Soil-amending technology, grassland farming, and New Zealand economic development : a study of the origins, application and implications of an innovation stream in New Zealand agriculture : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geography at Massey University
This dissertation explores the role of soil-amending technology in the development of New Zealand's agricultural sector. In a survey of the evolution New Zealand's farming systems it is shown that the use of soil amending emerged from a set of circumstances whereby the utilization of grassland farming methods was favoured by the development of refrigerated marine transport and governmental policy which fostered the formation of small, family farms adapted to more intensive livestock production whose produce refrigerated ships could deliver to the British market. The relative shortages of capital and labour in this institutional structure led to the introduction of labour-saving technology which promoted grassland-based farming systems. The need to develop and maintain consistently high levels of quality produce, particularly in dairying, entailed the investigation of British agriculture's soil-amending technology. Its successful adaptation and adoption, favoured by its highly divisible labour and capital demands, was a key element in stabilizing the small farm structure as it successfully boosted agricultural productivity and enabled other innovations based on highly productive plants and animals to enter the farming systems. The perfection of mechanical distribution methods from tractors to ground-spreading vehicles and aircraft allowed this technology to be extended from the lowland plain dairy and fat-lamb farms into more rugged terrain areas producing wool and store stock. An agricultural focus to scientific research was a feature supported by government in the establishment and funding of organizations investigating ways to increase and improve agricultural output. Successful research and development brought improved plants and stock which benefited from soil amending through the addition of soil nutrients and trace elements and the control of soil acidity. Concern with the study of pasture as an ecosystem was a basic factor in the advances made. Pedological investigation and the adaptation of foreign research findings especially after 1945 induced rapid increases in livestock output as better distribution methods facilitated the use of the technology devised. Continued economic growth was the outcome of this expansion of output. The comparative stability of the British market was a central element in the production environment in which such technological development occurred. The ability to focus attention on a small range of produce for which demand continued to increase through much of the 1890-1960 period meant that New Zealand producers could benefit substantially from improvements of those innovations adopted. Research activity too could be concentrated, so maximizing relatively limited capital and personnel resources. Later deterioration of that market's stability has led to increasing uncertainty and a search for new strategies in production, marketing, and economic planning. Government has been a central factor in agriculture's development through policy decisions and supporting research, and has become increasingly involved as its role in regulating the economy has grown. Its part in the production environment within which soil-amending technology developed has strongly influenced the pattern of that development. Noting the relevance of this combination of factors is essential to the geographic study of New Zealand agriculture as a concluding review of a selection of such studies reveals.