Crop Development

King Cotton and Other Crops in Carver's Bulletins

Nodules from Root of a Cowpea Branch

A root full of nitrogen bearing nodules
Carver, George Washington (1910). Some Possibilities of the Cow Pea in Macon County, Alabama.
Tuskegee Institute Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin. Number 19, p. 12.

Cotton was still ‘king’ in the South, and Carver, like other agricultural researchers of the day, tried to find ways to help farmers increase the quantity and quality of their cotton production….Yet Carver was a dreamer, more interested in finding something to end the debilitating reliance upon cotton….[He] devoted the years from 1902 to 1905 finding crops that would both build up depleted soil and be attractive to farmers. With the cooperation of the USDA, Carver experimented with sugar beets and a new variety of cowpea. Then in 1903 he began ‘making a pretty thorough test of the Spanish peanut.’ Gradually Carver started to focus his attention on three crops that seemed most promising to him: cowpeas, sweet potatoes, and peanuts. He realized that while farmers were desperate for help, they were also reluctant to try anything new. He therefore embarked on a program to convince them of the value of these crops. To do this he stressed not only the soil-building qualities of the plants, but also how the crops could help make the farmer more self-sufficient by meeting needs previously requiring purchased goods.

Hines, L.O. (1979). "George Washington Carver and the Tuskegee Agricultural Experiment Station." Agricultural History, 53(1), pp. 79-80. Retrieved from

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Cotton Growing on Sandy Upland Soils

Cotton Growing on Sandy Upland Soils (1905)

"Since the annual yield per acre of lint cotton in Alabama varies from 110 to 140 pounds, it is clear that in the first case, we are producing 15 pounds less, and the latter, 21 pounds above one-fourth the amount we should.

As a result of four years of experimentation with practically the same results, we feel quite safe to conclude:

1 — That it pays to prepare the land, both deep and thorough before planting.

2 — That swamp muck, leaves, etc., are a very essential and valuable addition to our commercial fertilizers.

8 — That good, clean seed of a standard variety is much better than a miscellaneous mixture, saved without reference to variety, vitality, or freedom from fungus diseaes.

4 — That clean cultivation pays from every point of view.

5 — That if the ground is prepared well, labor saving machinery can be used to advantage.

6 — That our poorest sandy soils can be economically made to produce a full 500 pound bale of lint to the acre."

A New and Prolific Variety of Cotton

A New and Prolific Variety of Cotton (1915)

"Sixteen years ago the Experiment Station undertook the production of a type of cotton that would possess the following characteristics:

1. A longer and finer staple.

2. A more prolific variety.

3. A disease resistant variety.

4. A cotton that produces well on light, sandy soils.

5. An early maturing variety that would escape more or less the ravages of the boll weevil.

In all the above matters a marked degree of success has been obtained.


This cotton has the following well-known types carefully bred into it: Sea Island, from whence it gets its long, silken fiber; Russell’s Big Boll, from whence it gets its large bolls, and its adaptability to upland conditions of soil and climate; Jackson’s Wilt Resisting, from whence it gets its power to resist to a remarkable degree the troublesome diseases known as wilt, black root, etc.; Simpkin’s prolific, from whence it gets its great fruiting habit."

How to Grow the Peanut: And 105 Ways of Preparing It for Human Consumption

How to Grow the Peanut: And 105 Ways of Preparing It for Human Consumption (1917)

"Of all the money crops grown by Macon County farmers, perhaps there are none more promising than the peanut in its several varieties and their almost limitless possibilities.

Of the many good things in their favor, the following stand out as most prominent:

1. Like all other members of the pod-bearing family, they enrich the soil.

2. They are easily and cheaply grown.

3. For man the nuts possess a wider range of food values than any other legume.

4. The nutritive value of the hay as a stock food compares favorably with that of the cow pea.

5. They are easy to plant, easy to grow and easy to harvest.

6. The great food-and-forage value of the peanut will increase in proportion to the rapidity with which we make it a real study. This will increase consumption, and therefore, must increase production.

7. In this country two crops per year of the Spanish variety can be raised.

8. The peanut exerts a dietetic or a medicinal effect upon the human system that is very desirable.

9. I doubt if there is another foodstuff that can be so universally eaten, in some form by every individual.

10. Pork fattened from peanuts and hardened off with a little corn just before killing, is almost if not quite equal to the famous Redgravy hams or the world renowned Beech-nut breakfast bacon.

11. The nuts yield a high percentage of oil of superior quality.

12. The clean cake, after the oil has been removed, is very high in muscle-building properties (protein), and the ease with which the meal blends in with flour, meal, etc., makes it of especial value to bakers, confectioners, candy-makers, and ice cream factories.

13. Peanut oil is one of the best known vegetable oils.

14. A pound of peanuts contains a little more of the body-building nutrients than a pound of sirloin steak, while the heat and energy-producing nutrients it has more than twice as much."

Cow Peas

Cow Peas (1903)

"Every year the demand for an increased quantity and better quality of nutritious forage for animals, and a wider range of food stuffs for man has suggested a basis for some very careful and interesting study. Experiment Stations, as well as individuals, have devoted much time and means to this line of investigation. Plants of many different genera, species and varieties have been brought from India, China, Japan, Russia and other places. Many of these have proven worthless, while a few were of local importance only, still others are being tested with a considerable degree of promise.

Before we can appreciate the cowpea, or any of the legumes (pod-bearing plants), it is quite necessary that we fix clearly in our minds the following four laws of the great German chemist, Justus Von Liebig, with reference to soil fertility:

First. A soil can be termed fertile only when it contains all of the materials requisite, or necessary for the nutrition of plants in the required quantity and in the proper form.

Second. With every crop a portion of these ingredients is removed. A part of this portion is again added from the inexhaustible store of the atmosphere; another part is lost forever if not restored by man.

Third. The fertility of the soil remains unchanged if all the ingredients of a crop are given back to the land. Such a restitution is effected by fertilizers.

Fourth. The fertilizers produced in the course of animal husbandry are not sufficient to maintain permanently the fertility of a farm; it lacks the constituents which are annually exported in the shape of grain, hay, milk, and livestock.

In connection with the above facts, every progressive farmer recognizes that certain crops exhaust or make his soil poorer, and certain others build it up or make it richer. He is also aware that a better crop follows a pod-bearing one, such as peas, beans, clovers, vetches, peanuts, etc.; therefore, they are absolutely indispensable in a wise crop rotation, and in the rational feeding of both man and beast."

Some Possibilities of the Cow Pea in Macon County, Alabama

Some Possibilities of the Cow Pea in Macon County, Alabama (1910)

"The cow pea is rightfully looked upon by many as the poor man’s bank or mortgage-lifter. I think I am safe in the assertion that there is no crop grown in the South which possesses so many good qualities and is so easily grown as the cow pea.

It is a matter of much regret that every colored farmer in Macon County does not plant at least three acres in peas.

In 1902 the entire state planted only 91,126 acres in peas, and produced the surprisingly small amount of 665,388 bushels — just a trifle above 7 bushels per acre. The yield should not have fallen below 1,822,520 bushels.

It is interesting to note that, for the last 15 years, cow peas in this country have sold, in the spring, at a high price. The prices this year (June 11th) ranged from $2.50 to $3.00 per bushel and they were exceedingly difficult to get at these prices, because the farmers did not have them. With a little attention the pea can be made to yield far better returns, all things considered, than cotton. The colored farmers alone in Macon County ought to produce with the greatest of ease, 125,000 bushels of peas and many thousand tons of valuable hay.


For nearly one hundred years the cow pea has been the chief leguminous (pod-bearing) crop throughout the entire group of Southern States. About fifty varieties have been cultivated to a greater or lesser extent in the United States, and every year its value is becoming better known and more highly appreciated, as is evidenced by the increased acreage planted wherever it can be grown."

How to Grow the Cow Pea and 40 Ways of Preparing It as a Table Delicacy

How to Grow the Cow Pea and 40 Ways of Preparing It as a Table Delicacy (1917)

"Among the many rich blessings especially given to the South, there are but few, if any, that stand out more prominently than the cow pea, for the following reasons:

1. It is a legume (pod-bearing plant), and brings fertility to the soil. In this it has but few equals, and still fewer superiors.

2. As a food for man and beast the peas are almost indispensable, and the vines make a very superior roughage for stock.

3. Year by year this splendid vegetable becomes more popular — the radius over which it is grown has steadily increased until there is scarcely a section of the country where farming is carried on to any considerable degree, that it may not be found in some one or more of its several varieties as forming one of the principal crops.

4. There are few crops grown by the farmer that has such a wide range of uses.

5. It is one of the easiest of farm crops grown, making a fair yield under absolute neglect.

6. It is the one sure crop the farmer can depend upon year after year if he plants two or more’ of the standard varieties.

7. In this locality fresh green peas may be had from the latter part of May until frost.

8. Thus far the demand has been far greater than the supply; hence, prices have always been good.

9. For green-manuring it is universally grown and admired.

10. When the running varieties are planted with corn, sorghum, etc., it makes a very superior silage, greatly relished by all kinds of stock.

11. The cow pea rightly handled is both a bank and a mortgage-lifter to the poor man.

It is a matter of much regret that every colored farmer in Macon County does not plant at least three acres in peas."

Increasing the Yield of Corn

Increasing the Yield of Corn (1909)

"When we consider that Alabama alone cultivated, in 1907, 2,961,000 acres in corn with an average of only 15 1-2 bushels to the acre, it at once becomes apparent that something must be done to bring up this unfortunately low yield per acre. It is further accentuated from the fact that within the last ten years the average has never been higher than 16 bushels in 1906 and fell as low as 8 2-5 bushels in 1902.

While it is true (that Alabama soil and climate are particularly adapted to cotton, under proper management in the matter of the preparation of the soil, fertilizing, selection of seed and cultivation, very satisfactory yields may be produced.

Our Experiment Station has devoted much time to this important crop for both its grain and forage values.

In performing these experiments, we had to constantly keep in mind that we were dealing with a typical worn out soil, and that this soil must constantly grow richer instead of poorer, and at the same time must furnish a living for the farmer."

Alfalfa: The King of All Fodder Plants, Successfully Grown in Macon County, Ala.

Alfalfa: The King of All Fodder Plants, Successfully Grown in Macon County, Ala. (1915)

"For many years we have been testing in one way or another almost every variety of legume that seemed in the least promising, with the view to finding one or more that would succeed in this section and give us a permanent pasture without having to prepare and re-seed the ground each year.

Alfalfa has really gone beyond the high standard set by its enthusiastic admirers, and has in a remarkable way convinced the most skeptical that it can be grown on sandy soil.

Location and Soil

In character the soil is a light-gray, sandy, upland, free from lime, under laid with red and yellow mottled clay, which crops out here and there on the surface. The sand content ranges from 75 to 80 per cent, and is just the kind of soil upon which time-honored custom says alfalfa will not grow.

The Beginning

Early in the summer of 1911 the land was broadcasted with 8 tons of barnyard manure to the acre; plowed to a depth of 9 inches, and sowed in cow peas, which made a heavy growth of vines and an excellent crop of peas. The vines being too heavy were grazed off by the cows, re-manured with 5 tons of barnyard manure to the acre, 5 tons of caustic lime (air slaked), and 5 tons of crushed lime rock per acre. These were plowed in and harrowed thoroughly."

43 Ways to Save the Wild Plum Crop

43 Ways to Save the Wild Plum Crop (1917)

"Nature endows or blesses each State or section with an indigenous flora and fauna best suited to that particular soil and climatic conditions.

Applying the above to Alabama, Macon and adjoining counties have been unusually blessed in the quantity, variety and quality of its wild plums. They vary in size from a half to one inch in diameter, and in flavor from sugary sweetness to sour and bitter. In color, from lemon yellow to crimson, scarlet and black, making possibilities for many pleasing combinations for the eye and palate.

I feel safe in saying that in Macon County alone there are many hundred bushels of plums that go to waste every year that there is a full crop, which is almost one year with another.

In a commercial way there is a great opportunity for jam and jelly factories.

No fruit improves with cultivation more satisfactorily than the wild plum; both the size and flavor is improved, and under cultivation some of the yellow and red types compare favorably in size with the Wild Goose and other cultivated varieties of that class.

In comparison with some of the standard fruits of the world as to food and dietetic value, one is at a loss to know why so valuable a fruit has been and is being so sadly neglected and allowed practically to go to waste."

Successful Yields of Small Grain

Successful Yields of Small Grain (1906)

"This bulletin, also, is a continuation of 6 and 7 and endeavors to thwart the very prevalent idea that small grain cannot be profitably raised in this section.


It is just as applicable to apply the cause and effect rule to every operation of the farm as to the various branches of mathematics, there being no cause without an effect and no effect without a cause. So therefore upon this hypothesis we began our investigations.

Some time was spent in riding about over the country, studying the various large and small patches of grain here and there, noting their growth, resistance to heat, cold, drought, attacks of fungus diseases and insect enemies.


The following was very noticeable:

(a) That no barley, but very little rye and wheat were sown as a full grain crop.

(b) The rye rusted badly, being literally red with rust early in the spring before it began to boot. It made poor grazing — not eaten by stock unless forced to do so.

(c) That in places the crop remained poor and produced only a small percentage of a crop.

(d) That wheat was badly affected with loose smut, (ustilago segetum) and Bunt or stinking smut, (Tilletia foetens). Oats also rusted and smutted badly."

Some Cercosporae of Macon County, Alabama

Some Cercosporae of Macon County, Alabama (1901)

"The wide distribution and the economic importance of the Cercospora in this county has prompted the writing of this paper. This list by no means represents all of the species of this county, as no special effort has been made to collect Cercospora only. These collections were made while passing to and from other duties. With few exceptions, the species were collected in the immediate vicinity of Tuskegee.

The exceedingly warm and humid atmosphere, together with the very remarkable fluctuations of climate and rapid development of fungus diseases under these favorable conditions, has made the study doubly interesting. It is quite apparent that from year to year, by careful co-operation, much valuable information will be brought to light. None of our imperfect fungi have been worked over more carefully than the Cercosporeae. I have consulted the following works, Ellis and Everhart, whose work includes all of the North American species known to them when their work was written. Kellerman and Swingle for the descriptions of several new species. There are also descriptions of other species in the same journal."