County Down Agriculture

The great attention paid to tillage has brought the land to a high state of agricultural improvement. The prevailing corn crop is oats, of which the favourite sorts are the Poland, Blantire, Lightfoot, and early Holland; wheat is sown in every part, and in Lecale is of excellent quality, and very good also in Castlereagh barony; barley is a favourite crop, mostly preceded by potatoes; rye is seldom sown, except on bog; much flax is cultivated; and turnips, mangel-wurzel, and other green crops are very general. Though, from the great uneven-ness of surface, considerable tracts of flat pasture land are very uncommon, yet on the sides of the rivers there are excellent and extensive meadows, annually enriched by the overflowing of the waters; and, in the valleys, the accumulation of the finer particles of mould washed down from the sides of the surrounding hills produces heavy crops of grass. Many of the finest and most productive meadows are those which lie on the skirts of turf bogs, at the junction of the peat and loam: the fertility of the compound soil is very great, the vegetation rapid, and the natural grasses of the best kind. Artificial grasses are general; clover in frequent cultivation, particularly the white.

Draining is extensively and judiciously practised; and irrigation is successfully resorted to, especially upon turf bog, which, when reclaimed, is benefited by it in an extraordinary manner. In the management of the dairy, butter is the chief object: considerable quantities are sold fresh in the towns, but the greatest part is salted and sent to Belfast and Newry for exportation. Dung is principally applied as manure for raising potatoes, and great attention is paid by the farmers to collect it and to increase its quantity by additional substances, such as earth, bog soil, and clay. Lime, however, is the most general manure. At Ballinahinch, the most central part of the county, limestone of three kinds may be seen at a small distance from each other, the blue from Carlingford, the red from Castlespie, and the white from Moira, a distance of fourteen miles; the white is most esteemed. Limestone gravel is used in the neighbourhood of Moira, and found to be of powerful and lasting efficacy. Marling was introduced into Lecale about a century ago: the result of the first experiments was an immediate fourfold advance in the value of land, and the opening of a corn trade from Strangford; but the intemperate use of it brought it into discredit for some time, though it has latterly, under more judicious management, resumed its former character.

Shell-sand is used to advantage on stiff clay lands; and sea-weed is frequently applied to land near the coast, but its efficacy is of short duration. Turf bog, both by itself and combined with clay, has been found useful. The system of burning and paring is practised only in the mountainous parts. In the neighbourhood of towns, coal-ashes and soot are employed: the ashes of bleach-greens, and soapers' waste, have been found to improve meadows and pastures considerably. The attention of the higher class of farmers has been for many years directed to the introduction of improved implements of husbandry, most of which have had their merits proved by fair trial: threshing machines are in general use. In no part of the country is the art of raising hedges better understood, although it has not yet been extended so universally as could be desired. In many parts the enclosure is formed of a ditch and a bank, from four to eight feet wide, and of the same depth, without any quicks; sometimes it is topped with furze, here called whins. In the mountainous parts the dry stone wall is common.

County Down | English Settlement of County Down | County Down Baronies and Towns | County Down Topography | County Down Soil | County Down Agriculture | County Down Livestock | County Down Geology | County Down Linen | County Down Fisheries | County Down Rivers | County Down Antiquities | County Down Monasteries and Castles | County Down Mineral Springs | County Down Wildlife

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