Australian Bureau of Statistics
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2001
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2001
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AGRICULTURE, THE EARLY YEARS
Development of the lndustry
Until recently, poultry farming as a well organised industry could scarcely be said to exist, although in metropolitan and suburban districts poultry has of course long been kept for the table and egg supplies. The aggregate output, though considerable, represented relatively little value beyond the cost of production, owing to imperfect management. Many farmers also, both wheat-growers and dairymen, have maintained a large poultry stock, erecting poultry yards constructed on modern principles, and feeding from the stubble fields and waste grain with a minimum expenditure in tending. This brought about a considerable addition to the net agricultural or dairying return. The poultry industry during recent years has assumed an independent position among rural industries, notwithstanding that large numbers of poultry runs on wheat and dairy farms are still maintained; poultry farming is also carried on in conjunction with pig farming. In special poultry farms, breeding on scientific principles and a proper arrangement of the runs is secured, and feeding and reproduction are technically attended to, and proper shelter is provided either by means of trees or sheds. Poultry experts are engaged by the State Governments to instruct in matters that will amplify the returns. Poultry for consumption are extensively reared and the egg-producing qualities of the birds have also been greatly improved by careful breeding.
Early Attempts at Agriculture
The instructions issued to Captain Phillip on the 25th April, 1787, directed him, amongst other things, to proceed as soon as possible to the cultivation of the soil “under such regulations as may appear to be necessary and best calculated for securing supplies of grain and provisions". When the settlers landed at Botany Bay, however, it was found that the glowing accounts published in England by members of Captain Cook's expedition of the fertility of the soil in the vicinity of the existing settlement were considerably overdrawn. Even when Phillip and his company moved round to Port Jackson on the 26th January, 1788, matters were for a time in no better case. The ground in the immediate neighbourhood of the settlement was not suitable for the cultivation of cereal crops, and when the time came to cultivate the soil it was found that there were very few who possessed the slightest acquaintance with the art of husbandry.
Progress of Cultivation since 1860
The following table shows the area under cultivation in each of the Commonwealth States at various periods since 1860 and during each year of the period 1901-7. The area under artificially-sown grasses is excluded in all the States, except for the years 1860-79 in the case of New South Wales, where the acreage cannot be separated. During those years, however, the area laid down under permanent grasses could not have been very large.
RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF CROPS
The following table has been compiled in order to show the relative importance of the various crops in each State and in the Commonwealth as a whole. The figures refer to the season 1906-7.
Nature and Extent
The introduction of the grape vine into Australia is said to have taken place in 1828, some forty years after the first settlement. The locality claiming to be the cradle of the vine-growing industry of Australia is the Hunter River district of New South Wales, where, in the year mentioned, cuttings from celebrated vineyards of France, Spain, and Germany were planted. From New South Wales the vine spread to Victoria and South Australia, and these States have now far outstripped the mother State in the area which they have devoted to its cultivation. In Queensland and Western Australia also, vine-growing has been carried on for many years, but in neither State, has the industry progressed with the rapidity attained in Victoria and South Australia. In Tasmania the climate is not favourable to the growth of grapes. The purposes for which grapes are grown in Australia are three in number, viz.: - (i.) for wine-making, (ii.) for table use, (iii.) for drying. The total area under vines in the several States from 1860 onwards is given in the following table.
The production of wine in Australia has not increased as rapidly as the suitability of soil and general favourableness of conditions would appear to warrant. The cause of this is probably twofold, being in the first place due to the fact that the Australians are not a wine-drinking people and consequently do not provide a local market for this product, and in the second to the fact that the new and comparatively unknown wines of Australia find it difficult to establish a footing in the markets of the old world, owing to the competition of well-known brands. Active steps are being taken in various ways to bring the Australian wines under notice, and it may be confidently asserted that when their qualities are duly recognised the wine production of Australia will exhibit much more rapid development than has taken place within recent years.
Nature and Extent
In addition to the leading crops, there are many others which, owing either to their nature or to the fact that their cultivation has advanced but little beyond the experimental stage, do not occupy so prominent a position. Some of the more important of these are those which may be classed under the heads of Market Gardens, Nurseries, Grass Seed, Tobacco, Hops, and Millet, while the possibilities of cotton growing in the tropical portions of the Commonwealth have in recent years received considerable attention, although the industry cannot yet be said to have assumed definite shape. The total area in the Commonwealth during the season 1906-7 devoted to crops of this nature was 79,689 acres, of which market gardens accounted for 38,787 acres.
Cotton-growing on a small scale has been tried in Queensland, but so far without marked success. The area under cotton during the season 1905-6, viz., 171 acres, had fallen by 1906-7 to 138 acres. Hopes are entertained that with the invention of a mechanical device for the picking of the cotton the industry will become firmly established, since the soil and conditions appear eminently suitable for the growth of this crop. Small areas in the Northern Territory have also been planted with cotton, while the tropical portions of Western Australia have long been regarded as suitable for its cultivation.
Queensland is the only State of the Commonwealth in which coffee-growing has been at all extensively tried, and here the results have up to the present time been far from satisfactory. The total area devoted to this crop reached its highest point in the season 1901-2, when 547 acres were recorded. Since then the area has continuously declined, and for 1906-7 amounted to only 256 acres.
Millet appears in the statistical records of three of the Commonwealth States, viz., New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. The total area devoted thereto in 1905-6 was 4,323 acres, by far the greater portion, viz., 3,765 acres, being in New South Wales. The particulars here given relate to millet grown for grain and fibre. That grown for green forage is dealt with in the section relating thereto.
In the early days of settlement and cultivation in the Commonwealth scientific cultivation was in a much less developed state than to-day. The early farmers were neither under the necessity, nor were they as a rule aware of the need, of supplying the constituents to the soil demanded by each class of crop. The widely-divergent character of the soils in the Commonwealth, their degeneration by repeated cropping, the limitations of climatic conditions, the difficulties of following any desired order of rotation of crops, all rendered it necessary to give attention to artificial manuring. The introduction of the modern seed-drill, acting also as a fertiliser distributor, has greatly facilitated the use of artificial manures, and much land formerly regarded as useless for cultivation has now been made available. There is reason to believe that this feature will be even more strikingly characteristic of the future.
The words “fertiliser” or “manure" mean any substance containing nitrogen, phosphoric acid, or potash, manufactured, produced, or prepared in any manner for the purpose of fertilising the soil or supplying nutriment to plants, but do not include farm-yard or stable manure or similar articles in their natural or unmanufactured state. The Acts provide that every vendor of fertilisers shall, within a stated period, forward to the Secretary of Agriculture, or corresponding officer, samples of the fertilisers on sale by him, together with the distinctive name or brands by which they are known, and the price at which he intends to sell during the year. On every bag, package, or bundle of fertiliser sold, or exposed for sale, he must attach a printed label showing thereon: -
(i) The number of net pounds of fertiliser in such bag or parcel;
(ii) The figure or trade mark attached to the fertiliser and intended to identify it;
(iii) The proportion per centum of nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash contained therein.
In addition to the above the vendor must furnish every purchaser with an invoice certificate, signed by himself or his agent, stating his full name and place of business and the quality of the fertiliser sold.
Any officer or analyst appointed under the Acts may enter any factory, warehouse, store, vessel, wharf, railway station, conveyance, or other place where fertiliser is manufactured, stored, exposed for sale, or in course of delivery or transit, and demand and take samples of such fertilisers. Every sample so taken must be divided by such officer into three parts, and each marked, sealed and fastened by him in the presence of the person in charge, and disposed of as follows: -
(i) One part to be taken by person in charge.
(ii) One part to be used for analysis.
(iii) One part to be retained by the officer for future comparison.
Every buyer of fertiliser is entitled to submit a sample of such to the analyst appointed under the Act, and receive a certificate of the analysis of such. If the analysis prove it to be under what it is represented to be, the vendor must pay the cost of analysis.
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This page last updated 3 October 2007