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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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Pasture improvement (continued)

Many English grasses and clovers had been introduced into New South Wales by the end of the 1820s and, by the 1860s, perennial and Italian ryegrass, cocksfoot, Timothy grass, red and white clover, cowgrass, alsike clover, lucerne, trefoil and parsley were being used in field trials at the Experimental Farm in Melbourne. Prairie grass, a native of South America, was introduced by Josiah Mitchell in 1853, and Paspalum dilatatum by Baron Ferdinand von Mueller in about 1881 together with many other fodder grasses. Both these species were quickly adopted for use in pastures for dairy cattle. Rhodes grass and Kikuyu were introduced respectively in 1900 and 1919.

After the First World War, rapid progress in pasture development was made in southern Australia where officers of the Departments of Agriculture, particularly J. E. Harrison in Victoria, and the staff of universities began to identify naturally existing strains of subterranean clover and other pasture species. These strains were found to be adapted by their growth characteristics to well defined local environments and, once this was recognized, farmers were advised of the most appropriate strains of pasture plants for their own particular conditions. From 1928 to 1935 a great deal of emphasis was placed on the breeding of new strains of important pasture species, particularly of subterranean clover, perennial ryegrass, cocksfoot and white clover. This work, and the associated development of seed certification schemes, was greatly influenced by similar studies reported by Sir George Stapledon and Dr. W. Davies at the Welsh Plant Breeding Station, Aberystwyth, and Sir Bruce Levy and his coworkers in New Zealand. The Welsh connection became extremely important to both Australia and New Zealand. Sir George Stapledon and Dr. William Davies both made antipodean visits, and these were followed by a remarkable flow of migrant research agronomists, with names like Jones, Davies, Jenkins and Williams, from the United Kingdom to Australia and New Zealand. Most prominent among these was Dr. J. Griffiths Davies, the brother of Dr. William Davies, whose outstanding leadership greatly influenced Australian agronomy, particularly in the tropical north, for a period of some forty years.

The introduction and establishment of improved pastures was only the important beginning of the story. Their efficient use by grazing animals involved another series of investigations in which, again, the work of New Zealand researchers (like Dr. C. P. McMeekan and the staff of his Ruakura Research Centre) was greatly to influence agricultural scientists in Australia. Pioneer work in the 1950s by Dr. M. Freer at Werribee in Victoria and in the 1960s by Dr. (later Professor) H. L. Davies in Canberra demonstrated the overriding importance of stocking rate, rather than grazing system, as the major determinant of animal productivity per hectare. Further work by scientists throughout Australia confirmed and extended their results and the agronomic, parasitic, ecological and economic implications of variable stocking rates, using cattle and/or sheep, were gradually determined in different conditions of soil, rainfall and temperature.

Wheat production

During the 19th century a wheat exporting industry developed on the basis of a wheat growing region that moved further and further inland as new land was made available for cropping settlement. The major innovations in farming wheat during this period were in implement and machinery design. The varieties sown during the first half of the century were predominantly of the red and white Lammas types which were then commonly grown in England and Scotland. Rust, smut and caterpillar attacks were common and the effects of dry seasons and droughts were marked. Bad harvests in the rapidly expanding wheat areas of Victoria and South Australia in the early 1860s encouraged farmers to search for other varieties that might be earlier maturing and more disease resistant. Purple Straw became the popular choice from then until the 1890s, though many other varieties also continued to be grown and farmers tended to select what appeared to grow best under their local conditions.

People in Bright Sparcs - Davies, Dr (later Prof.) H. L.; Davies, Dr J. Griffiths; Freer, Dr M.; Harrison, J. E.; Mitchell, Josiah; von Mueller, Baron Ferdinand

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 56 - 57, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher