Parafield Wheat Station

In the 1905/06 Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture, the Director announced that three farms had been handed over to the Department. They were Kybybolite, Swamp land at Murray Bridge and an area at Parafield, known as the Cemetery.

The Parafield Cemetery became the Parafield Wheat Station. The text extracted from the Annual Report is as follows:

"One of the staple products of South Australia, and one for which she has held a high reputation, is wheat. Competitors, however, have come into the market (i.e. Canada, United States, India, and Argentina), able to produce wheats equal to if not better than those of South Australia so far as the demands of the market are at present concerned. Our export trade in this product is too great to think of allowing ourselves to be ousted from the English market, and so considerable interest is being taken with regard to the improvement of our wheats. But, in addition to this, South Australia has for years had to contend with three very serious pests—red rust, smut, and takeall—and it is necessary to find, if possible, varieties immune to the attack of these. Moreover, a large area of land suitable for wheat production lies in arid or semi-arid regions, and to get a variety of wheat that will give good returns under these conditions would largely increase not only the wheat-growing area, but the total yield of the State. Consequently the Hon. Minister gave instructions that a section of land was to be set aside for the purpose of undertaking work in the selection and hybridisation of wheats, and also for growing small quantities of pure seed for distribution to farmers.

As the arrangements in handing over Parafield to the department took some considerable time it was too late to undertake more than preparatory work this season. Fifteen acres of the cemetery were cleared and half of this ploughed and cropped, the other half being left in fallow. From Mr. King, a neighboring farmer, two acres of fallow land were rented, and the following wheats sown:— Australian, Canadian, United States, Argentine, English, Hungarian, Durum. The object was not to grow a crop on these two acres to compare with the surrounding paddocks, but to have alongside for comparison, and for the production of seed for next year, these different varieties. Although at first many came away very badly, they now show to good account. The clearing of the rest of the cemetery is being proceeded with, and next year about 40 to 50 acres will be under crop.

In order to be able to test the milling qualities of these new wheats, a testing mill was ordered from England from the firm H. Simon & Son, Manchester. This has now arrived, and is being fixed up near the small departmental laboratory. This mill is thoroughly up-to-date, and will be of very great service in connection with the experimental work of the department.

This important branch of our work cannot, however, be satisfactorily carried out without the assistance of trained scientists, and I would therefore strongly urge upon the Hon. Minister the necessity for the appointment of an Agricultural Chemist—a man who can give the whole of his time to the special study of matters relating to agriculture- and also of a Plant Pathologist. For many years this State has been indebted to the Pathologist of the Victorian Department (D. McAlpine, Esq.) in matters connected with plant diseases. We can, however, hardly expect our work to be carried on satisfactorily under such conditions, nor is it desirable that the State should have to trespass upon the goodwill of an officer of another State in such an important matter."

The closure of the Station was announced in the 1912/13 Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture.

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 capacityof 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 occurred and 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 the Parafield Wheat Station is as follows:

"This farm was only 106 acres in extent. It was used for the cross-breeding and select and fixing varieties of wheat, but the area was altogether too small for the growth of bulk plots of seed wheat for testing and for distribution of the seed to farmers. There is no question that Turretfield, where the wheat-breeding is now conducted, is better adapted for the purpose. At Parafield the work of the poultry division is now concentrated with, I believe, advantage to the department, compared with separate stations as formerly at Kybybolite, Murray Bridge, and Roseworthy."

Prepared by Don Plowman
May 2020

Page Last Reviewed: 05 May 2020
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