cultures weeds. 89 CHAPTER 3 F R O M COLONY TO NATION: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A DISTINCT CULTURE OF WEEDS IN ONTARIO, 1800-1867 An experienced British farmer who immigrated to Southern Ontario in 1867 would have found much that was familiar and much that was not.1 Most of the resident farmers were of British descent and they lived in a land that had been transformed into a rough facsimile of rural Britain. Few surprises awaited in terms of the crops being grown and the tools and techniques employed in their culture. The observant immigrant would even have noted that the weed flora of Ontario was dominated by species that had troubled British farmers for centuries.2 Upon closer observation, however, subtle but significant differences would become apparent. Farming, for example, was backward by British standards with techniques 1 In this chapter I follow the well established usage of referring to Upper Canada and Canada West as Ontario. 2 Agriculturists and agricultural scientists have long been aware that the most problematic and persistent weeds on arable land in Ontario have been introduced from Europe, most notably from the British Isles. For nineteenth century commentary on the European origins of most of Ontario's weeds see: I. Hoyes Panton, Weeds. Ontario Agricultural College, Bulletin 10, 1887: 3 and Thomas Shaw, Weeds and How to Eradicate Them (Toronto: J.E. Bryant and Co., 1893), 2-4. It is not only in Ontario that European weeds predominate. For example, in the most recent edition of the standard federal government weed identification guide, Weeds of Canada, of the 114 weeds discussed in detail, 54 are described as native to Europe, 31 hail from Eurasia and only 24 are listed as native to North America. In terms of percentages this translates into 47% from Europe, 27% from Europe and/or Asia and 21% from North America. The remaining 5% have arrived from Asia, South America and parts unknown. Clarence Frankton and Gerald A. Mulligan, Weeds of Canada (Ottawa: Agriculture Canada, 1993). 90 such as summer fallowing acting as a substitute for a more mature system of husbandry. The immigrant farmer would be struck by the absence of many weeds that were common back home and, conversely, by the unusual abundance of others. Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop, in particular, flourished to such an extent that it had acquired the name of its adopted country. Many people even believed that it was an indigenous rather than imported species. Many of these impressions would be confirmed by a glance at a local agricultural newspaper. Further reading would reveal that local farmers were aware of the danger that weeds represented. The strongly oppositional view of weeds that the local press presented, however, would have appeared foreign to someone steeped in the British tradition of good husbandry. So too would news on the recent passage of legislation that effectively outlawed C arvense and demanded that land owners attend to its destruction prior to the setting of seed. A particularly perceptive reader may also have detected the irony of harsh, anti-weed rhetoric in a land where traditional British teachings were known but apparently ignored. Local agriculturists, in other words, tended to blame weeds for the problems they posed while downplaying the fact that they were largely responsible for the creation and maintenance of a weed problem in the first place. This chapter chronicles the evolution of a distinct culture of weeds in Ontario between 1800 and the time of Confederation in an effort to highlight the intimate connections between human culture and the environment. More specifically, it explores how the environment acts in conjunction with ecological and social factors to bring about cultural change. Within the context of the entire study, this chapter serves to introduce the reader to many of the factors that shaped the war with weeds in the Prairie West. As will become apparent in chapter five, it also represents a case study of the early development of a common culture of weeds in 91 Canada and the Northern United States. The "Rough Era," 1800-1865 Weedy immigrants arrived in Ontario alongside their human compatriots as unwanted but integral components of their cultural baggage. There are no accurate records on when and how most were introduced but we can be confident that they travelled as contaminants of seed, clinging to livestock and implements and not infrequently, in the packing material protecting human settlers' more fragile possessions. Some species arrived directly from Europe while others availed themselves of a convenient ride north in the company of late eighteenth century Loyalist and American settlers.3 Probably the single most important route of entry was in seed, animal feed and packing materials harvested from the well established weed colonies of Lower Canada. The history of weeds in New France is a long one~Champlain for example, reported a problem with portulaca (Portulaca oleracea L.) in grain fields near Quebec in 1632~and by the early nineteenth century, even the most sympathetic critics of Lower Canadian farming were moved to chastise the habitants for allowing weeds to grow "unmolested".4 With reference to Lower Canada, one observer commented that it was impossible to estimate "the produce from a 3 A number of European weed species are known to have been well established in New England by the late seventeenth century. J.F. Alex, "Canada," in Biology and Ecology of Weeds, eds. W. Holzner and M. Numata (The Hague: Dr. W. Junk Publishers, 1982), 3; William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians. Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983), 142-144; Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe. 900-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 155-156. 4 Alex, "Canada," 309; J.E. Burton, Essay on Comparative Agriculture, or a Brief Examination into the State of Agriculture as it now Exists in Great Britain and Canada (Montreal: Printed at the Montreal Gazette Office, 1828), 58. 92 farm" because the sheaves of grain "are frequently composed of one half weeds" while another noted "that the character of Canadian wheat is proverbial in the English market for foulness."5 Agricultural reformers and British travellers attributed the foul, weed-infested state of Lower Canadian fields to a number of causes. J.E. Burton, an Irish Catholic priest and resident of Lower Canada during the 1820s, believed that the problem was mainly the result of widespread ignorance of the economic consequences of weeds.6 In 1828 he was moved to write: In every country where agriculture has arrived at any degree of perfection, particular attention is paid, to the extirpation of weeds. In England, Ireland, and Scotland, you seldom or ever see a weed, annual or perennial, in field of grass or corn. The industrious farmer, deems it the greatest disgrace, to have the curse, of his great progenitor, constantly reproaching him, face to face, for his frailty. It is not so however, with the Canadian; for he seems to exult, in that placid philosophy, which makes him overlook altogether, the thing and its consequences. If you ask, why he allows such nuisances unmolested to infest the land his own and his neighbours. He will say with a smile, indicative of the contempt he holds you in for your particularities. Mon Dieu, il me coute trap, a les toucher, avec les doigts...! have seen a meadow so much overrun with thistles and golden rod in Canada, that it was not worth cutting; altho' the crop of hay would have been good, in case, those vegetable leeches had been prevented, from sucking the blood of the land.7 Critics more commonly attributed the prevalence of weeds to poor plowing techniques, crude and ineffective tillage implements and the continuous cropping of wheat in the absence of a proper crop rotation. While on a reporting mission for the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland in the early 1830s, Adam Fergusson compared Lower Canadian farming to "the old Scottish practice of infield and outfield, taking crop after crop of 5 Charles F. Grece, Essays on Practical Husbandry. Addressed to the Canadian Farmers (Montreal: Printed by William Gray, 1817), 89; C F . Cresinus, "On the Agriculture of Canada, No. 10." Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository 4 (1825): 408. 6 Burton, 61. 93 grain from their fields, until nothing but weeds remain, and looking to Nature for the renovation which their own industry ought to have effected."8 His comments echo those made a decade earlier by C. F. Cresinus who described the prevalent practice of alternating wheat with an unattended fallow as "this alternate rotation of grain and weed crops".9 Yet a third critic quipped that in the vicinity of Montreal in 1832: "The agriculture cannot be said to have been reduced to a system, if we except the alternation of wheat and thistle pasture".10 Farmers in the earliest settled districts of Ontario may have been critical of Lower Canadian agriculture but by the 1830s, the state of their fields would seem to have conferred little in the way of bragging rights over their French-speaking neighbours. Patrick Shirrefffor example, the same British traveler who decried the farming practices near Montreal, was equally scathing in his assessment of the farms along the shores of the Bay of Quinte near Kingston: Crops were inferior and crowded with thistles, apparently the common perennial way-thistle of Britain. My friend D and I, walking on deck, remarked a field bearing a dense-looking crop with purple coloured flowers, which one pronounced clover, the other pease, but on nearer approach it was seen to be pasturage intermixed with thistles. This was an unfortunate mistake for those having some pretensions to a knowledge of practical agriculture, and perhaps the thistle-grower may esteem our discernment as lightly as we do his management.11 ShirrefFs remark suggests that European weeds were already flourishing in parts of Ontario by the 1830s. By the 1840s, what scanty evidence exists indicates that a problem 7 Ibid., 57-58. 8 Adam Fergusson, On the Agricultural State of Canada and Part of the United States of America (Leith: Printed by William Reid and Son, 1832), 5. 9 Cresinus, "On the Agriculture of Canada, No.5," Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository 3 (1824): 218. 1 0 Patrick Shirreff, A Tour Through North America: Together with a Comprehensive View of the Canadas and the United States as Adapted for Agricultural Emigration (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1835), 140. 94 with weeds had become widespread. In 1847, W.G. Edmundson, the editor of Ontario's first "successful" farm newspaper, The British American Cultivator, urged his readers to cultivate diligently their summer fallow and for the "bush farmer" to use clean seeds and eradicate weeds upon their "first appearance". He warned that the consequences of failing to implement these measures were only too evident "on land that has been long under a state of cultivation" where "we know scores of careful cultivators who find it a very difficult task to rid their farms of injurious weeds."12 Later in the same year, the paper's co-editor and the future holder of the first chair in agriculture at the University of Toronto, George Buckland, remarked: "The loss occasioned by weeds is too notorious to need but a bare mention—and notwithstanding, the many great improvements that have lately been made in the best cultivated districts, the loss and anxiety to the farmer occasioned by these unwholesome intruders are far from being removed."13 Lists of these unwholesome intruders include many plants that had troubled British farmers for centuries. Canada thistle, for instance, was none other than Shirreffs "common perennial way-thistle of Britain". This species seems to have been equally common in Ontario where it topped all the 1840s lists of the most problematic and widespread weeds. Ontario's first agricultural textbook. The Canadian Agricultural Reader (1845), describes Canada thistle as "the great enemy that the wheat grower in a large part of our country has to contend against" and more space was devoted to it in the local agricultural press than all other weeds combined.14 Canada thistle may have been considered Ontario's worst weed in the 1840s but 1 1 Ibid., 127. 1 2 British American Cultivator. June 1847, 161-163. 1 3 Ibid., November 1847, 344. 1 4 The Canadian Agricultural Reader (Niagara: John Simpson, 1845), 43. 95 it was not the only species singled out for dishonourable mention. Other common weeds included: charlock or wild mustard (Sinapsis arvensis L.), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.), ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum L.), couch grass (Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv.), burdock (Arctium spp.), shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medic), lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album L.), and chess (Bromus secalinus L.). 1 5 All the main participants in a culture of weeds were in place in Ontario by the 1840s but a distinctive culture was yet to develop. Another way of looking at this issue is to argue that the culture that did exist was a curiously disjointed one, marked as it was by a lack of conscious interactions between participants and by tension, if not outright contradictions, between practice and proscription. Shirreff and other British observers regularly criticized Ontario farmers for their slovenly tillage and inactivity towards weeds.16 Similar complaints can be found in Ontario's infant agricultural press even though it too was largely guilty of ignoring the issue, only publishing a handful of articles on weeds through the 1840s and early 1850s. When the subject of weeds was addressed in a Canadian publication, traditional British 1 5 Ibid., 16, 20; The Canadian Agriculturist. June 1, 1849, 161-162. Of the 8 weed species mentioned in The Canadian Agricultural Reader, only milkweed is native to Ontario. The rest are of European or Eurasian origin. Similarly, in "N" from Toronto's list of the 43 "commonest weeds of this country" in the June 1, 1849 edition of The Canadian Agriculturist. about 60% of the plants are immigrants from Europe or Eurasia. 1 6 Perhaps the most eminent visitor to criticize Ontario farmers for their neglect of weeds in the 1840s was James F.W. Johnston. Johnston, one of the leading authorities on scientific agriculture in mid-nineteenth century Britain and a professor at the University of Durham, visited Upper Canada in 1849 and in his published notes he criticized the farmers there for having "little knowledge of improved agriculture". He warned that unless they mended their ways, they would suffer the same fate as the farmers of Lower Canada and New York state where the soil was close to exhaustion and the wheat lands were overrun with weeds such as Corn gromwell (Lithospermum arvense L.). James F.W. Johnston, Notes on North America (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1851), 1:272, 305, 368. 96 solutions were invariably prescribed. Farmers were advised to use properly cleaned seed, exercise constant vigilance, and to pull; cut or root out weeds whenever and wherever they appeared.17 They were told the value of summer fallow, impressed with the need for timely, careful and frequent tillage, encouraged to grow root crops as part of a proper system of rotation and finally, asked to contemplate drill husbandry and horse-hoeing even though it "is in advance of the age in Canada".18 A tendency to parrot British advice is hardly surprising considering the colonial status of Upper Canada, its largely British population and the Mother Country's long tradition of agricultural improvement.19 Nor is it surprising given that the "farmers who dominated the agricultural literature" and provided its main readership—Ontario's relatively small number of "improving farmers"—almost all hailed from England and Lowland Scotland.20 What is 1 7 The Canadian Agricultural Reader. 14-20. 1 8 The British American Cultivator. June 1847, 162. 1 9 Early Canadian farming journals were essentially patterned after British improver literature and newspapers. Canadian editors also regularly reprinted British articles and relied heavily on British authorities for information. The few books on agricultural improvement published in Canada before 1850—most notably William Evans' A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Agriculture (Montreal: Fabre, Perrault and Co., 1835) and The Canadian Agricultural Reader (1845)—are virtually indistinguishable from contemporary British publications. Both Canadian and American agriculturists continued to look to Britain to provide leadership in agricultural science and expertise into the 1860s and North American literature bears the unmistakable stamp of the British movement for agricultural reform well beyond that decade. Two Confederation era Canadian publications that testify to this point are: Sir John Dawson's First Lessons in Scientific Agriculture (Montreal: John Lovell, 1864) and Egerton Ryerson's First Lessons on Agriculture: For Canadian Farmers and their Families (Toronto: Copp, Clark and Co., 1870). Both share the style and assumptions of the British improver tradition. These include the belief that agriculture provides the basis of a nation's wealth and social well-being, a deep faith in the promise of science, an emphasis on education, the idea that farming brings one closer to God, and a tendency to equate "agriculture" solely with "capitalist agriculture." 2 0 Kenneth Kelly, "Wheat Farming in Simcoe County in the Mid-Nineteenth Century," Canadian Geographer 15 (1971): 102; Robert L. Jones, History of Agriculture in Ontario. 1613-1880 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946), 61; The Canadian Agricultural Reader. 3-4. 97 somewhat surprising is the poorness of fit between this advice and the measures that were actually taken to eradicate weeds by the more conscientious segment of the farming population or by most farmers when weed infestations became too serious to ignore. By far the most popular technique for dealing with weeds in wheat, Ontario's pre-eminent field crop, was the naked summer fallow.21 Summer fallow has been described as "an integral part of Upper Canada wheatrfarming down to 1850" and as practised in Ontario, it involved alternating fields between a crop of grain one year and fallow the next.22 Fields were typically plowed three times during the fallow year.23 Multiple tillage operations encouraged annual weed seeds to germinate and permitted their subsequent destruction and it was effective in disrupting the growth of perennial species through starving their roots. As noted above, Lower Canadian farmers also followed a wheat-fallow-wheat rotation but their "system" was considerably more weed friendly because it lacked the crucial tillage operations 2 1 There has been considerable debate over the importance of wheat and its role as a staple in the nineteenth century economy of Ontario. Wheat has traditionally been portrayed as Ontario's leading staple during the first half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps the ultimate expression of this argument can be found in John McCallum's Unequal Beginnings: Agriculture and Economic Development in Quebec and Ontario until 1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980). McCallum's position has recently been challenged by R.M. Mclnnis, a prominent economic historian. In his article "The Early Ontario Wheat Staple Reconsidered." Canadian Papers in Rural History 8 (1992): 17-48, Mclnnis argues that while wheat was important to the economy of Ontario, it was not a "staple" in that its production was not driven by foreign demand. Whether wheat was a "staple" or not, historians cannot deny that it was easily Ontario's leading crop into the 1850s and that the acreage devoted to wheat far exceeded that of any other crop. 2 2 Jones, 91. 2 3 James O'Mara, "The Seasonal Rounds of Gentry Farmers in Early Ontario: a Preliminary Analysis," Canadian Papers in Rural History 2 (1980): 109. O'Mara suggests that summer fallows were normally plowed three times. While his study describes the annual rounds of mixed farmers, definitely a minority in Ontario, he argues that their "farming behaviour" was not "markedly atypical of the norm." O'Mara, 5. 98 during the fallow year. The style of naked summer fallowing employed in Ontario was virtually identical to British practices of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and it may well reflect the influence of British immigrants.25 By the late eighteenth century, however, British agricultural improvers such as William Marshall considered three plowings over the course of the fallow year to be hopelessly inadequate for keeping weeds in check. He warned that even in areas where farmers practiced crop rotation and rigorously hoed their field crops, "this frnall quantity of tillage" too often resulted in wheat stubble being "knee-deep in couch and thiftles."26 As indicated in chapter two, nineteenth century British farmers seem to have taken this advice to heart and they generally tilled their fallows far more frequently than their predecessors. By then, however, summer fallowing had fallen out of fashion because of the loss of production that it entailed and the development of more cost-effective methods for subduing weeds. Colonial agriculturists were well aware of these developments and how they contrasted with the situation in Ontario. There, bare summer fallowing had become increasingly central to the cropping system and by the mid-nineteenth century, it represented a 2 4 When accompanied by rigorous tillage, summer fallow can be quite effective in eradicating many weeds and it remained a recommended practice well into the twentieth century. For example, a 1909 federal government book on weeds states: "The practice of summer-fallowing land, to the exclusion of all crops throughout the season, whatever may be said against it, affords the best opportunity to suppress noxious weeds." George H. Clark and James Fletcher, Farm Weeds of Canada (Ottawa: Department of Agriculture, 1909), 15. 2 5 Joan Thirsk, "Farming Techniques," in The Agrarian History of England and Wales, vol.4, 1500-1640. ed. Joan Thirsk (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 179. Robert Jones speculates that the popularity of summer fallowing in Ontario was largely due to the influence of British immigrants. Jones, 92. 2 6 William Marshall, The Rural Economy of Glocestershire (Glocester: Printed by R. Raikes for G.Nicol, 1789), 1:69-70. 99 standard and near universal practice. The practice had become so widespread that some commentaries such as D. Christie's 1855 Presidential Address to the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada even suggest that it provided the basic distinction between agriculture in Ontario and Britain: Our mode of farming differs essentially from that now pursued in Britain. We have no course of rotation of crops, which there is generally practised. Their system is the four years' course—turnips, barley or oats, clover and wheat. Summer fallowing is seldom resorted to, as it is considered that the land can be sufficiently freed from weeds and grass by the hoeing and working of the land required for the turnip crop.27 Christie's address was delivered in the middle of an anxious decade for Ontario's farmers. One source of anxiety was the unusually low price of wheat during the early 1850s and another was the need to profit from the veritable wheat "boom" that was ushered in by the Crimean War. Heady optimism over the strong market for wheat was tempered during the last half of the decade by increasingly serious outbreaks of the Hessian fly and wheat midge and there is some evidence to suggest that it was also tempered by the first signs of widespread soil exhaustion. Contemporary accounts frequently refer to the deleterious effects of continuous wheat cropping without compensating additions of manure or fertilizers and it seems that for many farmers, "their land was becoming so hard and weedy that it would scarcely produce ten bushels to the acre."28 The 1850s also witnessed a growing recognition of the unprecedented scale of the weed problem facing Ontario farmers and the first indications that new attitudes towards weeds were developing. Newspapers such as the Canadian Agriculturist and publications by the Board of Agriculture of Upper Canada were beginning to devote significant attention to 2 7 The Canadian Agriculturist. November 1855, 326. 2 8 Jones, 196. 100 the issue of unwanted and aggressive vegetation and over the course of this decade, weeds became the target of increasingly violent rhetoric. Henry Youle Hind was amongst the first to sound a note of alarm. In 1850, while a lecturer in chemistry and natural history at the Normal School of Upper Canada, he presented a lecture on agriculture to a number of teachers' institutes in which he warned: The growth of weeds among cultivated crops, is an increasing and serious evil...The use of clean seed, the practice of clean cultivation, of draining, and of rotation of crops, can alone eradicate these hurtful vegetables, which, from past neglect, seem now to be successfully struggling to gain exclusive possession of many fertile tracts of country.29 A similar cautionary note can also be found in the conclusion to Christie's 1855 annual address: "The great enemy to wheat is spear or couch grass, and it is a very difficult one to get rid of; if not checked it bids fair to take possession of our best wheat lands."30 Severe outbreaks of the Hessian fly and wheat midge over the next four years tended to divert attention away from a growing weed problem but weeds were not completely overshadowed by these more dramatic pests nor was the development of a distinct culture of weeds prevented. At the height of the insect scare in 1858, for example, the editor of the Canadian Agriculturist devoted a long editorial to weeds in which he argued that the best way of dealing with them was to keep the land in "a clean state of cultivation". Unfortunately this was "a matter not very easily accomplished in practice, especially in this climate where annual weeds are so numerous, prolific, and of so remarkably quick growth." To make matters worse, clean seed "is seldom to be procured...no wonder, then, that we hear such constant The Canadian Agriculturist. December 1850, 269. Ibid., November 1855, 327. 101 complaints of the difficulty and expense of keeping land even tolerably clean."31 James Croil expressed a similar concern and unwittingly acted as a spokesman for an emerging culture while speaking before the Dundas County Agricultural Society in 1859. Ironically, he paused in the process of extolling the virtues of British farming and agricultural science to exhort his audience "to wage a war of extermination against the weeds."32 His passionate plea marks a significant departure from conventional British polemics and it ignores the traditional insight that the "complete extirpation" of weeds is impossible.33 It did, however, have considerable rhetorical appeal in a land being overrun by unwanted vegetation and it subsequently became the standard rallying cry for the human participants in the culture of weeds in Ontario, Western Canada and the Northern Tier States. The distinctive culture of weeds that can be seen emerging in Ontario in the 1850s crystallized in the 1860s. Aggressive European plants continued to enjoy unprecedented success and Canada thistle, the "great enemy" of the wheat grower in the 1840s, now had a "strong hold" on "thousands of acres in this Province" and it had "literally overrun... some of the older settlements of this Province, particularly in the Eastern sections."34 Articles on weeds appeared in the farm press with increasing frequency and anti-weed polemics became even more heated. Farmers were berated for their "slovenly farming" and weeds were well on the way to being considered an "unmitigated evil".35 3 1 Ibid., July 1858, 146. 3 2 James Croil, "Lecture on Practical Agriculture, Delivered before the Dundas County Agricultural Society," Transactions of the Board of Agriculture and of the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada 3 (1859): 79. 3 3 George Rennie, "On Weeding or Cleaning Land," Communications to the Board of Agriculture 7, part 2 (1813): 296. 3 4 The Canadian Agriculturist. December 16, 1860, 643 and February 16, 1861, 98. 3 5 Ibid., February 16, 1861, 97. 102 The editors of the Canadian Agriculturist launched their 1863 volume by proclaiming the end of "the rough era, the chopping and clearing of the forest".36 The "rough era" may have been drawing to a close, the editor warned, but the farmers' struggle with unwanted vegetation was far from over. In a March, 1863 editorial, weeds supplanted the Hessian fly and wheat midge in the estimation of the paper's editors as the most serious problem facing agriculture in the colony. The editorial describes weeds as "the greatest barrier to agricultural improvement, and the profitable employment of farm capital" in Ontario and adds: Some of the best yielding wheat soils twenty years ago, both in Canada and the neighboring States, have, in consequence of over cropping and negligent culture, become so much exhausted and filled with the seeds of the different varieties of weeds, as to be wholly incapable of yielding a remunerative crop; and no inconsiderable portion of such lands may now be regarded, for all practical purposes, as in a state of wilderness; not occupied, unfortunately, with stately forest trees, but with various species of pestiferous weeds, the bane of all successful cultivation.37 Later the same year, James Elliot, a farmer from King Township, proclaimed 1863 "a year of weeds" on the basis of the infested state of farms in the vicinity of Toronto and the paper ran yet another editorial on the weed menace under the title "WAR AGAINST THE THISTLES".38 The subject of this final editorial was the introduction to the Assembly of a bill aimed at preventing the spread of Canada thistle. While this bill was unique in proposing an act aimed solely at curbing the spread of weeds, it was not without precedent for several earlier Ontario statutes contained weed eradication clauses. The earliest was a 1793 act for regulating public highways and roads. Section 9 required overseers to "direct all perfons performing labour on the faid highways and roads, to deftroy as much as may be in their 3 6 Ibid., January 1863, 2. 3 7 Ibid., March 1863, 81. 103 power, all burrs, thirties, and other weeds, that are hurtful to the purpofes of hufbandry".39 In 1849 municipalities acquired the right to pass bylaws for "destroying or suppressing the growth of weeds detrimental to good husbandry".40 Four years later they also received the authority to force road and railway companies to comply with these bylaws on "all cleared land or ground belonging to such Company".41 Although these tough sounding clauses remained on the books through the 1860s and beyond, they seem to have been as widely ignored by people as they were by weeds. One farmer commented in 1863 that in York Township, "a Bye-Law in existence some time ago seems to have become obsolete, as weeds abound to an alarming extent through the township, not only oh waste land partially cleared, but on farms and lots under ordinary cultivation."42 Contemporary comments by the editorial staff of the Canadian Agriculturist. Ontario's leading farm newspaper and the official organ of the Board of Agriculture of Upper Canada, suggest that in addition to being poorly enforced, weed eradication bylaws were poorly publicized. They were so obscure in fact that the paper's editors seem to have been unsure of their existence let alone their precise wording. For instance, in one 1861 article on Canada thistle they suggested: "Clean culture and not allowing thistles to seed in waste places and on road sides against which we believe there is a statute, involve the general principles of prevention".43 The phrase "we believe" and the lack of knowledge it implies reappears two years later in an editorial calling for stricter anti-weed legislation: 3 8 Ibid., September 1863, 334 and October 1863, 369. 3 9 Statutes of Upper Canada. 1793, 33 Geo.3, c.4, sect.9 4 0 Statutes of Canada. 1849, 12 Vict., c.81, sect.30(21). 4 1 Ibid., 1853, 16 Vict., c.190, sect.60 and c.169, sect.7. 4 2 The Canadian Agriculturist. January 1863, 7. 4 3 Ibid., September 1, 1861, 517. 104 In Canada, we believe, enactments have been issued against allowing thistles to ripen on the road-sides and exposed public situations, both from the legislature and township corporations; and it is passing strange that such important and beneficial regulations on the proper observance of which both private and public wealth is so closely dependent should in many districts become practically inoperative.44 Agitation for stricter anti-weed measures bore fruit in 1865 with the passage of The Canada Thistle Act of Upper Canada (see Appendix 2).45 Under the terms of the act, land owners or occupiers were annually required to cut down or destroy Canada thistle prior to the setting of seed or face fines ranging from two to ten dollars. Highway overseers were charged with similar responsibilities on lands under their jurisdiction. Additionally, if overseers observed thistles on adjacent farm land, they were directed to notify the land owner of the presence of weeds. If no action was taken within five days of said notice, the overseer could enter the property and cut down the thistles without fear of prosecution. Municipal clerks had similar powers plus the right to enforce the act on railway companies. People who "knowingly" sold seed contaminated with the seeds of Canada thistle faced fines ranging from two to ten dollars and all officers who refused to enforce the act could be fined ten to twenty dollars. Finally, a refusal to pay fines could result in a unspecified prison sentence at the discretion of the local justice of the peace. The new culture of weeds in Ontario received an official stamp of approval with the passage of the Canada Thistle Act of 1865. It was the first noxious weed act in British North America and it effectively established a foundation and pattern for subsequent weed legislation in Ontario and Western Canada. In common with many other features of the emerging culture of weeds in Ontario, it does not represent an absolute break with the British tradition—several 4 4 Ibid., March 1863, 82. 4 5 Statutes of Canada. 1865, 29 Vict., c.40. 105 of Britain's leading agricultural improvers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries had agitated for some form of weed legislation and legislation was eventually passed by the British Parliament in 1920.46 It does, however, represent a significant shift in emphasis and strong evidence of cultural change. If Ontario's 1865 thistle act can be said to represent a clear expression of the human side to a distinct culture of weeds in Ontario, the plant that it singles out equally symbolizes the culture's nonhuman dimension. Cirsium arvense was a common problem in Britain but it acquired a new identity and an enhanced significance in the New World. As mentioned in chapter one, this perennial member of the Composite family is thought to have been introduced to New France sometime during the seventeenth century and, because of its adaptability and numerous attributes conferring weediness, it has subsequently spread to all the farming districts of Canada.47 Exactly when the common field thistle of Britain acquired a new North American identity is unknown but as early as 1814 farmers in northern New York State were cursing "Canada thistle" as an unwanted import from the land bearing the plant's 48 name. 4 6 British agricultural improvers who pushed for the enactment of weed laws include: William Marshall, The Rural Economy of the Midland Counties (London: Printed for G. Nicol, 1790), 2:152; William Pitt, "On the Subject of Weeding; or the Improvements to be Effected in Agriculture by the Extirpation of Weeds," Communications to the Board of Agriculture 5 (1806): 257; Rennie, 297; Sir John Sinclair. The Code of Agriculture (London: B. McMillan, 1817), 248. The Isle of Man and Northern Ireland had noxious weed legislation in force by 1900 and 1909 respectively but it was not until 1920 that Great Britain passed its first official weed law in the form of a brief amending clause to the Corn Production Act of 1917. Great Britain, The Journal of the Board of Agriculture 7 (1900/01): 245; Statutes of Northern Ireland. 1909, 9Edw.7, c.31; Statutes. 1920, 10 and 11 Geo.5, c.76, s.10. 4 7 R.J. Moore, "The Biology of Canadian Weeds. 13. Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.," Canadian Journal of Plant Science 55 (1975): 1038. 4 8 John Nicholson, The Farmers' Assistant (Albany: Printed by H.C. Southwick, 1814), 263. 106 Cirsium arvense probably owes its common name to its early success in the fields of New France. By the 1830s, however, it was equally at home in both of the Canadas.49 By the 1840s it was regarded as the worst weed in Ontario and it held this dubious distinction until the early twentieth century. The successful colonization of Ontario by this European immigrant can be attributed in part to the fact that it is very difficult to eradicate using mechanical methods, particularly if it is allowed a period of grace in which to establish an extensive root system. Some peculiarities of the climate or environment also seem to have contributed to its impressive spread. According to one late nineteenth century Ontario weed expert, something about the North American environment encourages Canada thistle and some other European weeds to "flourish to a greater extent than even in the lands whence they came."50 Cirsium arvense flourished to such a degree that by the late nineteenth century, it was widely regarded as Canadian in more than just name. One agricultural writer wryly observed that Canada thistle was commonly considered to be "indigenous to our soil and climate...It has indeed obtained such a foothold upon Canadian farms, that we blush to think that outsiders may be readily excused for the assumption that it is a Canadian pet."51 Canada thistle and the act aimed at halting its spread figure prominently in J.C. Rykert's 1865 presidential address to the Agricultural Association in Upper Canada. His speech seems to capture the essence of an emerging culture of weeds in Ontario much in the same manner as Benjamin Holdich does for the British tradition as described in chapter two: 4 9 A footnote in Robert Jones's History of Agriculture in Ontario suggests that Canada thistle was introduced into what is now Ontario during the era of the fur trade as a stowaway in the straw mattresses of the men who crewed the bateaux. Jones, 92. 5 0 Thomas Shaw, Weeds, and How to Eradicate Them (Toronto: J.E. Bryant and Company, 1893), 4. 107 Another great source of evil to the farmer, and one which could readily be removed were proper efforts to be made, is the increasing growth of that scourge, the Canada thistle, which seems particularly indigenous to our soil. Year after year we are compelled to witness its gradual increase and in many parts of the country we find it has become master of the soil. It is needless to attempt to point out a remedy for the extirpation of so great an evil, which so long as it can find one farmer in a community who will not wage war against it, is sure to increase and multiply. Nothing but Legislative enactments with unlimited power will check its onward progress. It is to be hoped that the Act lately passed will be rigidly enforced by every friend of the farmer.52 By the mid-1860s, Ontario's weed culture can be distinguished from its British equivalent on all three analytical levels. In nineteenth century Britain, there was a rough if far from harmonious ecological balance between people and weeds. Contemporary sources indicate that this stability was tenuous and easily upset—weed populations, for example, may have increased during the French and Napoleonic Wars because of the acute labour shortage that attended it—but they give little indication that weed populations were either increasing or decreasing over the century as a whole.53 This contrasts sharply with the situation in Ontario where weed populations are described as increasing at phenomenal rates. In the absence of hard data it is impossible to determine accurately just how severe the weed problem had become but most mid-nineteenth century accounts strongly suggest that the weed populations per acre of farmland in Ontario were far in excess of those normally encountered in Britain. Nineteenth century British farmers usually employed a multitude of weapons in their conflict with weeds. Some techniques such as weeding and hoeing were solely aimed at 5 1 Charles E. Whitcombe, The Canadian Farmer's Manual of Agriculture (Toronto: James Adams and Company, 1874), 278. 5 2 J.C. Rykert, "Annual Address," Transactions of the Board of Agriculture and of the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada. 1864 to 1868 6 (1872): 144. 5 3 It is probably no coincidence that late eighteenth and early nineteenth century British agitation for legislative measures against weeds and the passing of Great Britain's first weed law in 1920 occurred during periods of acute labour shortages. 108 extirpating weeds while others including frequent tillage and crop rotation served a number of functions in addition to subduing unwanted vegetation. For most farmers in Britain, eradicating weeds was not a discrete activity. Rather, responsibility for this task was spread throughout their entire arable farming system. Some farmers in Ontario did weed and rotate their crops and most practiced some form of cultivation prior to sowing or after harvest. The vast majority, however, relied on a single procedure—a naked summer fallow—to keep their farms clean and relatively free of weeds. Whether out of ignorance, choice or circumstance, farmers were ignoring a number of the central tenets of good husbandry by relying heavily, and at times exclusively, on summer fallowing to keep weeds at bay. Had they read such popular works as William Marshall's Rural Economy of Yorkshire (1788), the specific consequences of their neglect would have been made clear. Writing on the topic of Canada thistle or the "COMMON CORN THISTLE," as he called it, Marshall noted: "Nature has been Angularly attentive to the prefervation of this fpecies of plant...Neither FALLOWING alone, nor WEEDING alone, will prevent its mifchief: their joint efforts are neceffary to keep it within bounds".54 Farmers were not the only people, however, to exhibit a disregard for venerable British traditions. By the 1860s, the more articulate or literary-minded members of Ontario's agricultural community were regularly portraying weeds as foreign aggressors who were rapidly wresting farmland away from their human adversaries. Individual farmers were cast as helpless in the face of this evil onslaught and hope for the future was pinned on a general call to arms enforced by the legal might of the state. Emphasizing the aggressive, human-like qualities of weeds and their impending occupation of Ontario's farmland may have served to 109 impress farmers with the need for immediate and vigorous action but it drew attention away from the vital role humans play in fostering the spread of weeds. British writers also used anthropomorphic terms to express their dislike for weeds but they rarely if ever carried their rhetoric to such fearful and oppositional extremes. Nor did they let their polemical flourishes obscure the point that weeds were inevitable and that they only presented a serious problem when farmers fail to apply annually, the time honoured measures aimed at suppressing their growth. Explaining Cultural Change The culture of weeds in Ontario was the product of a complex interplay between a number of ecological and social factors acting in conjunction with the environment. Some features of this culture are relatively easy to explain; others are considerably more difficult. Included in the former would be explanations for the development of an unusually fearful and hostile attitude towards weeds and the subsequent passage of Canada's first noxious weed act: both were mainly a response to the thriving state of Ontario's weed colonies. Determining why weeds were thriving to a degree unprecedented in Britain, however, definitely belongs to the latter category. Any attempt to resolve this issue is further complicated by the need to explain why it was European immigrants and not native species that ultimately challenged Ontario farmers for possession of their fields. The predominance of European or Eurasian species in the weed flora of mid-nineteenth century Ontario was not a unique phenomenon. Rather, it was something Ontario shared with all the British colonies in eastern North America and with the former colonies 5 4 Marshall, The Rural Economy of Yorkshire (London: Printed for T. Caddell, 1788), 1:363. 11.0 south of the border. Botanists and agriculturists have long been aware of this curious fact and its corollary, that relatively few North American species have become problem weeds in Europe, and they have proposed a number of mechanisms to explain it.56 One of the earliest and most obvious explanations is that well into the nineteenth century, goods and people predominantly moved westward across the Atlantic." Although this argument has long been popular and still finds expression in weed ecology literature, it has rarely been presented as the only explanation for the preponderance of European weeds in North American fields and the relative absence of North American species in the fields of Europe. One weakness of this argument is that while the flow of people and goods may have been mainly from east to west, it has never been unidirectional. Another is its failure to adequately explain why native species are relatively poorly represented in the weed flora of North America, particularly in the eastern sections of Canada and the U.S. E. W. Claypole, a lecturer at Antioch College, Ohio, was one of the first scientists to attempt a more comprehensive explanation for the dominance of European species in the The weed ecologist R. J. Aldrich estimates that about two-thirds of "the problem weeds in the United States" are introduced species, most notably from Europe. Weed-Crop Ecology: Principles in Weed Management (North Scituate, Mass.: Breton Publishers, 1984), 374. 5 6 For one of the earliest discussions of this phenomenon see: C.S. Rafinesque Schmaltz, "An Essay on the Exotic Plants, Mostly European, Which have been Naturalized and Now Grow Spontaneously in the Middle States of America," Medical Repository 2 (1811): 330-345. 5 7 This argument has been offered in: E.W. Claypole, "On the Migration of Plants from Europe to America, with an Attempt to Explain Certain Phenomena Connected Therewith," Report of the Montreal Horticultural Society and Fruit Grower's Association of the Province of Quebec 3 (1877): 80; Asa Gray, "The Pertinacity and Predominance of Weeds," American Journal of Science and Arts 18 (1879): 163; Lyster H. Dewey, "Migration of Weeds," Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture. 1896 (Washington, D.C.: G.P.O., 1897), 284; John M. Fogg, Weeds of Lawn and Garden: A Handbook for Eastern Temperate North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1945), 10; and W. Holzner, "Concepts, Categories and Characteristics of Weeds," in Biology and Ecology of Weeds, eds. W. Holzner and M. Numata, (The Hague: Dr. W. Junk Publishers, 1982), 9. I l l weed floras of both Europe and North America. In an 1877 paper presented to the Montreal Horticultural Society, Claypole speculated that the successful naturalization of European plant species in North American was the result of a greater degree of adaptability or "plasticity" on the part of European flora.58 Claypole's interpretation still has some merit but it too suffers from some serious weaknesses including a failure to address adequately the issue of why European flora is more adaptable than its North American counterpart. Asa Gray, the leading American botanist of the nineteenth century, raised this very point two years later. Gray agreed with Claypole that the predominance of European weeds in North America could be partly attributed to a much heavier westward migration of plants across the Atlantic but he added that because eastern North America "was naturally forest-clad, there were few of its native herbs which, if they could bear the exposure at all, were capable of competition on cleared land with emigrants from the Old World."59 The idea that European weeds have prevailed over native species in North America because of preadaptions to agriculture has stood the test of time surprisingly well and Gray's paper is still cited in scientific literature, even if modern explanations prefer to cast the argument in terms of preadaptions to ecological niches.60 It has even been introduced to historians through the work of the noted American environmental historian, Alfred Crosby.61 5 8 Claypole, 87. 5 9 Gray, 162. 6 0 J. McNeil, "The Taxonomy and Evolution of Weeds," Weed Research 16 (1976): 407-408. 6 1 Crosby argues that the successful transplantation of European weeds and other "portmanteau biota" to North America and the other "Neo-Europes" was primarily the result of preadaptions to a "Europeanized" environment. More specifically, European weeds were better able to endure the harsh, exposed conditions found on arable fields because of their co-evolution with farming. Crosby, 287-290, 309-310. Crosby does cite Asa Gray on page 166 of Ecological Imperialism but he incorrectly implies that the main thrust of Gray's article was 112 Preadaptions to agriculture explain the preponderance of European species on mid-nineteenth century lists of the worst weeds of Ontario. While these species clearly deserve a great deal of credit for their own success, credit for their ability to flourish to a degree unprecedented in Britain belongs to the environment and the settlers who attempted to transform it. The environment aided the cause of immigrant plants by providing a climate that was congenial to the activities of many species and yet, one that was too harsh to allow all the representatives of Britain's weed flora to migrate successfully.62 Plants such as Canada thistle must have benefited significantly from this reduced competition for space and resources. According to recent weed science literature, it would also seem that they benefited at least as much from an absence of the predators and parasites that kept weed populations in check in Europe.63 The historical geographer Kenneth Kelly once commented that: "In terms of effect on agricultural development the forest cover was the prime physical characteristic of Ontario."64 In terms of the influence of the environment on the culturing of weeds, this comment certainly rings true. Between 1800 and the 1860s settlers waged a relentless war against forest species: plants out of place in the eyes of farmers. British travellers were often appalled at the ferocity to suggest that European flora had the advantage over American flora because it was either older or younger. Gray does mention these ideas but simply in order to dismiss them! 6 2 Weed scientists have speculated that some Eurasian weeds may have actually found the North American climate "more suitable" for their establishment, dispersal and spread than the climate in their native range. Tom Pritchard, "Race Formation in Weedy Species with Special Reference to Euphorbia cyparissias L. and Hypericum perforatum L.," in The Biology of Weeds, ed. John L. Harper (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1960), 62. 6 3 For recent explanations for the unusual success of immigrant weeds in North America, see: Thomas A. Hill. The Biology of Weeds (London: Edward Arnold, 1977), 43; Aldrich, 375 and Herbert G. Baker, "The Continuing Evolution of Weeds," Economic Botany 45 (1991): 445. 113 with which settlers conducted their assault and as early as the 1830s they were struck by the "nakedness" of the cleared portions of Ontario and the adjacent U.S. and the prevalent idea that "wood is a nuisance" even in areas that had been effectively denuded.65 The idea of forest as enemy was so powerfully ingrained in the minds of settlers that it was still being expressed in the 1860s. For example, James Johnson ignored a growing trend to regard the forest as a valuable if depleted resource when in 1864 he encouraged the members of the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada to avoid human strife and "confine our warfare to the subjugation of the forests".66 The forests of Ontario acted as both a physical and cognitive impediment to the recognition of weed problems. In physical terms, forest clearing demanded a great deal of labour which left little time or energy to attend to weeding amongst other niceties of good husbandry. Even when the trees were felled and burned, their stumps, roots and regrowth were "so thickset as in many places to bid defiance to the plough and preclude any mode of cultivation except sowing and hand-raking the seed."67 Historians estimate that it took between five and ten years after initial clearing before roots and stumps were rotted sufficiently to permit anything but the most cursory tillage.68 This in combination with the use of improperly cleaned seed and the protracted nature of carving a farm from the forest meant 6 4 Kenneth Kelly, "Wheat Farming in Simcoe County in the Mid-Nineteenth Century," Canadian Geographer 15 (1971): 102. 6 5 Fergusson, 29. 6 6 James Johnson, "Annual Address," Transactions of the Board of Agriculture and of the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada 6 (1872): 23. 6 7 Robert Barclay Allardice, Agricultural Tour in the United States and Upper Canada, with Miscellaneous Notices (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1842), 64. 6 8 Jones, 73; Kenneth Kelly, "The Impact of Nineteenth Century Agricultural Settlement on the Land," in Perspectives on Landscape and Settlement in Nineteenth Century Ontario, ed. J. David Wood (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1975), 66. 114 that European weeds enjoyed years if not decades of relative freedom in which to establish themselves.69 Freedom of action during these crucial establishment years was further guaranteed by the recolonization of clearings by forest species, the "first and greatest of the 'weed' problems encountered by the pioneer farmer".70 The sheer challenge of subduing the forest tended to divert attention away from a growing problem with imported weeds, the result being that many settlers were quite simply unable to see the weeds for the trees. In 1858, George Lawson, a newly appointed natural history professor at Queen's University, cautioned against making this very mistake: no sooner are the trees hewn down and the soil turned up, than the herbaceous weeds assert their place and power...In your march forward into the woods forget not that the enemy comes in behind; and forget not that it is less honourable to make the conquest of new territory than it is to hold and defend that which has already been won.71 European weeds would probably have become a serious problem in Ontario even if the majority of farmers had engaged in a spirited defence against weedy aggression. Most farmers, however, were either unwilling or unable to mount such a defence. Instead, they practiced a style of farming that was in many respects more favourable to culturing weeds than to culturing crops. British travellers, the local farm press and historians alike have Estimates of forest clearance rates for the 1820s to 1840s are generally accepted to be in the range of five to seven acres per year. Peter Russell has recently challenged these figures as being far too high and he suggests that for the period 1822-1839, the "average" rate of clearing was more likely in the range of "around one and one-half acres per year". Peter A. Russell, "Forest into Farmland: Upper Canada Clearing Rates, 1822-1839," Agricultural History 57 (1983): 328. 7 0 Kelly, "Wheat Farming in Simcoe County," 104. Kelly convincingly argues that forest regrowth easily surpassed immigrant weeds as the worst weed problem during the early decades of settlement. While there is little doubt that his argument is valid nor that the issue of forest recolonization "passed unnoticed in the Ontario farm literature," forest species ceased to be a serious problem once a farm was established and fields were regularly cultivated. By the 1860s, forest regrowth was probably only a problem in the remotest, most recently settled districts of Ontario. 115 traditionally criticized Upper Canadian farmers for their extensive style of agriculture and failure to attend to the essential details of good husbandry. They have been described as "land butchers" who eschewed mixed farming in favour of "wheat mining," a term used to describe the wheat-fallowTwheat rotation described previously.72 High initial soil fertility and an abundance of land were the environment's contribution to this "system"~a system that one critic in the 1850's argued "is better defined as the absence of any system at all."73 He continued: There is however one redeeming qualification in regard to our agriculture, for which, if for nothing else, we may claim credit, and I am bound to accord it, and that is consistency~0 yes, we are very consistent. We pay no attention to any regular rotation of crops; we regard thorough cultivation as a matter of secondary importance, therefore we are quite consistent in giving ourselves no uneasiness at all, either to the accumulation or the application of manures." 7 4 Historians have traditionally argued that this style of farming ultimately led to its own demise in the 1860s through widespread soil exhaustion and a resulting decline in wheat yields.75 That an emphasis on wheat in the absence of a proper farming system led to a serious decline in soil fertility can be debated but there can be little doubt that it was very conducive to the growth and spread of weeds.76 For a healthy stand of weeds was, in the days before the 7 1 The Canadian Agriculturist. October 1858, 236-237. 7 2 Jones, 53; McCallum, 21. During the first half of the nineteenth century, relatively few farmers engaged in mixed farming because it required a considerable amount of initial capital and was less lucrative than wheat farming, particularly over the short term. Kenneth Kelly, "Notes on a Type of Mixed Farming Practiced in Ontario During the Early Nineteenth Century," Canadian Geographer 17 (1973): 205; O'Mara, 105. 7 3 Croil, 77. 7 4 Ibid., 80-81. 7 5 McCallum, 21. McCallum believes that soil exhaustion resulting from decades of over cropping wheat without the additions of manures or fertilizers was one of the main factors involved in the collapse of Ontario's wheat staple in the 1860s. 7 6 Kelly, "Wheat Farming in Simcoe County," 98. Kelly argues that a link between pioneer farming practices and soil exhaustion has never been adequately demonstrated. 116 invention of herbicides, the inevitable consequence of inadequate cultivation and the overcropping of grain. A general decline in soil fertility would only have compounded this problem as weeds are generally much more able to tolerate poor soil conditions than are their domesticated brethren. Some farmers chose to practice an extensive, weed-friendly style of farming out of inexperience, ignorance, expedience or outright greed. Others chose it because it made sense in a country where land was cheap, abundant and covered by trees. Summer fallowing, for instance, was highly effective in subduing forest regrowth even though it was costly and far less effective against weeds than a combination of weeding, rigorous cultivation and growing hoed crops as part of a systematic rotation.77 The majority of farmers, however, had little choice in the matter because of a number of socio-economic constraints. The first was the high cost and scarcity of labour. Most traditional British methods for eradicating weeds are very labour intensive and, as such, they were simply not feasible in a land where labour was both scarce and dear. Male labourers were not the only ones whose scarcity was felt for, as the President of the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada observed in 1860: "The high standard of farming which obtains in Great Britain cannot so easily be arrived at with us in Canada, on account of one sort of labor, such as is done there by women and children, who are chiefly employed in weeding, hoeing, hay-making, and other light work of the farm."78 7 7 Ibid., 100, 106. Kelly suggests that while summer fallow was "an inefficient method of removing weeds" it proved highly effective in solving the problem of forest recolonization and he describes the prevalence of the practice as "a response to the problems created by Ontario' s forest cover". 7 8 John Wade, "Annual Address," Transactions of the Board of Agriculture and of the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada 5 (1864): 40. 117 Ontario's weed problem was further exacerbated by a driving need to produce a cash crop. Most farmers lacked the necessary capital or outside sources of income to forego an immediate return from the land during the lengthy process of establishing a farm. They were forced, as a result, to produce a crop that could be sown within a year or two of initial clearing, one that could bear the expense and rigors of travel by road and one for which a large, ready market existed. During the first half of the nineteenth century the only crop that met these criteria was wheat.79 Poor roads and a severely limited market for produce other than wheat made it unprofitable and impractical for cash hungry farmers to diversify their operations. Until the 1860s or 70s, these factors also precluded "any regular rotation of crops".80 Through their inability to apply a systematic crop rotation, Ontario farmers were denied the use of a tried and trusted tool for maintaining soil fertility. More importantly, they were denied the use of the single most important cultural technique that British agriculturists had devised for maintaining weed populations at acceptable levels. Ontario farmers were severely criticized by British travelers and the local farm press for their failure to implement a system of crop rotation. Centuries of British agricultural 7 9 In the first presidential address to the Agricultural Association of Upper Canada, E.W. Thomson remarked that while a number of cash crops were suitable to the climate and market, wheat was "essentially the staple article for exportation". The British American Cultivator. November 1847, 325. Historians have similarly noted that up until the 1850s, wheat was the "only" cash crop available to Ontario farmers. Kelly, "Wheat farming in Simcoe County," 107; McCallum, 13 8 0 Croil, 78. Experimenting with crop rotations did not become common until the 1860s or 70s. Rykert, 143; Ontario, Agricultural Commission, "Testimony of George Buckland," Report of the Commissioners and Appendices. Vol. 4 (Toronto: C.Blackett Robinson, 1881), 156; Jones, 323. Some farmers may have failed to rotate their crops out of ignorance but, because rotation had long been a standard practice in Britain, it seems likely that most settlers were at least familiar with the basic aims and principles of this technique. 118 literature and experience informed this criticism and much of it was reasoned and valid. But, like many aspects of British advice regarding the treatment of weeds, it was difficult if not impossible to apply in the environmental and social context of Ontario. Poorness of fit between traditional British advice and local conditions represents a final social factor that aided and abetted the spread of weeds in Ontario. Agriculturists in Ontario did eventually cease to look to Britain for expert advice on weeds. The development of locally suitable recommendations for eradicating weeds, however, only occurred during the closing decades of the nineteenth century. By then it was far too late to prevent immigrant weeds from effectively challenging human immigrants for possession of the soil. Conclusion The culture of weeds in Ontario began as a colonial offshoot of British culture. Most of the farmers were British as were many of the weeds and Britain supplied virtually all of the expert advice on how relations between the two groups were to be conceptualized and governed. This body of advice had taken centuries to develop and it was beautifully tailored to restrain the activities of familiar plants that had long been part of the native flora and whose populations were regulated by a number of natural constraints. British recommendations for the eradication of weeds were also predicated on the availability of a cheap, plentiful supply of labour, the presence of long cleared, easily tilled fields and the ability of farmers to practice crop rotation in order to avoid the build-up of certain weeds that are particularly well adapted to growing with specific crops.81 8 1 A British weed scientist suggests that "the tradition of abundant labor" in Britain until World War II is one of the chief historical differences between agriculture in Britain and North 119 Fortunately for weeds if not for farmers, none of these conditions applied to Ontario. The weedy immigrants that were able to survive Ontario's climate were free from most of the natural constraints that kept their populations in check back home. Labour was expensive and scarce, the presence of stumps, roots and rocks precluded all but the crudest of cultivation and rotation was prohibited by a driving need to produce a cash crop. A lack of markets and inadequate transportation facilities further inhibited the ability of farmers to rotate their fields between crops of wheat, vegetables and pasture. Forest regrowth, an abundance of land and low labour requirements encouraged most farmers to practice a bare summer fallow but this technique alone was unable to halt the development of unusually healthy weed populations in comparison to Britain. The unprecedented success of immigrant weeds evoked a harsh response from their human adversaries—a response that ultimately culminated in the passage of Canada's first noxious weed law in 1865. Britain provided little precedent for the passage of the Canada Thistle Act of Upper Canada and this statute represents a clear expression of an emerging national identity. Although it represents a milestone in the development of a culture of weeds in Ontario, this piece of legislation is, nevertheless, far too obscure to qualify as a symbol for a new nation. A far more appropriate symbol is the plant that it legislates against: Cirsium arvense. "the thistle 'of Canada' par excellence"™ America. J.G. Elliot, "The Contribution of Weed Science to Food Production in Great Britain," Weed Science 18 (1970): 682. 8 2 Whitcombe, 278. 120 CHAPTER 4 DOMINION OF THE WEST, 1867-1905 This chapter is the story of the further evolution of Ontario's weed culture, its westward migration and subsequent flowering on the broad expanses of the Canadian Prairies. During the period between Confederation and the creation of two new western provinces in 1905 the roots of the ongoing conflict between people and weeds in the West were planted as were most of today's educational and statutory anti-weed measures. The era was one of paper diplomacy and intense propaganda and it witnessed the entrenchment of a blindly oppositional view of weeds in response to the rapid advance of aggressive, immigrant vegetation. This tide of weedy invaders met some human resistance but the period is best portrayed in terms of the territorial expansion of European plant and human populations and as a prelude to the inevitable conflict to come. The chapter begins with a section on developments in Ontario between 1867 and the turn-of-the-century. During these years, state-funded, professional weed experts supplanted British authorities as the main source of information on weeds and their suppression. They tailored their control recommendations to fit local conditions, and through the application of a thin gloss of science, added a new lustre to violent, anti-weed rhetoric. The teachings of this first generation of Canadian agricultural scientists were soon being transmitted to farmers in Manitoba and the North-West Territories. Both began as colonies of Ontario from whence they initially drew the majority of their settlers, not to mention a weed-friendly style of 121 farming and a large number of weeds as well. Section two deals with these issues as well as with Ontario's influence on the early development of western noxious weed legislation. The section concludes with a discussion of how eastern experts spread the rhetoric of war to a land where conflict was still fitful and sporadic. The final portion investigates a process that was underway at the same time as the West was being won: the further evolution of the culture of weeds in response to western conditions. Prairie governments had, by 1905, instituted a number of unprecedented policies in response to an equally unprecedented problem with weeds. Some of these weed problems were familiar to farmers in Ontario but many were not, and if Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.) can be said to symbolize the culture of weeds in the East, the same is true of Russian thistle (Salsola pestifer Nels.) in Manitoba and the North-West Territories. A little known immigrant from the steppes of Eastern Europe, Russian thistle spread so rapidly on the Northern Plains that it seemed to have "partaken of the conquering spirit of the West."1 Weeds and Weed Experts in Ontario, 1867-1900 The period between 1867 and 1900 was one of great change for the farmers of Ontario.2 In the 1870s, improved market conditions, declining yields and growing western competition encouraged a general shift away from wheat production towards a pattern of mixed farming. This meant that summer fallowing was largely abandoned in favour of crop 1 James Fletcher, The Russian Thistle or Russian Tumble-Weed (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1894), 4. 2 For detailed summaries of late nineteenth century agricultural change in Ontario, see: Robert L. Jones, History of Agriculture in Ontario. 1613-1880 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946), 244-249, 304-327 and G. Elmore Reaman, A History of Agriculture in Ontario (Toronto: Saunders, 1970), 1:124-151. 122 rotation and more intensive cultivation.3 The following decade saw the Ontario government beginning to take a more active role in fostering agricultural improvement.4 At the start of the decade the government sponsored a commission to inquire into the state of agriculture in the province. The Commission's findings were subsequently published and made widely available both as a complete report and as a practical guide to farming.5 Towards the end of the decade agriculture received full ministry status. During the 1870s and 80s farmers also gained greater access to agricultural education from local sources of advice and expertise. In 1874, after decades of agitation for a college of agriculture and a failed attempt to establish agricultural studies at the University of Toronto, the Ontario Agricultural College and Experimental Farm (OAC) was officially opened at Guelph.6 The College suffered initially from a lack of resources and poor attendance but by the late 1880s, under the able leadership of President James Mills, the OAC was well on the way to becoming the leading agricultural college in the Dominion and the main research and extension arm of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. Beginning in 1880, the research and extension activities of the College were expanded through the creation of the Ontario Agricultural and Experimental Union (OAEU). Comprised of the faculty and alumni of the 3 Jones, 324; James Fletcher, Weeds. Central Experimental Farm, Bulletin 28, 1897, 9. 4 The colonial and provincial governments of Ontario did little to support agricultural improvement directly until the 1880s. Jones, 332-333; Reaman, 104. 5 Ontario Agricultural Commission, Report of the Commissioners and Appendices. 5 vols. (Toronto: C. Blackett Robinson, 1881); Ontario Agricultural Commission, Canadian Farming: an Encyclopedia of Agriculture (Toronto: Williamson and Co., 1889). 6 For a concise summary of the agitation leading up to the establishment of the OAC see Jones, 334-335 and Alexander M. Ross, The College on the Hill: A History of the Ontario Agricultural College (Toronto: Copp Clarke, 1974), 1-28. The first tentative moves to introduce university level studies in agriculture to the province were made in the late 1840s. Unfortunately, even though a chair in agriculture and a demonstration farm were established 123 OAC, the OAEU provided the College and the provincial government with the opportunity of conducting field trials throughout the province and it was soon involved in a wide range of practical research and demonstration programs. Both the OAC and the Experimental Union cooperated closely with yet a third source of expertise that was made available in the late 1880s: the staff of the Central Experimental Farm at Ottawa. The Dominion Experimental Farms System was created in 1886 and has been the dominant agricultural research institution in the country since its inception.7 With the establishment of divisional specialists in Ottawa and well-staffed experimental farms at Nappan, Nova Scotia, Brandon, Manitoba, Indian Head, North-West Territories and Agassiz, British Columbia, it was not long before the system also emerged as one of the leading sources of information for the farming community. The establishment of the OAC and the Dominion Experimental Farms System provides the context for the further evolution of a distinct culture of weeds in Ontario. Both contributed to the creation of a new breed of weed expert—the government-funded agricultural scientist-decades in advance of similar developments in Britain and both created experts who drew their authority from a combination of science and the state.8 Much of their at King's College in 1852, the program "collapsed" in the late 1850s because of an apparent lack of support from the farming community. Jones, 331-332. 7 Ralph H. Estey, "Publicly Sponsored Agricultural Research in Canada since 1887," Agricultural History 62 (Spring 1988): 51. T.H. Anstey's One Hundred Harvests: Research Branch. Agriculture Canada. 1886-1986 (Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 1986) provides a detailed history of the Dominion Experimental Farms Service. 8 In his 1880 testimony to the Ontario Agricultural Commission, William Johnson, the first Principal of the OAC remarked: "it should be stated at the outset that in neither England nor Scotland does the State take anything to do with agricultural education. It is left to private enterprise and the supervision in the one case of the Royal Agricultural Society, and in the other of the Highland and Agricultural Society." Ontario Agricultural Commission, Report of the Commissioners. 5:18. The British government did begin to make small grants to 124 knowledge continued to be drawn from British farming literature but, unlike their amateur predecessors, the practical farming experience of these new professionals was firmly rooted in Ontario. The weed experts at the OAC--J. Hoyes Panton, Thomas Shaw, Charles A. Zavitz and F. C. Harrison—all spent their formative years on Southern Ontario farms. Shaw, who held the positions of Farm Superintendent and Professor of Agriculture between 1888 and 1893, was largely self taught while Panton, the College's Natural History and Geology Professor, held a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto.9 Their assistants and later professors in their own right, Zavitz and Harrison, were graduates of the institution that later employed them.10 Even James Fletcher, a man who gained a reputation as Canada's leading "apostle of clean farming," drew most of his first-hand experience from Ontario and later, the West.11 Born in England where he trained as an accountant, twenty-two year old Fletcher arrived in Canada in 1874.12 He soon entered the civil service as an assistant parliamentary librarian in Ottawa and it was there that he taught himself the elements of botany and entomology. agricultural colleges and research institutions in the 1890s, but as late as 1910, a report by a deputation from the University College, Reading, complained that state aid for agricultural education in Britain lagged far behind that of Canada and the U.S. Great Britain, Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, Journal of the Board of Agriculture 17 (1910/1911): 915. Britain's "laissez-faire" approach to agricultural research persisted until the era of the First World War during which time the government established a number of specialized research institutes and elevated agriculture to the status of a full ministry. Sir John Russell, A History of Agricultural Science in Great Britain. 1620-1954 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1966), 268-288. 9 Ontario Agricultural and Experimental Union, Annual Report. 1904, 81-83; Henry Morgan, ed., The Canadian Men and Women of the Time: A Hand-book of Canadian Biography of Living Characters. 2nd ed. (Toronto: William Briggs, 1912), 1014. 1 0 The Canadian Who's Who (Toronto: The Musson Book Company Ltd., 1910), 243; Ross, College on the Hill. 36, 47. 1 1 Herbert Groh, "A Survey of Weed Control and Investigation in Canada," Scientific Agriculture 3 (1922/23): 415. 125 Fletcher was so successful in his studies that he was appointed honorary dominion entomologist in 1884 and, two years later, the head of the Entomology and Botany Division of the Dominion Experimental Farms System. Fletcher, Panton, Shaw, Zavitz and Harrison learned about farming in a land where a serious weed problem persisted despite significant structural changes in agriculture. In 1884, for example, the nation's most prominent botanist, John Macoun, wrote that many "country roads in Ontario are almost impassable in summer owing to the prevalence" of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense L.). 1 3 He also noted that between Brighton and Toronto, "on the line of the G. T. R., many fields during June are quite yellow with the flowers" of wild mustard (Sinapsis arvensis L.). 1 4 A decade later, Thomas Shaw complained: The extent to which certain varieties of noxious weeds have been allowed to multiply is simply alarming. Some of them are, in a sense, taking possession of the land. Notably is this true of wild mustard, the Canada thistle, and the ragweed in Ontario...In several sections of Ontario, the seeds of the wild mustard are so numerous in the soil that, though no more seeds were allowed to ripen during the present generation, there would probably still be a few left to grow plants for the next generation to destroy.15 Shaw and his colleagues at the OAC suspected that not only was the weed problem serious but that "weeds [were] on the increase in Ontario, both in number and species".16 Their suspicions were subsequently confirmed by an 1898 questionnaire distributed to the 1 2 Paul W. Riegert, "James Fletcher," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol.13, ed. Ramsay Cook (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), 347-348. 1 3 John Macoun, Catalogue of Canadian Plants. Part II, Gamopetalae (Montreal: Dawson Brothers, 1884), 271. 1 4 Ibid., 47. 1 5 Thomas Shaw, Weeds and How to Eradicate Them (Toronto: J.E. Bryant and Company, 1893), 5-6. 1 6 J. Hoyes Panton, Weeds. Ontario Agricultural College, Bulletin 10, 1887, 3; Thomas Shaw and C A . Zavitz, Weeds and Modes of Destroying Them. Ontario Agricultural College, Bulletin 85, 1892, 3. 126 members of the Ontario Agricultural and Experimental Union. In response to the question, "Are the weeds in your neighborhood more numerous and more troublesome than they were ten years ago?", the majority of the correspondents reported: "weeds are far more numerous than they were, and...the injury done by them is far greater."17 Most of the injury was still resulting from long-standing problems such as Canada thistle, wild mustard and wild oats (Avena fatua L.) but new species were also making their presence felt.18 These included stinkweed (Thlaspi arvense L.), field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis L.) and, in particular, perennial sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis L.). 1 9 According to at least one expert on the subject, the latter had displaced Canada thistle as "the worst weed in the Province of Ontario" by the first decade of the twentieth century.20 The ongoing success of immigrant plants in Ontario bears mute testimony to the difficulty of eradicating weeds once they have become firmly established. Their success also suggests that an earlier generation of agriculturists had placed too much faith in the power of legislative enactments to halt the spread of weeds. The Canada Thistle Act of 1865 was amended at least twice between the time of its passage and the close of the century, but as the 1 7 F.C. Harrison and William Lockhead, Some Common Ontario Weeds. Ontario Agricultural College, Bulletin 128, 1903, 17. 1 8 Canada thistle, wild mustard, wild oats, quack grass and several other long established species continued to top lists of Ontario's worst weeds during the closing decades of the nineteenth century. These lists can be found in: Ontario Agricultural Commission, 1:384-386; James Mills and Thomas Shaw, The First Principles of Agriculture (Toronto: J.E. Bryant Co., 1890), 98; J. Hoyes Panton, Weeds of Ontario. Ontario Agricultural College, Bulletin 91, 1893, 2; Ontario Agricultural College and Experimental Farm, Annual Report. 1894, 25; F.C. Harrison, Some Common Ontario Weeds (Toronto: Ontario Department of Agriculture, 1900), 80. 1 9 Panton, Weeds. 5; Panton, Weeds of Ontario. 2; OAC, Annual Report. 1896, 10-11; Harrison, 10-11. 2 0 J. Eaton Howitt, The Perennial Sow Thistle and Some Other Weed Pests of 1908. Ontario Agricultural College, Bulletin 168, 1908, 5 127 Ontario Agricultural Commission intoned in 1881: In noticing the cultivation of various crops it would hardly be proper to omit allusion to some of the eminently prolific species of spontaneous or voluntary productions that appear with a degree of certainty and regularity in too many sections of country. Among these the Canada thistle as it is termed, stands conspicuous. Its increase is even alarming in some districts, and its tenacity in holding its own and propagating itself defies even the power and authority of the Legislature to restrain or suppress it.21 The failure of Ontario's early noxious weed legislation can be attributed to a number of factors. Weeds, for one, simply refused to recognize the power of human laws to govern and regulate their actions. Farmers also appear to have been uncowed by the coercive power of the state both because Ontario was so heavily infested with Canada thistle and other weeds that it made a mockery of a zero-tolerance law and because the act was essentially unenforced. Nearly every late nineteenth century reference to the weed statute describes it as "a dead letter".22 In 1898, about 95% of the respondents to an OAEU questionnaire answered "No most emphatically" to the question: "Are the provisions of the weed law enforced in your township?"23 The reasons provided for this lack of enforcement include a fear of losing votes on the part of township councils, municipal pathmasters wishing to avoid "incurring the enmity of neighbors" and the difficulty of enforcing the act on "rented farms, 2 1 Ontario Agricultural Commission, 1:382. The 1865 Canada Thistle Act underwent minor amendments in the late 1860s and 70s and it was substantially revised in 1884. Significant revisions include outlining the duties of municipal inspectors in greater detail, new fines for selling contaminated seed and an expansion of the noxious weed list to include ox-eye daisy, wild oats, ragweed and burdock. Ontario, Statutes. 1884, 47 Vict., c.37. Ontario's 1884 noxious weed legislation was amended a number of times over the following decades but it was not seriously overhauled until 1935: Ontario, Revised Statutes of Ontario. 1897, c.279; Statutes. 1912, 2 Geo.5, c.68; Statutes. 1927, 17 Geo.5, c.81 and Statutes. 1935, 25 Geo.5, c.49. 2 2 Charles E. Whitcombe, The Canadian Farmer's Manual of Agriculture (Toronto: James Adams and Company, 1874), 278; Ontario Agricultural Commission, 1:384 and 4:100. 2 3 Harrison and Lockhead, 17. 128 especially such as belong to loan companies".24 The inability of Ontario's weed legislation to stem the tide of weedy aggression led the government to place increasing emphasis on education rather than on coercion. This shift in emphasis began in the late 1880s and the task of educating the farming public primarily fell on the shoulders of the staff of the OAC. Most of the burden was borne initially by J. Hoyes Panton. A highly respected teacher, researcher and scientist, his activities included lecturing on weed identification and biology, regular speaking engagements at various farmers' institutes and agricultural society meetings, and writing articles on weed biology and ecology for distribution to agricultural newspapers in both Ontario and the West. He directed the planting of a demonstration weed garden and as his annual reports to the College reveal, he was constantly on the alert for the arrival of new plants to add to his growing collection.25 Panton's reports also mention that he acted as an unofficial Provincial Botanist and Entomologist. By the mid-1890s he was complaining that because of the time spent "answering correspondence relating to injurious plants and insects," he had little time for research or for preparing his lectures.26 Panton was also kept busy as the author of several government pamphlets on weeds. The first was issued in 1887 under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, and with it, an enduring tradition was born. Over the next decade or so, Panton and his OAC colleagues authored at least five practical guides to weed identification and control and the college staff 2 4 Ibid. 2 5 OAC, Annual Report. 1889, 63-74. 26 Ibid., 1896, 6-7. 129 still bears this responsibility in Ontario today.27 These bulletins were freely available upon request and they were issued in the thousands long before the first government weed bulletin made its appearance in Britain.28 By 1900, F.C. Harrison's Some Common Ontario Weeds weighed in at an impressive eighty pages of pictures and text and serves to illustrate both the severity of the weed problem in Ontario and the relative ignorance of Ontario farmers in comparison to their British counterparts. Harrison himself alluded to both of these distinctive features of Ontario's weed culture when he reported: A leading educational authority lately said he did not believe that one farmer in a dozen could give the generally accepted common names of twenty of our common weeds. Whether this is so or not, one thing is certain, viz., that noxious weeds are spreading very rapidly in the Province of Ontario, and farmers need all the information they can get to assist them in preventing further loss from this very serious hindrance to successful agriculture.29 The federal government began to issue its own weed bulletins during the 1890s, and by the first decade of the twentieth century, these pamphlets had become full-fledged books.30 2 7 OAC Professor J.F. Alex's book Ontario Weeds (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, 1992) is the direct descendant of Panton's small five page pamphlet Weeds. Ontario Agricultural College, Bulletin 10, 1887. 2 8 The first official British weed bulletin is represented by a four page leaflet outlining the use of chemical weed killers against charlock: Great Britain, Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, Destruction of Charlock. Leaflet 63, 1900. In 1904 the British Board of Agriculture and Fisheries published an equally short but more general pamphlet titled Weeds and Their Suppression. Leaflet 112, 1904. This pamphlet went through numerous editions before it was replaced in 1929 by H.C. Long's Weeds of Arable Land, a collection of articles first published as a series in various World War One era issues of The Journal of the Board of Agriculture. 2 9 Harrison, 1. 3 0 The first federal government pamphlet on weeds is James Fletcher's 1894 bulletin The Russian Thistle or Russian Tumble-Weed. This was followed in 1897 by his much longer bulletin Weeds. Central Experimental Farm, Bulletin 28 and in 1905 by his and George H. Clark's weighty tome Farm Weeds of Canada (Ottawa: Department of Agriculture, 1905). Farm Weeds of Canada was "distributed free to public libraries, universities, colleges, high schools, rural schools, agricultural societies and farmers' institutes and clubs" and its popularity prompted the government to publish a second edition in 1909. This edition was 130 It is impossible to estimate the proportion of Ontario's farmers who were exposed to this weed-related literature but, judging from the number of bulletins issued and the volume of requests for information received by Panton; Fletcher and others, their numbers must have been substantial.31 Even adult illiteracy was not a bar to the spread of the anti-weed message. Aware that farmers could be informed through their children, James Mills and Thomas Shaw were asked to co-author a school book on The First Principles of Agriculture (1890). Charles James, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Ontario and a former Professor of Chemistry at the Ontario Agricultural College, published a similar textbook in 1899 that was widely distributed "for use in the Public, Separate and High Schools of Ontario."32 Both books deal with the issue of weeds in considerable detail as does a final source of information that became available during the 1890s: Thomas Shaw's independent venture, Weeds, and How to Eradicate Them (1893). Shaw's book anticipates similar British publications by over a quarter of a century and it provides one more small piece of evidence of the cultural change that had long been underway in Ontario.33 Change is also evident in the specific messages delivered by Shaw and his provincial and federal colleagues. For example, they regularly prefaced their discussion of adorned with 76 beautifully executed colour plates and ran to the impressive length of 192 pages. 3 1 In his annual reports for the period 1892 to 1896, Fletcher regularly comments on the large number of weed specimens being "sent in for identification and advice as to their treatment", the growing volume of correspondence on the topic and how the subject of weeds has become "one of burning interest". Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Reports. 1892, 147; 1894, 223; 1895, 177; 1896, 275. 3 2 Charles C. James, Agriculture (Toronto: George N. Morang and Company, 1899). 3 3 The first British book-length publication solely devoted to the issue of weeds is Winifred E. Brenchley's Weeds of Farm Land (London: Longman's, Green and Co., 1920). 131 weeds by defining them as "plants out of place," whereas no single definition dominated contemporary British writings on the subject.34 The appearance of a standard definition for the term probably reflects the greater degree of bureaucratic control over weed literature in Ontario. As Shaw reminded his readers, it also reflected the simple fact that most of the province's "troublesome and aggressive weeds are foreigners."35 As mentioned in chapter one, the origins of this definition can be traced back to Britain. So too can the general anti-weed measures advocated by government weed experts. Their specific advice, however, increasingly took the labour conditions, market conditions and growing conditions of Ontario into account. In his 1900 bulletin, for example, Harrison advocated the use of "Indian corn" as a hoed crop, urged farmers to remove "all obstacles to cultivation" and argued that "snake fences" should be "got rid of as soon as possible" because of their tendency to provide places of refuge for weeds.36 None of these specific recommendations can be found in contemporary British literature. There, cool summers precluded the economic production of maize, fields had long been cleared of obstacles such as roots and piles of stones and weeds found refuge in places such as ditches and under hedge-rows rather than in the angles of log snake fences—a style of fencing that was effectively unknown. Most of these adaptations represent the product of a growing body of experience rather than the fruits of scientific discovery. As was the case in Britain, Canadian agricultural scientists only began serious scientific investigations into weed biology, ecology and 3 4 For a more detailed discussion of this issue, see chapter one. Late nineteenth century Ontario publications that define weeds as "plants out of place" include: Panton, Weeds. 3; James, Agriculture. 71 and Harrison, 2. 3 5 Shaw, Weeds and How to Eradicate Them. 3. 132 eradication long after the nineteenth century had come to an end. Nineteenth century investigations were limited to an attempt by Thomas Shaw to determine the cost and effectiveness of various techniques for ridding the College Farm of weeds, to two minor experiments by Panton on the root growth of Canada thistle and on different methods for killing field bindweed, and finally, in 1899, to a series of trials by the OAC and Central Experimental Farm on the use of iron and copper sulfate sprays for the eradication of wild mustard in grain crops.37 The most striking evidence of a departure from British conventions in the late nineteenth century weed literature of Ontario is the entrenchment of violent anti-weed rhetoric and a near complete absence of the traditional British sense of restraint. Ontario weed specialists were undoubtedly aware of the link between poor husbandry and the development of weed problems but they chose instead to focus on weeds as an external enemy rather than as evidence of the enemy within. Thomas Shaw's 1893 book, for instance, begins with a reference to the Biblical curse and portrays the "alarming" spread of weeds in Canada as "a stigma on the agriculture of any country, and a withering criticism on the defectiveness of the modes of cultivation that are practised in it".38 The remainder of the treatise, however, decidedly downplays the culpability of farmers, emphasizes the "necessity" for waging "a war of extermination" against weeds and is dedicated to staying "the progress of the great tide of weed invasion and weed aggression".39 Harrison, 7. 3 7 OAC, Annual Reports. 1891, 49-52; 1895, 15; 1896, 7 and 1899, 3 and Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report. 1899, 194-196. 3 8 Shaw, Weeds and How to Eradicate Them. 1, 6. 3 9 Ibid., 6, 11. 133 In their government weed bulletins of 1893 and 1897 respectively, J. Hoyes Panton and James Fletcher also berated farmers for their carelessness and neglect before proceeding to reduce the sting of their criticism by praising farmers for the increasing interest that they had shown in the subject of weeds over recent years.40 Panton followed his brief critique of past practices by urging farmers to press their "warfare against weeds" and by suggesting "that weeds must be classed with such enemies as parasitic plants and insects."41 Fletcher adopted a similar rhetorical stance by describing weeds as "aggressive enemies" against which the farmer "should be constantly on the alert".42 Even school children were being taught that weeds "can be subdued" and that "every weed should be considered an intruder, a thief, and a murderer of other crops".43 A Colony of Ontario At the same time as government experts were emerging as the leading spokesmen for the culture of weeds in Ontario, large-scale agricultural settlement was well underway in the West. Between Confederation and the late 1890s this process was largely driven by Ontario. Manitoba and to a lesser extent the North-West Territories were effectively established as colonies of the central province.44 As British immigrants had done one or two generations before, Ontarian settlers brought a great deal of cultural baggage with them—baggage that included agricultural techniques and ideas about farming, crop seeds and their weedy 4 0 Panton, Weeds of Ontario. 1; Fletcher, Weeds. 5 4 1 Panton. Weeds of Ontario. 1. 4 2 Fletcher, Weeds, 5, 11. 4 3 Mills and Shaw, 97; James, Agriculture. 72. 4 4 For a standard summary of this process see Gerald Friesen's The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), 195-241. 134 contaminants. They were also accompanied by Ontario-style noxious weed laws and, before the century had ended, by a deluge of eastern weed lore and expert advice. The 1870s and early 1880s witnessed the establishment of "fully-commercial agriculture" in Manitoba.45 As was the case earlier in Ontario, it was a style of farming that relied almost exclusively on the production of a single cash crop~wheat~and one that was made possible by the high initial fertility of the soil. At the height of Manitoba's settlement boom in 1882, the botanist John Macoun enthused that "the fertility of the ground" in the Red River Valley was so great that it could "be considered as practically inexhaustible... bad husbandry has little effect on the crop for many years".46 A visiting agriculture professor from England, Henry Tanner, made a similar claim in 1883 and was equally untroubled by the current system of "rough culture".47 Tanner's rough culture generally consisted of a single spring plowing followed by broadcast sowing of wheat and harrowing to cover the seed.48 Period sources frequently comment on the subsequent lack of tillage, the use of dirty seed, an absence of manuring, the continuous production of wheat and the fact that other "approved" practices such as "rotations are almost unknown."49 In 1900, the Manitoba Department of Agriculture and 4 5 Stanley N. Murray, "A History of Agriculture in the Valley of the Red River of the North, 1812 to 1920," (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1963), 153. 4 6 John Macoun, Manitoba and the Great North-West (Guelph: The World Publishing Co., 1882), 197. 4 7 Henry Tanner, Report Upon Canada (London: The Freemason Printing Works, 1883), 22. 4 8 Nor'-West Farmer (Winnipeg), June 1886, 501; Allan R. Turner, "Pioneer Farming Experiences," Saskatchewan History 8 (Spring 1955): 46. 4 9 William Fream, Canadian Agriculture. Part 1, The Prairie (London: William Clowes and Son, 1885), 91. For similar discussions of the nature of late nineteenth century Prairie agriculture see virtually any issue of the Nor'-West Farmer or the Farmer's Advocate-Western Edition (Winnipeg). Murray, 205-270, probably provides the most detailed modern account of early Prairie farming practices. 135 Immigration criticized the first generation of farmers in the province for their "tendency to crop the land for all that can be got out of it, leaving posterity to shift for itself'.50 Manitoban farmers were, in other words, being condemned for "wheat mining" just as their predecessors had been in Ontario. Even summer fallowing was little practiced before 1885 although the technique was apparently used during the 1820s by some of the Red River settlers.51 By the mid-1890s, however, a regular summer fallow was considered "absolutely necessary in the West to ensure a crop" and it remained "a commonplace in the methods of practical western farmers through the 1920s."52 Angus Mackay, the Superintendent of the Dominion Experimental Farm at Indian Head, is often described as the "father" of summer fallowing on the Prairies, but although he clearly publicized and improved the technique, its origin remains obscure.53 A more likely if only partial explanation for its origin and subsequent popularity is the influence of farmers from Ontario. The specific operations undertaken when summer fallowing a field will be discussed in the following section on adaptations to the western environment. Before proceeding further, however, it is important to note that in the West, summer fallowing served two main Manitoba, Department of Agriculture and Immigration, Annual Report. 1900, in unpaginated introduction. 5 1 Alexander Ross, The Red River Settlement: Its Rise. Progress, and Present State (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1856), 112; John Bracken, Dry Farming in Western Canada (Winnipeg: The Grain Growers Guide Ltd., 1921), 6-7. 5 2 Angus Mackay as quoted in Fletcher, Weeds. 9; Thomas D. Isern, "The Discer: Tillage for the Canadian Plains," Agricultural History 62, no.2 (1988): 80. The significance of summer fallowing to Prairie agriculture is clearly indicated by statistics collected by Manitoba's Department of Agriculture and Immigration. In 1893, just under 20% of the cultivated farm land in Manitoba was devoted to fallow and the mean for the period 1890 to 1905 is over 15%. J.H. Ellis, The Ministry of Agriculture in Manitoba. 1870-1970 (Winnipeg: Manitoba Department of Agriculture, 1970), 142. 136 functions: killing weeds and water conservation. According to S. A. Bedford, the Superintendent of the Dominion Experimental Farm at Brandon, the former usually took precedence over the latter: "No doubt the main object, and with many the only object, is to destroy weeds".54 Summer fallowing may have helped to keep down weeds but as developments in Ontario had already shown, fallowing by itself was incapable of halting their spread or long term increase. Imported European weeds almost certainly made their first appearance in the West as companions to the vegetables sown by fur traders, and by the 1860s, familiar species such as Canada thistle and wild mustard were well established around posts such as Fort Garry.55 It was not until the late 1870s wheat boom in Manitoba, however, that weedy colonization began in earnest. By the early 1880s, wild mustard was "prevalent" in the Red River Valley and Old World species such as lamb's-quarters (Chenopodium album L.), wild buckwheat, Canada thistle and wild oats were said to "abound" in various parts of Manitoba.56 Preoccupied with other concerns, early settlers seem to have overlooked this weedy invasion. As late as 1894 one commentator remarked that the "farmers of Manitoba, as a whole, have not as yet been much troubled by noxious weeds".57 Farmers in general may not have been much troubled by weeds up to this time but, as other contemporary reports imply, they probably should have been. According to a farmer from Brandon, imported weeds, 5 3 Bracken, 6; Isern, 80. 5 4 Farmer's Advocate. June 5, 1893, 209. 5 5 Nor'-West Farmer. September 1888, 237; G.A. Mulligan and L.G. Bailey, "The Biology of Canadian Weeds. 8. Sinapsis arvensis L.," Canadian Journal of Plant Science 55 (1975): 177. For a concise summary of early farming activities around fur trading posts see Lewis H. Thomas, "A History of Agriculture on the Prairies to 1914," Prairie Forum 1 (1976): 31-35. 5 6 Murray, 262; Fream, 45. 5 7 Farmer's Advocate. July 5, 1894, 261. 137 "notably Canada thistle and wild mustard, which all who came from Ontario know as old enemies," were by 1892, already "thriving" in "some parts of the country".58 A year later, Angus Mackay reported that another familiar "enemy," lamb's-quarters, was causing "great loss" to farmers in the vicinity of Indian Head, N.W.T. 5 9 Exactly from where, when and how these weeds arrived is poorly documented but many appear to have migrated from Ontario in the company of their human counterparts. The editor of the popular Winnipeg newspaper, the Nor'-West Farmer, clearly identified Ontario as a major source of weeds in 1890 when he warned: It is now nearly time to look out for the noxious weeds that the carelessness and culpable neglect of past years have contributed very much to make [sic] a certain and unfailing crop for long years to come. It will be a very pertinent matter for observation to take note of the consequences of importations of Ontario oats during the last winter. That province has got so overrun with weeds of too many sorts, and especially with thistles that the 'Canada thistle' has come to be a great deal more known than admired over half this continent...There must have been a considerable addition to the stock of wild oats here also from this season's importation, and wherever the manure from this sort of feed has been left either on cultivated or wild land there is pretty certain to be a good showing of those very obnoxious immigrant weeds this fall and this spring.60 Eight years later, a widely distributed federal government weed bulletin noted that Canada thistle had spread "right across the continent to the Pacific"; in the North-West Territories it "seems to have come to stay and is very plentiful along the northern branches of the railway".61 Ontario-style noxious weed laws had, by the 1890s, also come to stay. Manitoba's Canada Thistle Act of 1871 was enacted during the first session of the province's first Ibid., May 1892, 177. Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report. 1894, 333. Nor'-West Farmer. July 1890, 548. 138 parliament and represents a simplified version of the 1865 Canada Thistle Act of Upper Canada.62 The striking resemblance between the legislation of the two provinces was further enhanced in 1882 when Manitoba amended its weed act to include nearly all of the original provisions of the Upper Canada statute that had been left out eleven years previously. Just as in Ontario, municipal authorities were charged with enforcing the legislation, they were given the right to destroy weeds on private land at the owner's expense and explicit reference was made to the responsibilities of railway companies.63 A similar ordinance was passed in the North-West Territories in 1888, and in 1890 Manitoba weed legislation was again brought into line with current Ontario legislation.64 Like the Ontario statute of 1884, Manitoba's 1890 Noxious Weed Act expanded the designation "noxious weed" to include several plant species and enabled municipalities to designate other species as noxious through the passage of municipal by-laws.65 Prairie anti-weed laws were greeted initially with considerable optimism. William Fream, a leading British agricultural scientist who toured the Prairies in 1884, certainly saw their potential: It is easier to prevent the spread of noxious weeds in a new country than in one where the soil has long been under cultivation, but in a new country it is difficult unless there is concerted action over a wide area. This, however, is the case in Manitoba, and it may perhaps surprise English farmers to know that every owner or occupier of land must cut or cause to be cut down, or otherwise destroyed, all wild mustard, wild oats, and Canada thistles growing thereon.66 6 1 Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report, 1899, 185. James Fletcher's 1899 report includes a complete copy of his four page 1898 bulletin, The Worst Weeds of the North-West. 6 2 Manitoba, Statutes. 1871, 34 Vict., c.24. 6 3 Ibid., 1882, 45 Vict., c.12. 6 4 Revised Ordinances of the North-West Territories. 1888, c.21. 6 5 Manitoba, Statutes, 1890, 53 Vict., c.34. 6 6 Fream, 38. 139 Initial optimism soon gave way to increasingly harsh criticism of the manner in which the law was enforced. A correspondent to the Nor'-West Farmer suggested in 1887 that the average municipal noxious weed inspector in Manitoba was "only a needy hanger on of the party in power, with nothing but his impecuniosity to recommend him for the position."67 A few years later, the paper's editor called for municipal authorities to be supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture if "the law is not to be a dead letter".68 By the mid-1890s, even the government of Manitoba was publicly acknowledging the inadequacy of existing legislation. In the province's first official weed bulletin, "Carelessness on the part of officials in carrying out the provisions of the law" was cited as one of the main obstacles hindering recognition of a growing weed problem.69 An even greater obstacle was a lack of knowledge on the part of settlers. Many had little experience with farming in general and most were inexperienced when it came to farming on the Prairies. Western governments began to address this problem seriously in the 1890s when, lacking weed experts of their own, they dipped into the pool of expertise that had developed in Ontario. James Fletcher was particularly influential. He was "one of the principal sources of material for numerous provincial publications on weeds" and was directly responsible for the preparation of the first comprehensive weed bulletins published by the governments of Manitoba and the North-West Territories in 1896 and 1898 respectively.70 Demand for the first edition of Manitoba's Noxious Weeds and How to Destroy Them (1896) was so great that all 12,000 copies were quickly distributed and the government was forced to 6 7 Nor'-West Farmer. July 1887, 895. 6 8 Ibid., August 1890, 576. 6 9 Farmer's Advocate. September 5, 1894, 345. 7 0 Groh, 419; Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report. 1898, 184. 140 issue a new edition the following year.71 This edition was also heavily indebted to the work of Fletcher and it bears the unmistakable stamp of Ontario's culture of weeds. The first paragraph begins by suggesting that farmers have "been slow to learn that the battle with weeds is after all a serious matter." It then proceeds to soften this criticism by applauding farmers for showing more interest in the subject of "weedy plants and the best means of destroying them" and concludes with a strongly worded version of the standard definition: Weeds are often tersely defined by farmers as dirt. It is a good definition, for dirt is matter out of place, and weeds are plants in the wrong place; namely, where they may do harm.72 Government bulletins were not the only means by which Western farmers were introduced to an Eastern vision of weeds. Between 1891 and 1893, the widely read western edition of the Farmer's Advocate ran a lengthy series of weed articles by J. H. Panton and by 1904 the editorial staff of both the Advocate and its cross-town Winnipeg rival, the Nor'-West Farmer, were headed by recent graduates of the OAC. 7 3 Both newspapers and many prairie dailies also introduced farmers to the anti-weed gospel of the East through their extensive coverage of James Fletcher's western weed tours.74 Beginning in 1896 and for many years afterwards, Fletcher spent one or two months each summer touring the West and lecturing on the subject of weeds and injurious insects. Accompanied by provincial officials and provided free transportation by the railways, he managed to address thousands of farmers 7 1 Manitoba, Department of Agriculture and Immigration, Noxious Weeds and How to Destroy Them (Winnipeg: Department of Agriculture and Immigration, 1897), 2. 7 2 Ibid., 2-3. 7 3 Ontario Agricultural and Experimental Union, Annual Report. 1904, 80. A survey of turn-of-the-century reading habits in pioneer Saskatchewan indicates that the Farmer's Advocate was one of the "most favoured" newspapers. Catherine Tulloch, "Pioneer Reading," Saskatchewan History 12. no.3 (1959): 97. 141 in hundreds of communities over the years.75 At each stop he provided farmers with detailed descriptions of the weeds "most to be feared in each locality," prescribed remedies for "the common species of aggressive weeds occurring on their land" and, as reported in the Regina Leader, warned them against the danger of complacency in a land still relatively free of this terrible scourge: To be forewarned was to be forearmed, and if they knew about the weeds before they got strong hold among them then they could the more easily fight them when they came. The fact that weeds were growing around the elevators and along the railway tracks ought to make them not only interested but frightened. To play with these weeds was playing with fire...Let them all therefore learn to recognise the enemy as soon as it made its first appearance.76 The adversarial view of weeds promoted by Fletcher and his eastern colleagues soon became a standard part of public discourse in the West. Farmers such as Edmund Drury of Rapid City, Manitoba, learned to define a weed as "simply a plant out of place" and a host of articles warned that the "enemy" was not easily "annihilated," stressed the importance of "eternal vigilance on the part of every individual farmer" and cautioned that even after a few years of relatively clean crops, the "battle with noxious weeds is only well begun."77 By the turn-of-the-century, weeds were almost always portrayed in a negative, oppositional light. As an editor of the Regina Leader stated: "That noxious weeds are an unmitigated evil is pretty generally admitted".78 7 4 During June and July of 1899, for example, the Regina Leader published long, often repetitive accounts of all 17 of Fletcher's North-West Territory speaking engagements. 7 5 For Fletcher's own accounts of his first four tours see: Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Reports. 1896, 224; 1898, 169; 1899, 197-198. 7 6 Ibid., 1896, 275; 1899, 199; Leader (Regina), July 13, 1899, 1. 7 7 Farmer's Advocate. July 5, 1894, 261; September 5, 1899, 455; September 5, 1900, 483. 7 8 Leader, June 29, 1899,4. 142 Shaping a Western Identity Fletcher was once again in the West in 1903, and during an address to the newly formed Natural History Club of Manitoba, he made yet another passionate plea for prompt action: "There is a time in the history of weeds...when they are new in the land and weak. That is the time to attack them."79 Unfortunately for Fletcher's anti-weed crusade and western farmers in general, this time had already passed. The discussion that follows represents a continuation of the story that began in the previous chapter and chronicles the emergence of the main features of the culture of weeds that survives on the Prairies to this day. Immigrant species found that the West provided a social and physical environment that was even more congenial to their growth and spread than conditions in Ontario. It took time for farmers and agricultural scientists to adapt their techniques to these new conditions and to put rigorous anti-weed measures in place. By then, a host of familiar and not so familiar weeds were already well established. Prairie weed culture was destined to diverge from its Ontario counterpart even before the first sod was turned. The Prairies were home to many plants that had evolved in an environment marked by frequent animal disturbances, drought and a lack of tree cover. These species were, as a result, already well equipped to take advantage of the conditions that accompany arable farming.80 In 1884, for example, William Fream was struck by the near complete absence of European weeds in the massive fields of the recently created Bell Farm near Indian Head. He did report, however, that "in the case of one field, the prairie rose 7 9 Farmer's Advocate. October 1, 1903, 895. 8 0 The first botanist to comment on the greater weedy ability of western native species was Asa Gray, "The Pertinacity and Predominance of Weeds," American Journal of Science and Arts 18 (1879): 162-163. 143 (Rosa sp.) seemed to have acquired undisputed possession at the beginning of June".81 By the close of the nineteenth century, it had become clear that while "it is usual to look to other countries" for the "origin of noxious weeds," many indigenous western species "have found in cultivated soil very congenial homes, and have become troublesome pests".82 This fact is well documented in James Fletcher's 1898 pamphlet, The Worst Weeds of the North-West, where fully eleven of the twenty-seven weeds listed are native and nine are uniquely western species.83 Some of these were locally "stigmatized as 'the worst weed[s] in the country'," and a number of them such as common pepper-grass (Lepidium densiflorum Schrad.) and povertyweed (Iva axillaris Pursh) are still considered problem weeds under certain conditions.84 As troublesome as these native plants were, alien species had, by the 1890s, effectively usurped indigenous plants as the worst weeds on western farms. Many had been troubling farmers in Ontario for decades but as one observer noted in 1893, the imported weed flora of the West was not identical to that of the East: "there are many weeds, such as mullein, yarrow and Mayweed, which, though troublesome in Ontario, are harmless in Manitoba, and several of the most common Manitoba weeds are almost or entirely unknown in the east".85 Even Canada thistle and wild mustard were considered "far less troublesome than many other weeds" on the Prairies whereas several minor eastern nuisances flourished on "prairie soils" Fream, 66. Manitoba, Noxious Weeds and How to Destroy Them. 4 Dominion Experimental Farms. Annual Report. 1899, 189-190. Ibid., 190. Farmer's Advocate. March 6, 1893, 88. 144 like "nowhere else".86 Prominent amongst the latter was stinkweed (Thlaspi arvense L.). Stinkweed, or "pennycress" as it is commonly called in Britain, hails from Western Europe where it has long been considered a nuisance on pastures and fallow. Able to taint meat and dairy products when grazed by livestock, this pungent smelling member of the Mustard Family probably crossed the Atlantic at an early date—one account suggests that it was first introduced to New England in woolen goods from Britain whereas another maintains that it "was imported originally from France to Quebec"--and by 1818 it was reported as "common" in the vicinity of Detroit.87 Stinkweed was collected at Fort Garry in 1860 and by 1883 the botanist John Macoun described it as "Abundant in many parts of Quebec; scarce in Ontario; but a real pest in Manitoba and around all the Hudson Bay Co. Posts in the North-west Territory."88 T. arvense's connection with Quebec and French speaking settlers is suggested by another of its common names—"French weed"—but in both Quebec and Ontario it remains "mainly a weed of waste places," while it has long been regarded as a "serious pest in the areas of intensive grain growing in Western Canada."89 One early commentator speculated that French weed was "peculiarly adapted to the nitrogenous soil of Manitoba" and that it spread rapidly in the vicinity of Winnipeg and along the Red River because "Little notice was 8 6 Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report. 1899, 185, 187; Shaw, Weeds and How to Eradicate Them. 177. 8 7 Farmer's Advocate. March 6, 1893, 88; Manitoba, Advisory Board, Our Canadian Prairies (Toronto: C. Blackett Robinson, 1895), 88; Herbert Groh, Canadian Weed Survey: Report 2 (Ottawa: Department of Agriculture, 1943), 21. 8 8 K.F. Best and G.I. Mclntyre, "The Biology of Canadian Weeds. 9. Thlaspi arvense L.," Canadian Journal of Plant Science 55 (1975): 283; John Macoun, Catalogue of Canadian Plants. Part I, Polypetalae (Montreal: Dawson Brothers, 1883), 56. 8 9 Clarence Frankton and Gerald A. Mulligan, Weeds of Canada (Ottawa: Agriculture Canada, 1993), 76. 145 taken of it, as it was a new weed, and no one thought it to be of any consequence."90 More recent literature suggests that stinkweed flourishes on the Prairies because it is well adapted to grain culture, matures and sheds its seed prior to the harvesting of wheat, easily tolerates cold and drought and can compete successfully with crops for a "limited moisture supply".91 Stinkweed was so successful in Manitoba by 1890 that it "alone [had] for all practical purposes of cultivation lowered the value of the old river lands at least one half, often very much more".92 Within a few years, Winnipeg newspapers were describing it as "ten times as bad as yellow mustard or Canada thistles" 9 3 James Fletcher's 1895 annual report describes stinkweed as "undoubtedly the most abundant weed in Manitoba, the peculiar greenish yellow colour of the unripe pods in infested crops in many parts of the province at once attracting attention of travelers on the railway."94 By the close of the century he was referring to it as "the curse of Manitoba."95 Manitoba's curse was beginning to trouble farmers in the North-West Territories by 1892, but by then they had their own unique problem to contend with.96 Tumble mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum L.) arrived in the vicinity of Indian Head sometime in the 1880s. Unlike stinkweed, this species was completely unknown in the East and Thomas Shaw of the OAC speculated that it immigrated directly from Central Europe in the company of "certain Austrians employed in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway."97 "Tumbling Farmer's Advocate. March 6, 1893, 88. Best and Mclntyre, 280, 283. Nor'-West Farmer. August 1890, 576. Farmer's Advocate. September 5, 1893, 329. Dominion Experimental Farms. Annual Report. 1895, 181. Leader. July 13, 1899, 1. Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report. 1892, 256-257. Shaw, Weeds and How to Eradicate Them. 186. 146 mustard" capitalized on its drought tolerance and ability to roll before the wind to such an extent that by 1892 it had "infested the whole country around Indian Head, within a radius of from ten to twenty miles".98 Some fields within this area were so densely occupied that it was thought likely they could produce "seeds enough to infest a whole state if properly distributed."99 Even the Dominion Experimental Farm at Indian Head fell prey to this wind-borne pest. 1894 was a particularly bad year as reported by the Farm Superintendent, Angus Mackay: I can safely say that one half of this farm was literally covered with plants of the TUMBLE MUSTARD, Sisymbrium sinapistrum, Cranz, blown in from adjacent farms on November 14, last. By good luck, the greater part of this was fallowed last summer, and I hope not many plants will appear next year in the crop. In 1893 there was not a plant in this whole lot. This year when we ploughed the field for the first time, it was a mass of flower, and the plants were so thick that every foot was covered with the weed. The tree plots, garden plots and all places of that nature were filled up, and continued so till the frost came...If something is not done soon, this whole country will be overrun."100 Mackay was so concerned over the spread of tumble mustard that he compared it to an even greater tumbling menace: Russian thistle (Salsola pestifer Nels.). Russian thistle was first introduced to North America in about 1877 on a farm in South Dakota.101 This Eastern European immigrant appears to have arrived as a contaminant of imported flax seed, and by 1894 it had "spread over an area of 30,000 square miles" and was costing the farmers of Iowa, North and South Dakota and Minnesota an estimated 3-5,000,000 dollars annually.102 Extremely drought tolerant, Russian thistle thrived on the dry, windy plains of central North 9 8 Ibid. "Ibid., 187. 1 0 0 Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report. 1894, 225. 1 0 1 James A. Young, "The Public Response to the Catastrophic Spread of Russian Thistle (1880) and Halogeton (1945)," Agricultural History 62, no.2 (1988): 124. 147 America. As James Fletcher warned in 1893, it was only a matter of time before it arrived in Canada.103 Fletcher's warning was seconded by a number of Prairie newspapers including the Farmer's Advocate and the Regina Leader. In late 1893 and early 1894 the former published several articles on the subject in which pictures and a complete description were provided. Farmers were told to "be on the lookout* for "this fearful pest" so "that it may not get a foothold on this side of the [border]."104 The Leader employed even stronger language: The Northwest papers are calling attention to a danger of no ordinary magnitude which threatens that country. This new foe is a Russian weed, which, for lack of a better name is called a thistle, and if all that is said of it is true it casts all other agricultural pests into the shade. The Canadian variety of the Scottish emblem is a comparatively unobtrusive plant compared with this fresh terror of the husbandman...Its spread has been remarkably rapid...Whole countries [sic] in South Dakota are overrun with the weed. Minnesota is similarly cursed. It has crossed into North Dakota and is now rolling towards the Canadian border...thousands of acres of land in the three states mentioned above have been practically abandoned, the cultivator retiring before an enemy that he cannot subdue. It is clear that if it is to be kept out of Manitoba and the other western provinces the greatest vigilance must be maintained. It is a battle that must not be left to Governments alone. It is one in which every inhabitant must bear a hand. Wherever the pest is seen it must be extirpated. Forewarned is forearmed, and with a knowledge of the enemy it may be possible to keep it out, even though, as it has been pointed out, it will be rolled into the country on the wings of every chance wind from the south.105 Russian thistle's imminent arrival so alarmed the federal government that the Department of the Interior "officially" drew Fletcher's attention to the matter and his own department ordered him to prepare the first in a long line of federal noxious weed bulletins.106 Before the ink was even dry on The Russian Thistle or Russian Tumble-Weed (1894), 1 0 2 Fletcher, Russian Thistle. 4; United States, Report of the Secretary of Agriculture. 1893/94 (Washington, D C : GPO, 1895), 163. 1 0 3 Dominion Experimental Farms. Annual Report. 1893, 192. 1 0 4 Farmer's Advocate. September 20, 1893, 353 and February 5, 1894, 43. 1 0 5 Leader. June 21. 1894,3. 148 however, Fletcher received intelligence that the would-be colonist had definitely been sighted in Manitoba the previous July.107 Further inquiries revealed that one of Manitoba's municipal weed inspectors had actually reported the weed on the farm of "one Peter Rhimer" in 1889 and that the same inspector had also found "surprising quantities" on other parts of the Mennonite Reserve east of Morden.108 During the summer of 1894 reports of the arrival of Russian thistle began to flood in. Plants were found along the track of the Morris-Brandon branch of the Northern Pacific Railway in August, and in October further infestations were discovered on the Mennonite Reserve.109 These and other infestations were subsequently destroyed by Manitoba's Department of Agriculture and Immigration. James Fletcher and the local farm press praised the provincial government for taking such vigorous, unprecedented actions and for alerting the public through distributing pressed specimens of Russian thistle "to all the Farmers' Institutes and Agricultural Societies in the Province."110 Fletcher and his associates were also quick to praise the actions of the immigrant farmers upon whose land the new pest was first reported. The Russian thistle invasion of the U.S. contained "ugly social undertones" because of "the widespread belief that the weed was deliberately introduced by Russian Mennonite emigrants in revenge for social injustices they were receiving on the agricultural frontier."111 The following account of an 1899 speech by Fletcher indicates that similar tensions may have existed in Canada: 1 0 6 Dominion Experimental Farms. Annual Report. 1893, 193. 1 0 7 Ibid., 1894,224. 1 0 8 Ibid., 1894, 224-225. 1 0 9 Farmer's Advocate. August 20, 1894, 318 and October 5, 1894, 383. 1 1 0 Dominion Experimental Farms, Annual Report. 1894, 225; Farmer's Advocate. October 5, 1894, 383. 149 The Russian thistle over-ran the Mennonite farms. They thought nothing of it. Indeed they fed it to their pigs, as it was the kind of food they gave their pigs in the old country. But, mark you, as soon as they were told it was a noxious weed they set to work and got rid of it, and now their farms were clean. He (Prof. Fletcher) would like to see every man in Manitoba and the North-West become a Mennonite for two or three years. He had watched these Mennonites pulling up Russian Thistles and pulling them up properly; not merely pulling them up and then leaving them on the land for the seeds to ripen. He had seen the father, mother, and family walking across their fields, drill by drill, and pulling up every weed that was a bad weed, putting them into a sack or bag and taking them away. Thus they got rid of them and their lands were cleaned.112 In attempting to clear Mennonite farmers of charges of duplicity, Fletcher also inadvertently highlighted several of this chapter's main themes: the way in which western settlement can be seen in terms of parallel immigrant streams, how weeds are inextricably bound to culture and how culture changes in response to changing circumstances. By 1897, Fletcher was confident that: so much attention has been drawn to this plant by the Manitoba Department of Agriculture since its discovery in Manitoba, that...it is very unlikely that this weed will be allowed to propagate and spread, now that its dangerous capabilities have been made known.113 His optimism was well placed and within a few years, Manitoba's Noxious Weed Inspector was "glad to report that the much dreaded Russian thistl