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Kincardinshire
Chapter 11. Agriculture


The high position of agriculture in Kincardineshire cannot be thoroughly understood without a reference to the enthusiasm for improvement displayed by many of the landed proprietors in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Of these the most remarkable was the famous agriculturist, Barclay of Urie, whose work, as pointed out in Robertson’s Agricultural Survey, reads like a romance. In the half century that followed the Union of 1707, he had acquired, from residence in England, very advanced ideas in agricultural theory to the abolition of fairs and markets. Labour-saving machinery has been introduced; scientific methods are now adopted in the culture, manuring, and draining of fields; in the rearing, feeding, and general treatment of his stock, the farmer has at his command to-day the very best results of scientific experiment and research.

In Kincardineshire mixed farming is general. On the hill grazings of the Grampian slopes, more attention is naturally paid to sheep-rearing than to tillage; but even on these farms all the available land is reserved for' cereals or grasses.

The area of the county is 248,195 acres, of which 127,923 acres are waste or heather, not under the plough, which leaves about 48 per cent, of cultivated land, as against 24.2 for the whole country.

Twenty-first in area and twenty-fourth in population among Scottish counties, Kincardineshire stands in acreage under cultivation as follows : for barley 7th, for turnips 9th, for potatoes nth, for wheat 12th, for oats 16th. The high position in regard to turnips is because the county is a feeding as well as a breeding area for cattle and sheep. Practically one-sixteenth of the whole barley acreage for Scotland is in the Mcarns, the soil of which is remarkably well adapted for the growth of barley. Of the 708 acres of wheat grown in the county in 1913 more than half was grown in the strong lands of the St Cyrus district, the remainder in the Howe, chiefly around Laurencekirk ; while on Deeside with its light gravelly soil it was entirely absent. The cultivation of oats, potatoes, and turnips is well distributed over the county. Only a few acres are given to rye and beans.

The county does not, like Aberdeenshire and Forfarshire, possess any distinctive breed of cattle; but among the early improvers of cattle breeds were several notable Mearns men ; and to-day the Bum and the Portlethen herds are well known to agriculturists.

The following is a comparative table of the number of the live stock in the county at the beginning of last century and in the years 1913 and 1917:

Frequent mention is made of the abundance of timber in Kincardineshire in early days; and the existing plantations show the suitability of certain districts for the growth of forest trees. On the Durris estate some of our exotic trees were first introduced, and have given the most remarkable results. Two species have here shown their superiority—the Douglas fir and the Menzies spruce. The former, owing to its free growth, freedom from disease, and wonderful adaptability to a wide range of soils, has proved itself capable of producing more volume per acre than any other species of exotic tree. One Durris specimen of the Douglas fir, measured in 1904, was 110 ft. high. The whole of the Deeside district is, however, well suited for the growth of timber, the other principal forest regions being along the southern spurs of the Grampians. In many cases the lower hills are wooded to the summits. The usual trees grown are Scots fir, larch, spruce, and the commoner hardwood trees—ash, plane, elm, beech, birch, and oak.

district is, however, well suited for the growth of timber, the other principal forest regions being along the southern spurs of the Grampians. In many cases the lower hills are wooded to the summits. The usual trees grown are Scots fir, larch, spruce, and the commoner hardwood trees—ash, plane, elm, beech, birch, and oak.



 


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