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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 1

I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851

II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888

III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927

IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987

V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988
i Land assessment
ii Improving the environment
iii Adapting to the environment
iv Improving farm management

VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research

VII Future Prospects

VIII Acknowledgements



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Sheep and wool production (continued)

Robinson and his colleagues screened dozens of the new synthetic substances, using several thousand sheep, until they found a compound now known as flurogestin acetate or chronolone. All that remained was to find a cheap and effective delivery system and this was accomplished in 1964. It was a deceptively simple device consisting of a small polyurethane sponge impregnated with a small quantity of the hormone and inserted into the vagina of the ewe. From this site the hormone was absorbed while the sponge remained in place and absorption stopped immediately the sponge was withdrawn.

Controlled breeding under experimental conditions yielded good, though sometimes variable, results and these experiments attracted world-wide attention. In Australia a large company launched a product based on this discovery, spectacularly, but in hindsight, prematurely in 1965. Meanwhile, overseas, particularly in France and Ireland, the system was evaluated more slowly for a further six years before it became available commercially. Since then the same principle and basic knowledge have been used successfully for the control of breeding in cattle and goats.

At least two to three million sheep are now bred annually using this system, albeit with minor changes, that was developed in Australia. Only about 100,000 of these are Australian Merinos in which the technique potentially has the greatest use. The premature commercialisation of the system and widespread failures, some due to a lack of knowledge at that stage of development but most due to poor instruction and control of its use by farmers, contributed to its poor acceptance in the country where it was developed and for which it was designed.

An immense amount of other important research on sheep and wool production, largely financed by wool industry funds, has been carried out by CSIRO, State Departments and universities. An abundance of useful information has been published on all aspects of management, including mating, lambing, weaning, shearing, breeding, feeding, health and hygiene, competitors and predators, wool growth and quality, and carcass characteristics.[84] Probably no farmer in the world has been better served than has the Australian sheep farmer by the quantity and quality of applied and basic scientific information about his enterprise. There is no doubt that the continued prosperity of the industry owes much to its enlightened encouragement of research and to the high achievements of the research institutions and their staff.

Pasture improvement

A consequence of the introduction of wheat cropping into new country was the impoverishment of the soil; and a consequence of the introduction of sheep and cattle into new grazing land was the degradation of indigenous pastures with a change from perennial to annual species, and erosion of the soil with heavy grazing.

In the second half of the 19th century impoverished land in the high-rainfall temperate areas was restored with introduced pasture species, predominantly white clover and ryegrass, and possibly an application of bone-dust - where the land was not merely left to regenerate under invading species. White clover, however, required a good rainfall and was unsuited to the drier wheat country where the maintenance of fertility was becoming a major problem. This problem became increasingly severe until, during the 1880s and 1890s, Custance and then Lowrie at Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia introduced farmers to the benefits of applying superphosphate fertilizer to their wheat crops. Then in the early 20th century some farmers began to appreciate the beneficial effects superphosphate could also have on their pastures.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - CSIRO

People in Bright Sparcs - Custance, J. D.; Lowrie, W. R.; Robinson, Dr (later Prof.) T. J.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 52 - 54, Online Edition 2000
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