AGRICULTURAL AND PASTORAL—THE PEASANT PROPRIETARY OF ROUMANIA.
Cultivated acreage of Roumania—Comparative estimates of agricultural products; waste lands, &c.—Nature of soil—Rotation of crops—Agricultural implements—Old-fashioned ploughs—Improved machinery—Yield of cereals—Maize, wheat, rye, barley, &c.—(Note: Report of M. Jooris)—Uncertainty as to yield per acre—Estimates—Quality and value of Roumanian cereals—Slovenly cultivation—Cost of raising cereals—Uncertainty of estimates—Present position of agriculture—Discouragement of immigration—Competition of the United States—Cattle—Oxen and buffaloes—Sheep—Wool—Cheese, butter, &c.—Capabilities of the soil—Tobacco—Cotton—Agricultural education—The Agricultural and Sylvicultural College of Ferestreu—M. Aurelian—The grounds and buildings—External arrangements—Experimental growth of trees, fruits, cereals, &c.—Number of professors and pupils—Internal arrangements for board—Cost of education—Laboratory and excellent collections—History of the plough illustrated by models—'École des Arts et Métiers'—Manufacture of farm requisites—School of design—The peasantry—Their history—Varieties of tenure prior to 1864—Creation of a peasant proprietary by forced sales of land—Success of the reform—Subsequent allotment of state lands—The 'obligations rurales'—The dark side—Fate of improvident peasants—Forced to sell their labour—Quasi-servitude—The boyards or landed gentry—Improvidence and involved condition of many—Pledged estates—'Fermage'—Purchase of their lands by industrious peasants and others—Decline of the boyards—Excellent qualities of the peasantry—Great endurance—Industry of women—Education in progress—Bright future for the peasantry—Importance of their prosperity to the State—(Note: Comparative numbers of agricultural and other classes).
The area of Roumania, as already stated elsewhere, is about 49,252 square miles, and estimates have been made of the cultivated and uncultivated acreage, which approximate sufficiently to give us a fair idea of the agricultural condition of the country. According to those estimates, which were probably made at the period (1864) when the peasant proprietary was created, about one-fifth is employed for the growth of cereals, garden products, and vines; rather under one-third is pasturage and hay; one-sixth forest; and the remaining nine-thirtieths, or nearly a third of the whole, still remains uncultivated.
The soil of the country is rarely less than three to four feet in depth, is easily turned, and, as already stated, it is usually a dark argillo-siliceous earth, which is so greatly charged with humus (decaying organic matter) that manure is rarely found necessary. The rotation of crops is largely practised, usually maize, wheat, then fallow; but very poor soil, capable of producing only rye, is often allowed to lie fallow for many years together. Much of the cultivation is performed with very primitive implements, the ordinary old-fashioned plough being furnished with a share resembling the broad flattened lance-head of a harpoon, which penetrates the earth horizontally. Of late years, however, a constantly increasing number of improved ploughs, reaping, mowing, and steam threshing machines have come into use. In 1873, according to Consul Vivian's report, there were about 185,000 native ploughs against about 38,000 imported ones; but even then already there were nearly three times as many steam as there were horse threshing machines in use, and since that time the employment of all kinds of improved machinery has been greatly on the increase, and several large English and American implement makers have agencies in Roumania. There is little doubt that in the course of a few years the old-fashioned agricultural implements will disappear altogether; for the configuration of the surface, which in the plains somewhat resembles the rolling prairie of the far West, is peculiarly adapted for the use of modern machinery of every description.
The agricultural industry of the country may be said at present to be practically confined to the growth of cereals, especially maize, barley, and wheat, and the rearing of sheep and cattle. The total yield of cereals of all kinds has been roughly estimated at 15,000,000 quarters, which is but a very small part of what might be produced; and when we seek for information concerning the proportions of the different species of grain, we find nothing but statistics long out of date, and at variance with each other. The probable proportions are, however (subject to annual variations), one-half maize, one-third wheat, and the remaining sixth barley, rye, and millet, whereof the last named is increasing rapidly. As to the yield per acre, although we have gathered together all the information that could be obtained, we find it impossible to fix anything definite; nor is this to be wondered at if we look at the great differences which exist even in the United States of America, where the people are ravenous for statistics. On some farms in Roumania the yield is as low as eight bushels per acre, and if it were not that the peasants own the soil and perform their own labour, it would not pay for cultivation; but, on the other hand, we hear of very large yields on good farms, and notwithstanding these remarks, which might lead to the opposite conclusion, we are told on good authority that since the creation of the peasant proprietary the average yield per acre has considerably increased.