Soil fertility management in nineteenth century New Zealand agriculture
Wood, Gareth Vaughan
This research examined the practice of soil fertility management, and the rationale behind it, in 19th century New Zealand agriculture, with particular attention being paid to agriculture in Canterbury and Otago. This entailed the description of both the existing soil environment, and perhaps more importantly European perceptions of that environment, and then an exploration of fertiliser usage relative to the agricultural history of local areas, with the aim being to determine whether fertiliser use (or non-use) was respondent to environmental or economic conditions, or even behavioural transfer (in the case of immigrants). To this end, agricultural journals (and prior to that, agricultural reports in newspapers) were examined exhaustively, and this was complemented by the examination of relevant material in contemporary and secondary literature (including statistical indices such as produce prices). The relationship between European agricultural and indigenous Maori cultivation practices, and in particular, the latter's non-use of manure, was explored. The research has indicated that in general the balance between produce prices and land and labour costs determined levels of fertiliser use, although environmental factors, such as natural level of soil fertility and climate, were responsible for regional variations. The most notable of these variations was the high rate of fertiliser use around Auckland in the mid-1850s and early 1860s, caused by the predominance of poor soils. Another important finding was the way in which the construction and deconstruction of the 'biometric fallacy' - the idea that the luxuriance and height of vegetation was proportional to the fertility of the soil - led to temporal changes in the desirability of areas for agricultural settlement. This thesis therefore adds an important environmental dimension to previous economics-based explanations of soil fertility management practice in New Zealand.
Advisor: Brooking, Tom; Perry, Peter; Bennett, Judy
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis