Minburra Experimental Farm

The acquisition of the Minburra Experiment Farm was first reported in the Department of Agriculture Annual Report in 1910/11. The following was the statement in the Annual Report:

"During the past season an agreement was entered into between the Department and Mr Claridge, whereby some 3500 acres of the McCoy's Well Station was handed over to the department for testing the value of different methods of cultivation in arid areas, and especially the so-called "Campbell" system of soil cultivation."

The advertising for the Manager of the Farm appeared in the 29 June 1910 edition of The Register, as follows:

"Through the medium of the advertising columns the Government is inviting application for the Manager of the new experimental farm of 3 000 acres which it has been decided to establish at Minburra, between Peterburgh and Yunta.

The salary offered is £120 a year (house provided) and the man required must be

thoroughly acquainted with the management of an arable farm."

Closure of Farm

The closure of the Minburra Experimental Farm was announced in the Director's Report in the 1912/13 Annual Report. The Director provided both a general approach to the closures and specific information for each centre closed.

The general overview of the closures is as follows:

" I believe the feeling in favor of the multiplication of experimental farms to some extent arises from an imperfect comprehension of the proportion of value accruing from them to the average farmer. The fact is overlooked that one farm differs from another in soil, subsoil, degree of exhaustion, etc., and that the practice suitable on one farm might be impracticable on another only a few miles away. That each farm fundamentally is a law unto itself is a proposition generally true, and accordingly the many questions of general practice occurring to every farmer can only be fully answered by trials on his own land—quantities of manure most profitable, mixtures of manures, depth of tillage, varieties of cereals, etc.—which he himself ought to conduct. I believe, therefore, that the appropriation necessary to maintain the farms which have been closed would be much better employed in agricultural education, and the extension of experimental plots conducted by farmers under the direction of the department on the farmer’s own land. It is vain to think to have experimental farms in the State representative of all the many degrees of varying capacity of the soils and climatic conditions of the State. An experimental farm can only offer general indications in respect of methods and practice, the particular modifications to adapt this practice to any particular farm must be made by the farmer himself. The farms retained fully meet the requirements for the State, viz. Kybybolite for much of the South-East country ; Veitch’s Well for the mallee land of low rainfall, say 11in - to 13in.; and the College Farm, Roseworthy, for the better class of mallee lands, wherever situated; Turretfield for the strong wheat lands of higher capacity ; and Booborowie for the high-lying wheat areas of the North. Accordingly, no good purpose was served by the unnecessary duplication which obtained W the number of farms was reduced. Further, there were particular reasons which justified the closing of these respective farms."

The specific argument for the closure of Minburra is as follows:

"This farm was taken up as a sublease from the pastoral lessee on country of 8in. to 9in.annual rainfall, 30 miles approximately north-east of Orroroo. The farm was established when the claims of dry farming methods were much in evidence to test the value of the practice advocated, and in the thought that the limit of possible successful wheat-growing, might be extended outwards on these areas, as the result of the operations there. The limit of profitable farming, however, had been fairly well defined by the pioneers who tackled the furthest north, and, in the belief that no extension of the margin of cultivation was likely to follow as the result of the work there, it was closed.

The experience of the department leads to the conclusion that men taking up land in that country for ordinary farming purposes in areas of, say 1,000 to 2,000 acres, would only court disaster. If it were leased in areas of, say 10,000 to 20,000 acres, the tenants might probably with advantage put in a block of wheat or land well-fallowed. If the season proved favorable, the speculation would be successful; if unfavorable, the wheat could be fed down to help the sheep, and the land would be improved in its carrying capacity in the future by the cultivation and light dressing of phosphates, but the tenant must depend for his return year in year out, on the sheep the block would carry. But for wheat-growing chiefly, I am satisfied it would be a mistake to tempt men out into that country. Further, the agreement under which the sublease was held, that the department should conduct all the work and meet all charges for tillage, manure. seed, for 300 acres of crop, and hand over half the total produce as rent for the 3,000 acres to the pastoral lessee, made financial success impossible in that class of country so far from the railway. This year, for example, the crops will be a complete failure. From January 1st to September 30th, the total rainfall of only 3.l in."

In 1920, McCoy's Well Station was subdivided into 15 lots and put up for sale.

Prepared by Don Plowman
May 2020

Page Last Reviewed: 05 May 2020
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