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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Family history | The Farm | The River | David, Jenny and the Farm | Self-sufficiency and Aquarius | Cattle and floods | The landscape | Other on-farm agriculture | Buying and selling land | Poor economic times | Family partnership on the farm | Mill politics, harvesters and cane cutters | Changing methods | Chemicals | Market impacts and government subsidies | Generational change and succession | Impact on cane growing | Environmental issues | Politics of cane and the mill | Neighbours

Changing methods

What are the main things that you’ve seen change over the time that you’ve been here in the industry and how has it impacted onto you?

David: ah…probably minimum till agriculture. When I was a kid, or before that, it was just mechanical care of the cane when it was young. When I was a kid they planted the cane, they didn’t fertilise it because the ground hadn’t been growing cane for so long. And to get weeds and anything out of the cane they used to have teams of people chipping it like they do in cotton, and then no chemicals, just man power. And then probably, probably 70s might be 80s, they got chemicals that they could spray onto the cane that would either stop weeds from coming up or kill the weeds and not the cane. Which meant that the need for manpower was lessened greatly and also everybody started realising the fertility of the soil had gone down so they started fertilising too…. which meant….they had various means of putting it on but it was always a tractor. Or when we first put fertiliser on we used to do it by hand, carry a bucket of fertiliser along and drop it down along the row. I did it …

Jenny: I don’t remember it.

David: no, it must have been in the late … 60s or something, I could carry a bucket of fertiliser so I must have been that big.

And that cow pea?

David: Cow peas yep, cow peas and lupin. Probably you’d grow a crop, then you’d cut it two years later and then you’d cut it and cut it three or four times and then you dig it out and when you dig it out you replenish the fertility of the soil by planting a legume crop.

Why did it change to soy beans away from the cow peas?

David: cow peas and lupin? Two reasons, probably because it became a market crop and people saw them as dual purpose. They could get the fertility or some of it and also possibly a cash crop. Also they fitted it into the cycle a bit better. The lupins and the cow peas would mature later which meant that there was sort of a bit of pressure in incorporating the big bulk of the cow peas and lupins into the soil and getting it ready to plant. There wasn’t quite – the time frame was a bit shorter.

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