Home' Otago Southland Farmer : August 24th 2012 Contents 24.8.12 Farmer
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Cultivation Advertising Feature
Cultivating through the ages
CONTINUED Page 12
We now know that ever since
mankind stopped being wanderers
and became domesticated, one of
the most important food sources came
from various crops.
Over time wheat became even more
important as a main ingredient of bread --
indeed throughout know history bread
really has been "the staff of life" for many
people all over the globe.
However, while farmers now have
sophisticated machinery, the way crops or
planted managed and harvested has not
changed in thousands of years.
Arable crops usually need to be replanted
each year. Land is cultivated (prepared by
ploughing) in autumn or spring, and the
crop is planted. It grows through the spring
and summer, and is harvested in late
summer or autumn. The land is then
cultivated again for another crop or
returned to pasture for one or more years.
When New Zealand was first settled by
Europeans, the missionaries in the North at
Waimate in Northland were first to grow
wheat and oats in New Zealand. They sold
their crops to local settlers and to the
burgeoning town of Sydney where food
sources were scarce for many years.
This was not lost on the Ngapuhi people of
the North who saw cropping as a source of
ready cash. Large areas were cultivated for
cropping and wheat, oats and potatoes
were successfully grown. The Ngapuhi sold
their crops in Auckland and Sydney and
continued to do so until the Land Wars
broke out in the late 1860s
It is interesting to note that New Zealand
Company settlements, such as Wellington,
Nelson and Wanganui, were intended to be
based on arable production rather than
animal farming. However, it was far more
profitable to farm sheep for fine wool.
When refrigeration became efficient and
meat could be exported to the United
Kingdom market, sheep and dairy farming
were reinforced as the best ways to make
money in farming. However, cropping
remained important in some areas,
particularly the Canterbury Plains and North
Otago, where summer conditions were
ideal for maturing grain crops.
The earliest cultivation was done using a
single-furrow wooden-framed plough
drawn by a bullock team. This required two
people -- a 'bullocky' in charge of the
draught animals and a ploughman
handling the plough. It was a slow job. Iron
ploughs, which were more robust, were
introduced. In the 1860s, bullocks were
replaced with horse teams, which could be
controlled by just the ploughman.
Turnip seed was often sown after the land
was first ploughed. Sheep grazed the crop
and trampled the ground, helping to break
up heavy clods. Next the land was cross-
ploughed -- a second ploughing at right-
angles to the first. It was then cultivated
with a harrow -- which breaks up the soil
into finer clods -- and sown in wheat.
Usually, successive cereal crops were grown
until the yields dropped to an uneconomic
level, due to diminished fertility. Then the
land was sown in pasture for animal
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