Loxton and Veitch's Well
While different centres these were established for a common purpose and were run as a unit. Further there were linkages with the Shell's Well experimental site a little to the south of Veitch's Well, and most likely one of the sites established by the local Bureau.
Veitch's Well was purchased in 1908 and was around 4000 acres in area. The site was 16 miles (26 kms) south of the Loxton township, on what is now the Loxton to Murray Bridge road. The Loxton Experimental Farm was purchased in the same year and was 600 acres in area. It was located 18 miles (29 kms) north of Veitch's Well and west of Loxton.
Loxton Experimental Farm
The following outline of the role of the Loxton Experimental Farm is given the following statement from the 1907/08 Annual Report:
Loxton Experimental Farm.
"Six hundred acres of reserve on the banks of the Murray have been set aside for an experimental farm, to be conducted largely on dry farming lines. Considerable work has been done in clearing and fencing this year, and a crop of about 60 acres was put in, part of which was fallowed and worked on modified dry farming principles. The land for the rest of the crop was cleared and burned, ploughed in April of this season and sown to various varieties of wheat. A plot of the cleared land has been carefully worked under dry farming methods, together with a large area on an adjoining farm which has been under cultivation for a considerable number of years. This was found necessary on account of the fact that very little of the land on the experimental farm is yet clear of roots, which would to some extent interfere with the results. So far the appearance of the crops on the fallowed land are most satisfactory, and point to the fact that in this district the practice of fallowing and proper summer cultivation will give very good results.
The subpacker used here is one that has been made in South Australia, and, to my mind, is an improvement on the American implement in that it is run on wheels, and can be lowered or raised to any depth, in that way controlling the pressure.
For next season’s crop from 250 to 300 acres will be cleared and prepared, and a large part of this, will be put down in a comprehensive scheme of experiments in manuring and variety tests. In conjunction with this farm experiments are being conducted in the country beyond the surveyed hundreds of Bookpurnong and Pyap. At Veitch’s Well there is growing an area of about seven acres of wheat put in this season, and a further area of about 30 acres has been cleared and fallowed ready for the crop next year. This centre is approximately 18 miles from the frontage and behind the areas from which it is considered profitable to cart wheat to the frontage. South of Veitch’s Well, in the direction of Pinnaroo, arrangements have been made for putting down a small area under crop at Shell’s Well to test the capacity of that land. Of course the country round both these wells is much too far back from the river to be profitably farmed, at least for wheat-raising, and can only be opened up by a railway. The present experiments have been arranged for the purpose of finding out what the producing capacity of the country is in these parts. Rain, gauges have been set up at both these centres, and the records are being taken every fortnight. In order that there may be no doubt as to what the rainfall is measures are being taken to have a duplicate system of rain gauges kept under lock and key, and in such a position that no passer-by is likely to interfere with them. If this country has sufficient fertility and an adequate rainfall to raise wheat there will be several, thousands of acres of land available for selection in this district.
The manager at the Loxton Experimental Farm is J. G. Schulz, who is also carrying on from this centre the experimental work both at Veitch’s Well and Shell’s Well. Arrangements have been made to widen the track to Veitch’s Well, so that the proper implements can be taken out there and it will also be necessary—in order to thoroughly test the land about Shell’s Well—to have the track grubbed to that centre.
The condition of the water in Veitch’s Well is most unsatisfactory, and arrangements have been made with the Works Department to deepen the well by boring and to erect a windmill and pump, so that a supply of good stock water may be available. At the frontage it will be necessary to erect a stable, implement shed, and produce bam, and. so soon as the harvest is over this will be proceeded with."
It was around this time that the Department of Agriculture Annual Reports became more comprehensive, summarising some of the more significant experimental results. Also around this time the detailed reporting of the results of trial work conducted by the Department were reported in the Journal of Agriculture.
The following extract from the 1907/08 provides further detail around the reason for establishing the Loxton Experimental Farm:
"This Experimental Farm was established owing to the opening up of a large tract of country on the-stretch of river from Lyrup to Overland Corner.- Hitherto this area had been condemned as useless country —the happy hunting ground of the dingo and the abode of millions of rabbits. It would seem, however, from the remains of improvements in the shape of wells, shearing sheds, fences, and huts that at one time a very considerable number of sheep had been carried, and they had to retire doubtless with-the advent of the rabbit.
It has been considered, too, that this is a very dry district. The rainfall is low, but records seem to point to the fact that there is a larger precipitation than people were aware of. Again, the sandy nature of the soil has been taken to indicate that the country is of a very poor quality, and of a nature to require a much greater rainfall than prevailed, in order to be fit to come under arable cultivation.
Now, most of these conclusions like many others-in agricultural work, have to be very considerably modified. This type of soil seems most suited to a low rainfall, and as the principles of moisture conservation in the soil are becoming better understood, we are in a position to know that the proper implements and suitable cultivation crops can be profitably grown on this class of soil on a much lower rainfall than was previously considered as the minimum required for wheat-growing.
The development of the adjoining district of Pinnaroo is an example of what this class of country iscapable of, and, although the rainfall of part of the Loxton district is less than most of Pinnaroo,-yet the conditions of soil, to some extent at least, make up for this.
In opening up for development like this it was a wise provision to establish an Experimental Farm here for two reasons—(1) to find out if this country can profitably produce wheat under the most up-to-date methods of cultivation, so that it may be thrown open to farmers; and (2), and quite as important, to prevent farmers from-rushing into this country and losing their capital if the results turn out unsatisfactory.
In connection with the handling of this class of country there are two main lines of work that have to be undertaken—first, to find out the best way to handle the soil so as to get its maximum fertility; and, second, to arrive at the crops or varieties of crops best suited to the district.
As regards the former much work in this direction is reported from America, and, consequently, dry farming methods of soil culture must form a very prominent feature of the work at this station and if the results of the future are to be as satisfactory as they were last year, it would seem that fallowing on dry-farming lines has a deal to commend it to the farmers of this district, and in all probability will be the key to opening up vast tracts of land to wheat production.
But this system is not a cut-and-dried one. It has to be worked out and results have, to be got from different treatments and compared. Hence the work, is more of the nature of investigation or research than demonstration or-model farming.
But there are other directions., in which such a centre will be of immediate use, namely, in collecting data in regard to climate and the nature of the various classes of soil; and in this a commencement has been made.
Of the 600 acres secured at the frontage only about half is fit for cultivation, the rest, consisting, of rugged and uneven cliffs and slopes, and about 150 acres of: river flat, part of which is annually under water. It is also situated in the older and more settled part of the district, and the use proposed to be made of this small area is to demonstrate to the farmers the advantage of fallowing and manuring, and to grow clean seed of those varieties which are found- to be best suited to the conditions existing there. It will also act as a storage centre to the experimental areas further back in the scrub at Veitch’s Well and Schell’s Well. The area is much too small to undertake more than these departments of work, and hence, so soon as the railway was suggested, a large tract of country beyond the surveyed hundreds in the poorer class of soil was placed at the disposal of the department upon which to thoroughly investigate the system of dry-farming in relation to wheat-growing. But this will be dealt with later."
There is much less reported in the Annual Reports on the background and history of Veitch's Well experimental farm.
The following is an extract from the 1907/8 Annual Report:
"The country here is not so heavily timbered, and is of a more undulating nature than that at the frontage. Here, if anywhere, results will be got from an application of dry-farming methods; consequently, an areaof about 4.000 acres has been set aside for the department as a purely dry-farming centre. The farm was made sufficiently large to be typical of the whole of that region to be opened up by the proposed Loxton railway. The soil varies from white sandrises of considerable height to loamy and red chocolate flats. A squad of men have been put to work to cut down a large area of scrub, and it is anticipated that about 690 acres will be ready for next year’s crop."
A separate report can be accessed directly under the location 'Veitch's Well'.
Closure of centres
The Department of Agriculture was fully aware of the value of research or experimental centres to underpin the opening up of new and more intensely farmed areas. It would appear that there was an expectation on the Department, in the first decade or two of it's existence, that it would have a role in working with the Bureau network and its large number of "farm experimental sites".
Equally clearly was the impact of financial restrictions on the operations of the Department.
So, in the Director's report for the 1911/12 annual Report, the Director of Agriculture foreshadowed the closure of Veitch's Well, Minburra and Shannon experimental farms. Then in the 1912/13 Annual Report, the closure of Loxton Experimental Farm, Parafield wheat Station, Shannon Farm and Minburra was announced.
Closure of Loxton Experimental Farm
The closure of the Loxton 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 comment regarding the closure of Loxton was as follows;
"This farm was only 18 miles from Veitch’s Well, and when the latter farm was fairly going there was no reason for continuing the farm at Loxton."
Veitch's Well continued as a major research facility for the Department until its closure which was announced in the 1930/31 Annual Report, along with the Booborowie Farm, as follows:
"The difficulties of the financial position have led to the closing of the farms, whilst the Minnipa Farm has been let on a share-farming agreement until such time as conditions improve.
Therefore the Department is only responsible for one farm, Kybybolite."
Prepared by Don Plowman