Wheat pioneer's anniversary highlights importance of Agricultural Census (Media Release), Apr 2006

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Wheat pioneer's anniversary highlights importance of Agricultural Census

Easter Sunday marks 100 years since the death of leading Australian agricultural agronomist and wheat breeder, William James Farrer (1845-1906).

Farrer started farming in a district near Canberra (ACT), but after many unsuccessful years, with heavy rain causing crop failure due to rust, Farrer spent much of his life breeding disease-resistant wheat. He is most famous for the development, in 1900, of the rust-resistant wheat strain which he named Federation after the imminent Federation of Australia.

Without the work by Farrer and others, Australian wheat farming would not be the $5.6 billion industry it is today.

Thanks to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) national records are available to highlight the great advances in agriculture that have followed the work of such pioneers as William Farrer.

Gemma Van Halderen, Head of the Agriculture Program at the ABS, said that Australia has an important history of Agricultural surveys and censuses.

"For over 150 years primary producers have been providing the ABS with details of agricultural production. This information provides a long statistical time series which assists in the measurement of Australia's progress.

"For example, in 1901 Australia harvested about 340,000 tonnes of wheat from 2.1 million hectares. By 2004, 26.1 million tonnes was harvested off 13.1 million hectares reflecting a yield of about 2 tonnes per hectare," Ms Van Halderen said.

In June this year the ABS will be posting the 2005-06 Agricultural Census form to 190,000 businesses.

The Agricultural Census form is designed to collect information about agricultural production across Australia.

The ABS conducts the Agricultural Census every five years, with small collections in the intervening years. The information gathered from farmers will be used to measure the significant contribution agriculture makes to the rest of the economy.