Home' Otago Southland Farmer : February 22nd 2013 Contents 10
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The farmers of yesteryear might well laugh up their sleeves at the degree of scientific
complexity that has gradually infiltrated every aspect of modern-day agriculture.
Detailed chemical analysis, electronic
irrigation management, genetic
modification, biological control,
carcass performance: the list of innovations
and complications goes on, and it would be
easy to question whether such progress
really does make farmers' lives easier, or
quite the reverse, in fact.
However, those same venerable farmers of
the past would probably end up laughing on
the other side of their face once they caught
a glimpse of the volumes and quality of end
product that arise as a result of modern
farming techniques, and positively run off
crying at the average farmer's balance sheet.
The truth is that the impact of science and
technology upon agriculture has been no less
dramatic than on our lives in general.
You need only look to the relative production
ratios since the Industrial Revolution to view
starkly this phenomenon.
So successful has the rapid evolution at the
very heart of farming been, it's estimated
that where the pre-industrial ratio of
agricultural producers to consumers was a
little over one to three, by 1900 that ratio had
grown to one to 25 and today it stands at one
At this time of year we can see multiple
aspects of the scientific revolution come into
play as we continue to prepare the ground for
a successful season.
Chances are that unless you run a very large
or very small farm, you're going to call upon
one or more agricultural contractors to help
you with the process of preparing or
harvesting your land this summer.
Peak times for carrying out important tasks
such as ploughing, sowing, fertilisation and,
later, baleage, tend to become booked out
very quickly and, if you leave the call too late,
you can find your entire business schedule
knocked out of kilter.
Each year brings fresh innovations to
cultivation such as new grass strains,
improved fertilisers and delivery systems,
and better ways to irrigate efficiently.
So make it your business now, before the
season gets into full flow, to get in touch with
the experts in the field, and be in a position
to take full advantage of these and other
innovations in timely fashion this year.
That way you can be confident of continuing
to prepare a balance sheet worth the envy of
your predecessors, for decades to come.
By COLIN MORRISON
Amongst the first people in New Zealand to grow
wheat and oats were the early Christian
missionaries, and then soon in the early 19th
century some Maori communities in the North
Island began to grow wheat.
What they didn't use themselves was sold to
settlers, with some later being exported to
Sydney in Australia. A Maori leader named
Ruatara, was eager to satisfy the huge demand for
wheat in Sydney, and sowed and harvested the first
crop in New Zealand in 1813. It was not until later
when he was able to obtain a wheat grinder that he
was able to demonstrate the real value of the crop
to his people. Ruatara's successor, Hongi Hika, had
a wheat plantation shortly later. Wheat soon proved
itself a reliable food crop that could be stored for
later consumption, or exported.
The early New Zealand Company settlements, such
as Wellington, Nelson and Wanganui, were originally
intended to be based on an arable crop rather than
animal cultivation. However, at that time in history,
due to the limited export potential of crops, and at
the same time, the huge opportunities for the export
of animal products -- initially for sheep wool, and
then later for meat and dairy products, production
was soon switched from plant to animal. However,
cropping did remain important in some areas,
particularly upon the Canterbury Plains and again in
North Otago, where summer weather conditions
were proven ideal for the maturing grain crops.
Before any ploughing and planting of crops could
take place, the land had to be broken in. For the
North Island bush country this meant forests burned
or felled, and logs and stumps removed. In the
South Island, shrubs, stones and tussock needed to
be cleared and so much of the vegetation was burnt,
and then roots having to be dug out before
ploughing could begin. The earliest ploughing was
carried out using a single-furrow wooden-framed
plough which was pulled by a bullock team. This
required two people -- one in charge of the animals
and one in charge of the plough. However in 1860
with the introduction of the iron plough pulled by
horses the task became easier and was able to be
handled by one person.
In 1867 a trial shipment of wheat and flour was sent
from South Canterbury to Great Britain. The
experiment was a success and proved that there
was a huge market for New Zealand grain in Britain.
When wool prices declined in the 1870s, farmers in
Canterbury and Otago soon turned to large-scale
cropping as a source of income. What followed was
a wheat bonanza which lasted until the 1890's and
only finished when production in Russia and North
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