chapter  5
The care of madder from seed to sack
Pages 29

WHY WOULD anyone go to the lengths of cultivating madder if they could find it growing wild? Firstly the dye content of cultivated madder was higher. Secondly perceived market demand drove the farmer to cultivate such a troublesome crop. The growing techniques were so complicated that a farmer who could cultivate madder really had mastered a mystery of nature. The expert grower was exposed to additional difficulties. The eventual rewards were great but the farmer had to survive several cashless growing seasons. The crop risked ruin by weather, disease and mistakes in the specialised methods of care. Different skilled part-time labour was required at different stages. If that labour was not available, then the crop yield was threatened. At first it had been a surprise to find such detailed descriptions of the growing methods by the Russians. As other sources appeared which explained detailed techniques of English, French and Dutch cultivation, it became clear that madder was an extremely difficult plant to grow with success. These difficulties must have been the cause of such detailed investigation.