Settler Economies in World History

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Content: XIVth International Economic History Congress Helsinki, Finland, 21-25 August 2006 Session 97 Settler Economies in World History _______________________________________________________________ The Settlement and Agricultural Development of Wheat-Producing Areas in Australia and the Pacific Northwestern United States James F. Shepherd Whitman College This is a draft conference paper, not to be quoted without permission of the author.
1 Introduction During the mid- to late nineteenth century, a number of regions in the world were settled by immigrants and gradually developed into important wheat-producing areas. Among these settler economies were lands in Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan (the Assiniboia) in Canada; western Kansas, central Dakota, the Central Valley in California, and the Columbia Plateau in the interior Pacific Northwest in the United States; parts of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia in Australia; the inner Pampa in Argentina; the High Veld in South Africa; the eastern Ukraine; and western Siberia (Meinig, 1962: 3). Two of these areas, inland parts of Australia and the Pacific Northwestern United States, eventually developed a thriving agriculture based upon the dry-land production of soft white wheat. Today, these two are the major producers and rivals in the world market for this market class of wheat. This paper undertakes a comparative study of the settlement and agricultural development of the wheat-growing regions of Southeastern Australia and the Pacific Northwestern United States.1 Both areas were sparsely settled by Aboriginal peoples when settlers of European origins arrived at about the same time during the nineteenth century. Both are examples of settler economies of the first type (Lloyd and Metzer, 2005: 2-3). Settlers in these areas were of similar ethnic origin, and they faced similar problems in the settlement and development of the areas. Both had unique characteristics with respect to their natural endowments of terrain, climate, and soils. After early trials, both areas were found highly suitable for the cultivation of wheat. Patterns of crop rotation, methods of cultivation, and selection (and later breeding) of varieties were common problems faced in a trial-byerror learning process. Both areas were located far from the center of world markets, and thus faced barriers of high transportation costs, especially inland transport costs. Ocean freight costs were relatively low by this time. Though the Pacific Northwest had access to some river transportation, railroads were important in both areas. The areas were settled when mechanization and the use of animal and steam power was rapidly changing agricultural technology. Both areas adapted existing technology to their unique environment, searched for solutions to these problems, and entered world markets for wheat. An industry of local flour milling based upon this wheat production arose, matured, and died out in both areas. The similarities and differences in their settlement
2 and agricultural development are examined and compared below. The problems of entering world markets and the volume and the emerging and changing patterns of trade also are examined and compared. The Natural Setting, native population, and Early Settlement This paper compares the nineteenth-century settlement and agricultural development of the lands suited for growing wheat in the Pacific Northwestern United States (the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) with those primarily in the southeastern Australian wheat belt (the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia). The region in the Pacific Northwest has been given many names. An older, original name was the Great Columbia Plain, although this has fallen out of common use.2 It might be called the Columbia interior, though this is not particularly specific. Other names, such as the Inland Empire and Columbia Plateau have also been used to identify this region, though not all parts of the Columbia Plateau are suitable for wheat cultivation. Names which are attached to various part of this region are the Palouse, the Big Bend (of the Columbia River), the Horse Heaven Hills, Camas Prairie, the Walla Walla Valley, the Umatilla country, and the Deschutes-Columbia Plateau. The Willamette Valley in western Oregon, and southeastern Idaho are other wheat-producing areas in the Pacific Northwest, but they lie outside the Columbia Plateau. The principal area of comparison in Australia is the wheat belt which runs from New South Wales to the southwest into Victoria and around to the northwest into South Australia. For the most part, these are in areas inland from the coast, with some exceptions in South Australia. Other places where wheat is, or has been, grown include areas in Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia. In more recent times, the latter has evolved into a major wheat-producing area, but most of this expansion came in the twentieth century, and therefore will not be used for comparative purposes in this paper. Names of regions of parts of these states important in this wheat belt are ones such as the Riverina, the Wimmera, and the Mallee. There are many other smaller regions too numerous to list here. The geology and origins of soils suitable for wheat production differ considerably in the two countries. Those in the Pacific Northwest are of basaltic origin, stemming
3 from giant lava flows which covered most of the region beginning about seventeen million years ago. They are a combination of wind-deposited soil (loess), residual soil formed by the decay of the underlying basalt, and some alluvial soil deposited along the region's streams. In some parts of the regions, this soil was stripped away in various gigantic floods at the end of the last ice age twelve to fourteen thousand years ago (Williams, 2002). Today these are called the "channeled scablands", and can only be used for grazing. Much of the soil in the wheat land was loess deposited over millions of years. Early settlers (and some early scientists) mistakenly believed that the soil could be replenished from the underlying basalt. They did not initially understand that even if it were, it would take thousands or millions of years to do so. This may have retarded some concern over soil conservation during the years of early settlement. The land was initially covered with bluebunch wheat grass with trees existing only on the edges of the region in the rugged borderlands and mountains. Early settlers often chose to settle near such areas in order to have wood for fuel and building materials. Settlers in other areas complained about the lack of wood for these purposes. The geology of the Australian wheat lands generally was sedimentary rock, much with a limestone base. Soils are classified as podsol, red-brown earths, mallee, Black Earths, and gray-brown heavy soils. Podsol soils are found nearest the coast. Wheat production in such areas has diminished over time. The complete story is more complex, but the red-brown earths and mallee soils generally are the most important in the eastern Australian wheat belt (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 48-49; Dunsdorfs, 1956: 360-62). They initially were characterized by a vegetation of open savannah woodland (comprised of large eucalyptus trees with less prominent acacias) and grass. Rainfall varies considerably in both regions. Unlike the American Midwest, most rainfall in the Columbia Plateau comes during the winter. The same is true in most of the Australian wheat belt, though this pattern is less pronounced, and not true in every area (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 38-47). In both regions wheat can be grown under dryland conditions with rainfall as low as 10 inches per year. At the margin of minimal rainfall, lands of lower rainfall were (and are) used for grazing. In both regions it was sheep and cattle, with sheep generally being more important in Australia. In the Columbia Plateau, cattle were commonly grazed before the land began to be cultivated,
4 and then cattle ranching diminished. Sheep became important in the marginal lands not suited for cultivation (McGregor, 1982). The margin between cultivated and grazing land has shifted with cycles of rainfall and the price of wheat. Differences in rainfall cause substantial differences in yield in both regions. Early observers thought the land to be too dry for wheat. This was true in both the Pacific Northwest and South Australia as settlement proceeded northward there. However, as experiments with wheat proved successful, and as the frontier was pushed into the drier areas, the saying became "Wherever grass grows, wheat will grow."3 Meinig notes that Settlement optimistically surged well beyond the limits of reliable rainfall in both regions and through harsh experience the existence and extent of marginal lands was thereby defined. Such theories of climatic change withered as experience lengthened and science advanced, but they were an important, if unmeasureable, factor in the dynamics of settlement expansion; they illustrate that "learning the land" was a crucial phase in this type of colonization, and further, they emphasize the degree to which this whole movement was an empirical folk-process ranging not only beyond the realms of familiar country, but of scientific understanding (1959: 212-213). One popular, but erroneous, climatic theory held by early settlers was that clearing forests reduced rainfall. As a result, governments in both areas encouraged tree planting. The United States government passed the Timber Culture Act of 1873, and in 1875, South Australia established a Forest Board to promote preservation of native trees and encourage planting of new ones (Meinig, 1959: 212; 1962: 70-72). At the time of immigrant settlement, one major difference between the Columbia Plateau and the Australian wheat belt was the nature and density of the aboriginal populations. In both countries, the American Indians and the Australian Aborigines were shabbily treated. However, in Australia, the native population did not impede settlement of ethnic Europeans (Meinig, 1959: 206). In the Columbia Plateau, however, they did. Before European settlers arrived in the Pacific Northwest, Indians had acquired the horse about the middle of the eighteenth century. They shifted from a more settled hunting and
5 gathering way of life, which depended largely upon fishing (especially salmon), the gathering of native vegetation (such as the camas root), and small game hunting, to a more mobile society where hunting of larger game became more important. The horse also allowed them to become more effective warriors, and thus better able to resist white settlers by force. In recent years, scholars have come to understand that European diseases decimated the Native American population after Columbus arrived (McNeill, 1976; Stannard, 1992; Mann, 2005). For example, the number of Chinook Indians on the lower Columbia River (this group had the earliest contact with European explorers in the Pacific Northwest) was greatly reduced through mortality due to disease. About the time immigrants began coming to the Pacific Northwest in larger numbers in the 1840s,4 the Indians of the interior began to suffer epidemics. Those around the Whitman Mission in the Walla Walla Valley contracted measles, which led to the belief on their part that they were being infected intentionally. The Whitman Massacre in 1847 and the resulting Indian uprisings led the United States government to close the interior to settlement until 1858. Finally, superior arms and numbers led to the defeat of the Indians. After peace treaties were signed, those who survived disease and hostilities were forced onto reservations. Agriculture was stimulated by gold strikes in both the Pacific Northwest and Australia once immigrant settlement began. Land policies led to gradual and stable settlement of the Columbia Plateau. After the Homestead Act in 1862, land could be obtained free, or for relatively low prices if purchased. By 1890 most of the land suited for wheat production had been settled and brought under cultivation.5 In Australia, land policies differed by state. In the 1860s, New South Wales and Victoria opened large areas for sale on credit terms with open selection (Pike, 1957: 483). In South Australia before 1869, certain land designated for cultivated agriculture was sold on a cash basis following the "Wakefield Theory of Colonization" (Fitzpatrick, 1946; Pike, 1962). This did not attract large numbers of settlers. Put into effect in 1869, the Strangways Act led to more liberal land disposal policies, allowing for credit sales. In 1872, all land was opened to credit sales. The down payment was reduced from twenty to ten percent, and payment schedules were extended (although a more strict cultivation requirement was included) (Pike, 1957; Price, 1924; Meinig, 1961: 209). In Victoria and South Australia,
6 the deposits required could be (and most likely were) viewed as an annual rental fee. The land might be cropped exhaustively, and then abandoned for new land on the frontier. The abandoned land would be returned to pastoral purposes (Callaghan and Millington, 1950: 23-24; Meinig, 1958: 210-211). This led to a kind of instability of settlement that differed from the Columbia Plateau, and one that a different land policy might have prevented in Australia. Two related questions pertain to the years of early settlement. One concerns the degree of self-sufficiency of settlers, and a second the extent of diversification of early farms. In the American colonial period, agriculture dominated the economy. At a minimum, eighty-five, and perhaps ninety percent, of the population lived and directly earned their living in agriculture (Shepherd, 1988). On these farms or plantations, evidence suggests that at least fifty, and perhaps as much as seventy-five percent, of the production of these farms was consumed on the farm or plantation. Farmers produced and processed most of their own food; wove textiles and made much of their own clothing; built their homes, barns, fences, and other structures; cleared their own land; carried goods to market; and produced other miscellaneous goods and tools. As a consequence, there was a very large subsistence sector. Gradually, this self-sufficiency of farmers declined to the present time where there is little to none. To what extent, however, did it persist in the earlier days of settlement in the Columbia Plateau and Australian wheat farms? There is no systematic data, and anecdotal evidence is equivocal. Some accounts in both places stress the high degree of specialization in wheat from the very beginning. On the other hand, we know that farmers in the Columbia Plateau raised cattle for both milk and meat, and had hogs and chickens. Most raised gardens and had orchards. In the Palouse, many orchards originally were planted with the intent of becoming a commercial fruit-growing area (much like the Yakima and Wenatchee Valleys in central Washington State later did with apples). William J. Spillman, an early-day plant geneticist and teacher at Washington State University advised Palouse farmers to diversify. Farmers should not rely, he said, on only one crop for their security, nor did he think the land could be continuously cropped with wheat without incurring future declines in fertility and yield (Carlson, 2005: 54). Despite Spillman's exhortations, and the early trend toward orchards, the Palouse, and the rest of
7 dry-land farming in the Columbia Plateau, has steadily and increasingly specialized in the production of wheat. Nevertheless, some degree of subsistence production continued on farms there until after World War II.6 Though little remains today, this subsistence production has insulated, to the extent of its magnitude, farmers in the regions from the vicissitudes of markets, as it did in the American colonial period.7 In South Australia there was considerable controversy over diversification (Meinig, 1962: 115-123). Farmers were urged to rotate wheat with other crops. Rape, peas, and various legumes were mentioned that could be utilized with livestock. Sheep were mentioned most often, but others, including dairy and beef cattle, swine, and poultry, were advised. Farmers also were encouraged to plant olive and fruit trees. It was said that a more diversified operation could more effectively employ farm women and children. Such diversification would obviously result in greater self-sufficiency and less reliance upon the market for wheat. Proponents of diversification seemed to have a model in mind, as stated by Meinig: When the critics of South Australian frontier farming insisted upon the superior merits of a "small farm well tilled" in contrast to what they saw around them, they were evoking the image of an old ideal: the small, freehold farm of the sturdy, independent yeoman; worked by the family which it in turn supported from its own produce of field, garden, orchard, woodlot, and livestock; yielding a modest surplus from a variety of crops carefully planted and tended. It was a concept based upon the rich heritage of a deeply-rooted European peasantry, emancipated and up-graded by the social and economic changes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, idealized by the utopian social philosophers of the most recent century, and ardently embraced by the theorists who half a century before had conceived the very idea of a South Australia (1959: 120). In this controversy, the effects of cheap land (arising from the land policies previously described) and the high cost of labor seemed instead to lead to an intensive specialization in wheat production. When the fertility of the land waned, settlers would abandon that land and move on to new land on the frontier. Callaghan and Millington (1956: 196)
8 describe this pattern as a phase of "pioneering" agriculture. This was followed by a system of "temporary" agriculture characterized by a monoculture of wheat which resulted in soil depletion, reduced yield, and soil erosion. They advocated a "permanent" system of diversification of crops and livestock. Farmers, however, apparently viewed the specialization in wheat as more profitable. This may have been a situation where specialization resulted in higher returns, but came with higher risk, as opposed to lower risk and returns that might have come with diversification. In any case, the literature clearly suggests that early settlers chose to heavily specialize in wheat production. Meinig states: "A much more important general feature of this agriculture was its emphasis upon wheat to the exclusion of All Other crops or activities" (1962: 115). It seems that Australian farmers paid no heed to the critics and continued on this path well into the twentieth century (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 186-205; Dunsdorf, 1956: 322-324), as did farmers later on the Columbia Plateau. Other comparisons of early settlement in Australia and the Columbia Plateau might be mentioned where different solutions to common problems evolved. Fencing was a common problem to both regions, which were both dependent upon draft animals for motive power in the early years. Australian settlers tried slotted posts and rails for fences, but wooden fences were laborious to build, and wood was scarce in many areas. "Live fences" of thorn hedges of various sorts were suggested, but they were laborious to construct, took a long time to mature, and no really successful plants were found for the Australian climate. The answer came with wooden posts and smooth iron wire (Meinig, 1959: 207; Meinig, 1962: 101-103). In the United States, Bessemer steel barbed wire had been invented in 1873, and this with wooden posts came to be the solution in the Columbia Plateau. In later years, when some farmers ran hogs in the stubble after harvest, hog wire was added to these fences. Housing and domestic water were other problems. On the Columbia Plateau, the simple frame, box house was built by most farmers. Thought much of the terrain had no trees, lumber from mills in adjacent regions, like North Idaho and western Oregon and Washington, could easily be shipped into the region. In Australia, the local stone, which was widely available, was the principal building material along with imported, corrugated iron sheets for roofs. Water run-off from these roofs was accumulated for domestic use in
9 rainwater tanks. On the Columbia Plateau, steel windmills were used to pump water from the wells. Windmills were an important innovation which had been introduced from the Plains, and did not reach Australia until considerably later (Meinig, 1959: 207). Transportation and Marketing The development of markets and transportation played key roles in the growth of wheat production in the Pacific Northwestern United States and Australia. At the time of settlement in the nineteenth century, both regions were located 15,000 miles or more from the center of the world market for wheat in Liverpool. By this time ocean shipping was relatively cheap. Average freight rates for Australia in 1905 were $0.14 per bushel to Great Britain, and $0.17 per bushel for the Pacific Northwest (Shepherd, 1975: 262). These were rates that wheat farmers could bear. Both regions benefited from a worldwide secular decline in ocean freight rates from 1870 to 1914. In the latter year, the Pacific Northwest also benefited from completion of the Panama Canal. By contrast, inland transport was very expensive and formed a barrier to settlement and the commercial development of agriculture at the beginning of settlement. It was essential to break through this barrier of high inland transport costs if these areas were to produce for the world market in wheat. Wagon transportation over early crude roads was inordinately expensive. It was perhaps fifteen to twenty times what railroad and inland water (river and canal) rates were once these forms of transportation became established in the United States (North, 1983: 104). In both countries, agriculture was initially stimulated by gold mining. It was one thing to furnish isolated mining camps with foodstuffs by pack-train and wagon at rates as high as $1.42 per ton-mile (Winther, 1950; Wright, 1961).8 It was another to competitively enter world markets. The first breakthrough of this barrier of high inland transport costs in the Pacific Northwest came on rivers (canals played almost no role with some minor exceptions of portage canals around the falls in the Columbia River). As had occurred in the American Midwest,9 agricultural production began before the first building of railroads, and some wheat from the Pacific Northwest (probably from the Willamette Valley) entered world markets in 1868. However, the story is somewhat different in the Columbia Plateau because of the topography and the establishment of railroads in other parts of the country
10 before this region was opened to settlement. The region is naturally endowed with two large navigable rivers, the Columbia and the Snake. These rivers served as highways for travel for Native Americans and for early white explorers. In several places, the elevation of the bordering land is substantially higher than the level of the rivers. This is true for the Columbia-Deschutes Plateau and for the western part of the Horse Heaven Hills above the Columbia. Much of the eastern Palouse and Camas Prairie adjacent to the Snake are 2,000 feet or more above the river in the lower Snake River canyon. In order to reach water transportation, wheat had to be hauled down steep roads, chuted, or carried by tramway to the river from these higher elevations. As a consequence, water did play some early role in transporting wheat to market from the region. However, it was the railroads that played the more important role in lowering the barrier of high inland transport costs. Construction on the first railroad in the region was started in 1872; it was completed from Walla Walla to Wallula (a thirty-mile distance) on the Columbia River in 1875. The first two transcontinentals (the Northern Pacific and the forerunner to the Union Pacific, the Oregon Short Line and the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company) arrived in the mid-1880s. From then until early in the twentieth century, branch lines were extended into the wheat-producing areas, greatly lowering costs of transportation to market, and raising prices received by farmers. River transport both supplemented and competed with the railroads, but competition from railroads virtually ended water transportation on the middle and upper Columbia River by World War I. From then until the late 1930s, railroads were the common form of transportation for agriculture of the region. Since World War II, a combination of truck-water transport has contributed to the reduction of the role of railroads in the region's agriculture. In recent years, many of the branch lines have been abandoned and the tracks pulled up. The Milwaukee Road is gone, and the Burlington Northern (resulting from the merger of the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern Railroads) and the Union Pacific are reducing their services within the region and shifting their attention to the longer hauls. Unlike the Pacific Northwest, Australia has few navigable rivers for inland water transportation.10 And unlike the United States, the state governments played a much larger role in building and planning the railroads in the Australian wheat belt. Even though the contrasts are substantial, the general outcome was the same. The railroad
11 provided the breakthrough to reduce high inland transport costs. Despite some earlier private attempts at financing railroads, the states stepped in and built the railroads that served the wheat-growing areas. The first steam-operated railroad line in Australia was completed from Sydney to Parramatta in 1855. Gradually, lines were extended into the wheat-growing areas (Gunn, 1989: 45). In South Australia, where the wheat-lands are unusually close to the sea, railroad construction began in 1870, and nearly 100 miles were completed in that year, including lines from Roseworthy to the Burra and from Port Wakefield to Hayleton (Meinig, 1962: 130-131). From Adelaide and other smaller ports, lines were built into the wheat-growing areas.11 In South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria, feeder lines were built through zones approximately thirty miles wide (Dunsdorfs, 1956: 214; Meinig, 1959: 210). This left wagon haulage of no more than fifteen miles to any railroad, such a distance being believed to be economic for normal prices of wheat, though Meinig (1962: 136) says that most freight was drawn from a belt ten miles wide. Economy in construction resulted in some outcomes that may not have been efficient in the longer run. These included building narrow gauge roads, horsetramways, and the use of light-rails with little ballast that resulted in a complex of lightweight, low capacity lines (Meinig, 1962: 156). This would mean slower trains, which would obviate the need for fences along the railroad right-of-way because animals could more easily get out of the way. Government planning meant that political factors played an important role in locating the lines, and may have resulted in a less efficient pattern than if dictated solely by economic considerations. Railroad building came to an end for many years in South Australia in 1884 with drought, depression, and a halt to the expansion of the frontier (Meinig 1962: 152). Even so, Dunsdorfs states "that railways became important for the wheat-growing industry of Australia in the eighties" (1956: 212). In contrast to Australia, Meinig offers the opinion that private financing and building the railroads in the Pacific Northwest resulted in some waste due to duplicate facilities and services (1959: 209-210). He believes that the benefits of competition were not worth the resources used to build the duplicate capacity. In some areas, too, it was more a case of settlement following the railroads, rather than the reverse. The railroads, financed largely by bonds sold to eastern and foreign investors, had an exceptionally
12 strong incentive to promote rapid settlement and agricultural development in order to secure freight earnings to pay the interest on those bonds. The Northern Pacific, having received the most generous land grant, advertised its properties at bargain prices. They also engaged in advertising and traveling exhibits to lure settlers. This most likely was a factor influencing the rather rapid settlement of the Columbia Plateau. During the earlier years of wheat farming in both regions, and for the World Trade in wheat in general, the wheat was shipped in jute (or "gunny") sacks. Ships did not take wheat in bulk because of possible spoilage of the entire cargo if any got wet. Wheat in bulk was more likely to be damaged by heat and humidity. It also might shift in the hold and change the balance of the ship, or choke the bilge pumps (Dunsdorfs, 1956: 68). The wheat trade, centered in Liverpool, required the sacking of any wheat which crossed the equator for these reasons.12 Many ports, too, did not permit the delivery of wheat in bulk. Though the cost savings in bulk handling (especially of labor) were obvious, they required an entire infrastructure ranging from harvesting operations to storage facilities to railroads and shipping. Although some attempts were made at bulk handling as early as the 1920s, it did not come generally to both regions until the time of World War II. In the Columbia Plateau, patterns of urban and regional growth clearly reflected the routes of the transcontinental railroads in the 1880s. Once the Northern Pacific was completed across the Rocky Mountains and began to expand into the northern parts of the Columbia Plateau, Spokane Falls quickly grew into the largest city in the region. As long as the old Oregon Trail route (traversed by the Oregon Short Line and the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company--both later acquired by the Union Pacific) remained the principal route into the region, the focus of development was on Walla Walla. With the ease of access to the north, expansion of settlement through the remaining lands suitable for farming in the northern Palouse and the Big Bend areas of the Columbia Plateau came more quickly. Spokane became and remains the region's main urban center, eclipsing Walla Walla in size, and economic and political importance. In the Columbia Plateau, smaller towns emerged as local agricultural service centers. Many in the more densely settled parts of the regions were about ten miles apart, a distance influenced by the slower horse-and-wagon transportation of the time. There was little government involvement on town location, though terrain and transportation,
13 especially the railroads, had considerable impact. Some towns were successful and viable; others were not. Some grew, some stagnated, and others disappeared. There usually was speculation over urban land in the formative years. Later, with the rise of the automobile and better roads, farmers could travel longer distances to town, and some of the smaller towns declined or died at the expense of larger urban centers. The pattern of urbanization in the Australian wheat belt was significantly influenced by government, and therefore sharply different from the Columbia Plateau. In South Australia, the policy was to establish at least one town within every "hundred" (a block of approximately 100 square miles). If served by a railroad line, the town would likely grow as a collection center for wheat shipments. If bypassed, it would more likely stagnate or decline. Sales of town-site land were by cash auction conducted by the government. Hence, speculators did not initially reap the economic rents due to location. A pattern was generally established which consisted of a central rectangular business district, a parkland belt, a perimeter of residential and suburban lots, and radial access roads (Meinig, 1959: 211). As agricultural service centers, these towns in the Columbia Plateau and in Australia had the usual merchants of consumer goods and services. Implement foundries and blacksmiths would produce and repair farm machinery and tools. One universal aspect was the flour mill. Every small town had at least one flour mill, and larger towns and cities had several (Dunsdorfs, 1956: 215-216). A significant portion of the wheat crop was milled and shipped as flour. Perhaps this was due in part to lower transportation costs of shipping the processed product. Perhaps it was due to market forces. Flour was produced for domestic use and also was exported. Early flour exports from the Pacific Northwest went primarily to Ireland, Canada, Asian countries, and California. Until 1900, California was a surplus wheat-producing area, so it is likely that these early shipments were re-exported. After 1900, California became a deficit area as the Central Valley shifted away from wheat production, and it became the largest domestic market for Pacific Northwest wheat (Davis, 1934: 365-366, 389-390). The birth, growth to maturity, and decline and death of the flour milling industry in small towns in the wheat-producing areas has largely been ignored in the literature of the Pacific Northwest and Australia. In the United States and Australia, the flour milling
14 industry has moved to large mills in the larger cities to produce flour for domestic use. Exports consist solely of wheat. The Mechanization of Wheat Production The settlement of the Australian wheat belt and the Columbia Plateau coincided with the mechanization and substitution of other sources of power for human effort. Wayne Rasmussen has called these developments the basis of the first great wave of productivity advance in Modern agriculture (1962).13 This process was both a substitution of capital (machines and draft animals) for labor, and a process of technological change. Later, steam power, and then the internal combustion engine, began to be substituted for animal power. It is clear that some of this early, rapidly changing technology was borrowed and adapted to each region. Some, however, originated in each region. Early wheat production in both countries began with the labor-intensive practices of hand sowing, hoeing, and harvesting with the cradle and flail. There are examples in each region of early settlers using these older methods. However, in view of the rapid invention of animal-powered machinery, this soon changed. The steel or chilled-iron moldboard plow, spiked-tooth harrows, and mechanical drills (seeders) were rapidly adopted. These were implements that originated mainly in the American Midwest and were subsequently used in Australia and the Columbia Plateau. Horses were a common source of motive power in both regions. However, mules came into widespread use in the Columbia Plateau. They were favored by some farmers because they better withstood the heat. As a consequence, their market value was generally higher. Oxen were commonly used in Australia, but no record is found of them in the Columbia Plateau. Oxen may have been preferred in the early days in Australia because they pull more steadily, and were therefore less likely to damage the early, more fragile implements (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 301). They also can forage better than horses, the cows can be milked, and they can be used for meat. So their costs as draft animals were lower. They also may have been more useful in clearing land. For all these reasons they found favor in Australia, especially in the early years of settlement. The hilly terrain of the Columbia Plateau favored the faster, longer-legged horse or mule.
15 Most of the early plowing and seeding in the Columbia Plateau was done by eight-horse or mule teams. Plows usually had two moldboards, and the driver stood or rode in a seat mounted on the plow. The same process took place in Australia. The double moldboard plow was substituted for the old single moldboard "footburner." With time, more "bottoms" (a moldboard and share) were added along with more horses to pull the plow. The size of the plow was eventually limited by the number of horses the driver could control. Up to eight bottoms were observed (Dunsdorfs, 1956: 153-154). Obviously, the greater the capacity of the plow, the greater was the labor saving. One unique Australian implement was the stump-jump plow invented in 1876 independently by Richard B. Smith and C. H. Smith, together, and by J.W. Stott (Pike, 1962: 114; Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 317-321). In clearing the mallee scrub, it was not economical to remove all roots for the conventional plow. Being hinged at the beam, any one bottom of the stump-jump plow was devised to rise vertically out of the ground when it hit an immovable obstacle like a root. A weight mounted on an extension to the beam exerted pressure on the plow to then return to its original position in the ground. A hitch was devised to equalize the pull on each moldboard, so that any bottom rising out of the ground was able to do so without markedly affecting the overall draft. Thus this plow took conventional tillage technology and adapted it to Australian conditions. One of the cultivation practices that came to be commonly used in both the Columbia Plateau and the Australian wheat belt was summer fallowing--cropping the land every other year with a year of fallow in between. Early settlers in both regions generally sowed wheat in the spring and cropped the land each year. As yields began to decline, they turned to fallowing. Today, we understand that the reason for fallowing is to build up moisture and nitrates for the following year. Moisture, especially, is a limiting factor in low rainfall areas. This was a practice that began in antiquity and it was universally known. It began to be used in the Columbia Plateau in the late 1870s (Meinig, 1968: 318), and in Australia from early settlement onward (Dunsdorfs, 1956: 195). In both regions, the percentage of land fallowed rose over time (for Australia, Dunsdorfs, 1956: 142). The problem with fallowing is that weeds tend to proliferate during the fallow year. During the early years of fallowing, they came to be an increasingly acute problem. Weeds such as Jim Hill mustard and Russian thistle, and
16 others--mostly of European or Asian origins--would grow in the fallow, mature, and go to seed. The following year these weeds would infest the wheat. This problem was met by cultivation, but efficient cultivators did not exist in the beginning. In the Columbia Plateau, farmers used a weed skinner, or slicker rod--a stationary bar that was attached to an above-ground framework. The bar was then pulled several inches under the surface of the soil in order to tear out the weeds. It did not perform well. The bar would tend to plug with weeds, and it was difficult to keep it in the ground. In searching for a solution, the Cheney Weeder Company of Spokane invented the rod-weeder around 1920. This implement had a ground-powered, square rod which turned several inches below the surface and uprooted weeds as it was pulled through the ground. This implement, another invention meeting a regional problem, has spread in use throughout summerfallowing areas. Both Australia and the American West made important and unique contributions to the rapid development of harvesting technology that was occurring worldwide.14 The invention of the reaper by McCormick and Hussey, and of stationary threshers, led the way. The reaper's descendent--the binder together with stationary threshers--was used early in both regions. However, the idea of the stripper, conceived by John W. Bull and built by John Ridley in 1843 was uniquely Australian. The stripper did not have a cutter bar. Rather it had a metal "comb" which stripped (or broke) the heads off the stalk, and a beater which performed the threshing function. The shattered heads then were dumped onto a pile at the edge of the field and shoveled into winnower (a kind of separator) that separated the chaff and cobs from the kernels. The original stripper was pushed by two horses, but later they were developed to be drawn by three or four horses with the stripper to the right of the hitch in order that the horses would walk in the stubble, instead of through the standing grain. Strippers cut a four or five-foot swath and were rather small and light, which proved advantageous on sandy mallee soils (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 337-343). The stripper proved to be a rather simple machine that could be built in small factories throughout the wheat belt. Using the stripper was still a labor-intensive operation, however, and there were economic pressures to save further labor. The origins of the combined harvester are rather obscure. Some sources say it was first built in Michigan, and further developed in
17 California in reaction to labor scarcity and high wages there. It was the product of attaching a header (another descendent of the reaper) to a threshing machine mounted on wheels and pulled by a team of horses. Hence the term "combined harvester," or "combine," as it has come to be known. The Australian combined harvester was independently developed thereby combining a stripper and winnower. After a number of experiments by others, Hugh Victor McKay successfully demonstrated it in 1885. In following years, he made improvements and it became widely adopted in Australia. McKay also exported many to Argentina in the early twentieth century. At about the same time as McKay was developing his combined harvester, the American combined harvester was beginning to be produced in California to work in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Valleys (the Central Valley). One manufacturer in particular, Benjamin Holt of Stockton, California, was of great importance to the Columbia Plateau. The combines made by Holt in the 1880s were designed for the flat land of the Central Valley, and were not suitable to the hilly terrain of the Pacific Northwest. There the usual harvesting method was to employ "stationary outfits." These consisted of using headers to mow and reap the wheat which was transferred by a draper conveyer to header wagons that drove beside the header. The header wagons then hauled the mowed wheat to a stationary thresher which was powered by a steam tractor. Learning of a potential new market for combines, Holt devised a combine which would operate on a hillside. A rack and gear kept the body of the combine vertical by pivoting it on the axle and wheels which followed the contour of the ground. The hillside combine offered a potentially large saving in labor, but it was not an immediate success. The first ones were heavy and cumbersome on the hills, and they were ground-powered, which meant they were required to be pulled by large teams of horses or mules. As many as fifty animals were used. Their ability to efficiently perform the threshing and separating functions depended upon maintaining a constant ground speed, which was difficult to do. After the turn of the century, gasoline engines were installed to run the machinery of the combine and substitute for ground power. Because of lower power requirements to pull the machine, they required smaller teams. Manpower requirements fell from an average of twenty men needed to operate a stationary outfit, to five or six to run the combine. The major shift to
18 hillside combines occurred between 1905 and 1920. After that, it was rare to see a stationary outfit in operation (Shepherd, 1975: 266). During this time, animals provided the source of motive power for combines and other implements. Steam tractors were used to pull implements on level land in such places as the Central Valley in California, and the Red River Valley in Minnesota and North Dakota. They were used in the Columbia Plateau to power stationary threshers, but because of their fuel and water requirements, and their inability to operate on the hilly terrain of the Columbia Plateau, they never proved useful there as a mobile source of power. When gasoline wheel tractors began to be developed in the early twentieth century, they, too, proved unsatisfactory on the hills. They did not have enough drawbar horsepower to pull the large combines, nor could they negotiate the hills. The cost savings of tractors over animals was obvious to farmers; they expressed great interest, but no satisfactory tractor existed. The idea of a track-type vehicle in which a set of rails was laid down in front of the machine, picked up behind, and re-laid in a continuous operation was an old idea going back to at least 1770 when R. L. Edgeworth was granted a patent on such an invention in England (Gray, 1954: 40). Many such contraptions were conceived and a number were built in the nineteenth century. However, commercial success, again, was due to the mechanical genius of Benjamin Holt. Responding to the challenge to build a tractor which could operate on the soft peat soils of the Central Valley delta lands, Holt fitted a pair of wooden track units to a steam traction engine. He successfully demonstrated his first track-layer in 1904. In 1906, he installed a gasoline engine on a track-layer and began building a long, successful line of Holt track-laying machines. In addition to agriculture, they began to be used in construction and on the military tank developed just before World War I. In 1910, a son of Holt's long-time rival, Daniel Best (who had sold out to Holt in 1908) organized the C. L. Best Gas Traction Company in San Leandro, California. By 1920, about ten companies were producing track-type tractors. In 1925, Holt and Best merged to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company, another event which was to have important significance for Pacific Northwest wheat farmers. Following 1915, Holt and Best track-layers began to appear on a few farms lying on the more level ground of the region. They were not widely adopted, however, because
19 of other problems. The heavy track-layers were cumbersome and could not cope with the steeper ground of the region. They could not work in the summer fallow because of the dust that would get into the roller bearings and the engine. It was not until the later 1920s that sealed bearings and air cleaners were developed to cope with summer fallow dust. Finally, in 1931, the Caterpillar Tractor Company developed the Diesel 65 for commercial sale. It was powered by a four-cylinder, four-cycle engine governed at 650 r.p.m. In that year, the Company brought a model to Umatilla County near Pendleton, Oregon, for a plowing demonstration. It was an instant success. From then through the mid-1930s, the Caterpillar tractor (and competitive models) rapidly replaced the horse and mule. The adoption occurred despite the fact that this time was the bottom of the GREAT DEPRESSION. In Australia, with its more level terrain, the transition from animal power to tractors was similar to that of the American Midwest, where most of the technological development took place. "Tractors began to replace horses from 1924 onwards in the wheat-farming areas of Australia" (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 309). Pneumatic rubber tires were developed in 1932. They improved the traction and increased the working speed of the wheel tractor, but worsened compaction. Gradually, the tractor replaced horses by the time of World War II. The Australian stripper and the Holt hillside combine and track-layer tractor were the outstanding examples of the mechanization of the agriculture of the two regions. However, the story is one of countless and continuous technical improvements. Technology took somewhat different, but similar, paths. These paths were obviously influenced by local problems and considerations, such as the mallee roots and the sandy soils in Australia, and the hilly terrain of the Columbia Plateau. Borrowing from existing technology took place, such as early harvesting technology and the wheel tractor from the American Midwest. However, the ability of the people in the region to use this technology, to improve upon it, and to contribute new techniques, played an integral role. These technological advances resulted in great increases in labor and capital productivity. New Wheat Varieties
20 The other major sources of technological change in the agriculture of the Australian wheat belt and the Columbia Plateau were the development of new and higher-yielding varieties of wheat, fertilization, and chemical developments that allowed for weed, insect, and fungi control. These form the basis of what Rasmussen has called the second great wave of productivity advance in modern agriculture (1962). Wheat varieties may be obtained by the introduction of strains from other places, by selection of variants which appear in commercial crops, or by purposeful crossbreeding (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 260). In the beginning, of course, early farmers in both regions planted varieties brought from elsewhere. In Australia, most of the varieties were brought from England, though later some were introduced from other places, importantly India and South Africa. The English varieties were not well suited to the Australian climate and soils. They tended to mature late and were injured by the dry climate before they ripened. White Lammas was the leading variety before 1860, but there were many others, such as Red Straw, White Tuscan, Golden Drop, and Goldsmith. Dunsdorfs (1956: 147) lists fifty-six varieties that were grown in 1868. Popular varieties grown in the Columbia Plateau in the early years were Little Club, a white club wheat of Spanish ancestry that had been introduced from California in 1859, and Australian common spring wheat called Pacific Bluestem (Shepherd, 1980: 53-54). Little Club was the most suited to the higher rainfall zones, and Pacific Bluestem to the drier areas where its chief rival, Turkey Red, had been introduced from the Midwest. A number of other varieties were grown, as well, again depending upon the rainfall. The introduction of varieties of wheat from outside the Columbia Plateau also introduced diseases of the wheat plant and a whole host of foreign weeds. The diseases stem from different species of fungi and result in various kinds of rusts, smuts, foot- and root-rots, take-all, and other diseases which damage or destroy the kernels. To achieve disease resistance in a variety of wheat, as well as other desirable characteristics, such as improved yield, winterhardiness, drought resistance, good milling and baking quality, improvement in varieties were developed by selection. This was an important source of improvement in both Australia and the Columbia Plateau. Ordinarily, the wheat plant is self-fertilizing. That is, if a plant of one variety is adjacent to that of another variety, they ordinarily will not cross with one another. Natural crosses, however, do on occasion occur. Genetic
21 variations or mutants also may appear. So the observer may choose plants which seem to have certain desirable characteristics, then increase the output over several seasons, and in this way develop a new variety. Some important earlier varieties, such as Purple Straw (which probably was a field variant selected from English Red Straw) became prominent in Australia (Meinig, 1962: 123). In the 1880s and 1890s, a new phase of experimentation began. In 1881, Dr. Schomburgh, Director of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, introduced seed from the South African variety, DuToit, and distributed it to a number of farmers. One recipient, James Ward in South Australia, chose some plants which were rust-free, and from these he developed a variety called Ward's Prolific. In 1884, the variety, Steinwedel, better adapted to the lower-rainfall areas of South Australia, was developed from an American wheat, Champlain's Hybrid. In 1894, Early Gluyas was developed from a variant of Ward's Prolific. All these varieties became widely grown in Australia (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 260-263). In the same way, varieties in the Columbia Plateau were developed from variants, and some became widely grown there. At the end of the nineteenth century, purposeful wheat-breeding began to supercede selection of fortuitously occurring superior plants (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 264). Hybrids, or crossbreeds, of different wheat varieties may be created by handpollinating one plant with pollen from another. Two individuals stand out in the early efforts at developing new varieties by this method, and the history of wheat breeding in both Australia and the Columbia Plateau has achieved spectacular results during the twentieth century. William Farrer, a Cambridge medical student, emigrated from England to Australia in 1870 after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He began his experimental work in 1889, privately at first, in a search for rust-resistant varieties. Though never successful in breeding a rust-resistant variety, he developed early-maturing varieties with good milling quality by crossing Indian varieties with Canadian Fife. Because they matured early, they tended to escape the rust epidemic. In 1898, Farrer joined the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales. The Governmental Experiment Farms at that time were expected to pay their own way; apparently they were not to depend upon state government subsidization (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 264-278). As a consequence, some of the managers were hostile to Farrer's work. In the
22 beginning, he "was an anomaly in the nineteenth century and was regarded by `practical agriculturalists' at best as a crank and a faddist but more generally as `a humbug and a charlatan'" (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 274). In view of the obstruction and opposition that Farrer received, W. S. Campbell, Director of Agriculture in New South Wales, recommended the establishment of an experimental station at Cowra which would be used exclusively for wheat experiments. It was managed by G. L. Sutton, a young experimentalist who was enthusiastic about Farrer's work in wheat-breeding and also his interest in the development, generally, of sound agricultural practices through scientific study (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 274). Finally, the government fully supported this experimental work which was to have great implications for increased land productivity. In 1901, Farrer released a new variety named Federation to mark the foundation of the Australian Commonwealth. From 1910 to 1925, it was the most extensively grown wheat in Australia. Samples of Federation were sent to the Moro station in Oregon, and released to farmers on the Columbia Plateau in 1920. Federation is a common spring wheat with a facultative growth habit,15 often being planted in the fall. By 1934, it amounted to 13.5 percent of all the wheat produced in Washington State, and it continued to be grown into the 1950s. It also was used extensively in the region's breeding program. Today, Farrer's work lives on through Federation as an ancestor to many of the wheat varieties that were later developed in both Australia and the Columbia Plateau, including many that are grown today (Shepherd, 1980: 56). After Farrer's death in 1906, wheat breeding was continued in New South Wales and the other Australian states by his successors, giving Australia world leadership in this field (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 273-277). Another major figure who attained widespread recognition in wheat breeding at about this time was William J. Spillman. The establishment of agricultural experiment stations at the Pacific Northwest's land grant colleges began at Pullman, Washington, in 1891, and at Moscow, Idaho, in 1892. Oregon State began fieldwork in Eastern Oregon at Moro in 1899, and later at Pendleton (Shepherd, 1980: 54-55). The Pullman station took the lead in wheat breeding under Spillman, who was hired at Pullman in 1894. Spillman attempted to discover the theoretical explanations for the behavior of hybrids by studying how the various traits continued over generations of plant crosses. He "showed
23 clearly that traits combined and recombined, rather than blending together, as most scientists believed" (Carlson, 2005: 20). Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, had formulated Mendel's laws of heredity in 1865, but his research was not translated into English until shortly before Spillman began publishing his own research. Mendel's European "rediscoverers" were impressed with Spillman's findings. Though sometimes Spillman is credited with rediscovering Mendel's Laws, this is an overstatement. A reviewer of the relevant literature concluded that he came close to discovering "the fact of segregation" and the "principle of segregation." A later wheat breeder at Pullman, Orville Vogel, stated that he "probably would have formulated their genetic laws if wheat had a simple single set of chromosomes instead of the complicated segregations from among three sets of chromosomes" (Shepherd, 1980: 55). Spillman made his first crosses in 1899. In 1902 he left for a position with the United States Department of Agriculture where he went on to achieve widespread recognition in other fields.16 However, his successors, E. E. Elliot and J. R. Lawrence continued with the work he began. In 1907, they released six club varieties, one of which, Hybrid 128, became the leading variety of club wheat in the region. In 1918 and 1919, it amounted to 11.5 percent of the total crop in Washington, and rose to 13.1 percent in 1929. Four of the hybrids together amounted to nearly twenty percent of the crop in 1918 and 1919. Many other varieties continued to be introduced into the region. Baart, an Australian hard white wheat introduced in 1914, by 1934 comprised twenty percent of all what produced in Washington State (Shepherd, 1980: 55). The wheat-breeding programs continued in both Australia and the Columbia Plateau with good success. The connection between the two regions is obvious from the above discussion. It also was a cooperative activity among breeders. One particular success story illustrates this. In 1949, Orville A. Vogel at Pullman received a collection of short-strawed varieties of wheat that had been observed and collected in Japan by S. C. Salmon, a U.S.D.A. research scientist serving in an advisory capacity to McArthur's occupational government after World War II. Vogel saw one, Norin 10, which had considerable promise. Despite many technical problems, he crossed it with Brevor, a popular variety at that time, and one that he earlier had developed. In 1953, he sent some selections to Norman E. Borlaug, head of the Rockefeller breeding program in Mexico. From Vogel's Selection 14, Borlaug went on to breed the varieties that served as the
24 foundation for the wheat portion of the green revolution, and for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. These semi-dwarf varieties have spread around the world, and raised yields to new and higher levels. Other Developments and Issues in Wheat Production Higher yields were due to the development of new and higher-yielding varieties, and also to the use of chemicals to control weeds and diseases, and the widespread use of commercial fertilizers. The use of the herbicide, 2,4-D, became widespread in the postWorld War II period. Since then, other and more effective systemic herbicides and fungicides have been developed and are widely used today. The application of commercial fertilizers in the Columbia Plateau also has only been widespread after World War II. Here the technology was developed to apply nitrogen fertilizers in the late 1940s. These fertilizers were more efficiently used by the new semi-dwarf varieties when they were released in 1961 (McGregor and Shepherd, 2000). Nitrogen fertilizers also have only been used in Australia since World War II.17 The major exception to this later use of commercial fertilizers, however, came in Australia. Burton states: "Wheat farmers met with serious trouble after 1880, owing to the continuous cropping of their land" (1947: 160). Though summer fallowing helped with regard to the buildup of moisture and nitrogen during the fallow year, it was discovered that Australian soils are naturally deficient in phosphorus.18 Despite earlier fears that superphosphate caused crops to "burn off" (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 103), the use of this fertilizer began to increase toward the end of the nineteenth century. Dunsdorfs gives evidence that of the total area cropped in 1910-1911, over eighty percent was "manured" in South Australia, though it was somewhat less in Victoria and New South Wales (1956: 199). This figure includes natural manure and commercial fertilizers (mostly superphosphate), but the trend was toward the declining use of the former and the greater use of the latter. Initially, early settlers in Australia believed that the use of natural manure or superphosphate would damage the soil or the following crops. Similarly, the early advice of agronomists in the 1930s to farmers in the Columbia Plateau was that the use of nitrogen fertilizers might damage crops because of limited moisture (McGregor and Shepherd, 2000). The reluctance to use commercial fertilizers
25 was first overcome by Australian farmers who used superphosphate in the early twentieth century. One important issue that did not emerge with early settlers in either Australia or the Columbia Plateau was soil conservation. Both regions have problems with wind and water erosion. Callaghan and Millington state: Extensive and expanding export markets coincided with the early development of Australian agriculture, and this, together with the plentiful supply of good land, postponed for an unduly long time the realization that there must be a proper system of land use. Farmers and pastoralists alike were too busy reaping easy rewards to worry about the long-term effects on the soil or its vegetation. This exploitation was made more vicious by the comparative ease of acquiring new lands, so that a purely temporary system of agriculture followed in the wake of our pioneers (1956: 194). Dunsdorfs speaks of increasing wind erosion in Victoria and South Australia, and water erosion in New South Wales and Queensland (1956: 205). In the 1950s, a rotation of crops which included legumes that could be used for pasture and hay for livestock once again was recommended to Australian farmers (Callaghan and Millington, 1956: 186205). At about this same time, farmers in the Columbia Plateau were urged to plant "green manure" crops of sweet clover and Austrian peas. All this sounded like the exhortations of early critics of South Australian farming, and of William J. Spillman to Columbia Plateau farmers in the 1890s. Dunsdorfs reports some increase in livestock, especially sheep, on Australian wheat farms between the mid-1930s and the mid-1940s (1956: 308). However, this advice to farmers of the Australian wheat belt and the Columbia Plateau has not only been ignored, but farms have become increasingly specialized and commercialized in the production of wheat. In the Columbia Plateau, despite the hilly terrain, erosion was a minor problem in the early years of cultivation because a high level of accumulated organic matter was in the soil, and summer fallowing was not widespread. Erosion worsened in the 1920s and 1930s as the organic matter diminished, and summer fallowing increased. The problem was worsened by moldboard plowing and a series of summer cultivations that left the soil
26 in a fine "dust mulch." The newly seeded hills were then left bare over the winter when most precipitation occurs. To make matters worse, farmers typically burned the stubble after harvest, or the following spring, as an easy way to deal with crop residues. Some farmers also thought burning helped control weeds by burning the seed that lay among the crop residues (Shepherd, 1985). A few far-sighted agronomists voiced their concern as early as 1910, and the concern mounted on the part of regional agricultural scientists in the 1920s. The first organized effort to promote soil conservation in the United States came in 1933 with the establishment by the federal government of the Soil Erosion Service (which became the Soil Conservation Service in 1935, and was renamed the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 1994). In Australia, concern about erosion began during World War II, and since 1945 has been addressed by the soil conservation services of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, and by the federal government. Agricultural scientists in both regions have found "it difficult to persuade the `practical farmer' that soil conservation practices were not merely another peculiar and troublesome fad of the theorist" (Shaw, 1967: 296). Economic pressures, and the difficulty of taking long-range views, especially by tenant farmers, have not always resulted in the employment of the best conservation practices. Summary and Conclusions There are many similarities in the stories of the settlement and development of agriculture in Australia and the Columbia Plateau. Both regions have been transformed from supplying demand for wheat from domestic sources, like the gold rushes in the 1850s and 1860s, to becoming major exporters in world wheat markets. Many of these export markets are in Asia where the soft white wheat grown in Australia and the Columbia Plateau are preferred for various flatbreads and noodles. The early trend toward producing flour in small mills in the wheat-growing regions for domestic use and exports is gone. The flour mills are now at the places of destination. The comparative study of two similar regions, producing the same crop (albeit, one of the world's major food staples throughout history) provides valuable insights into the process of economic growth and development. More often, we see the comparison of dissimilar settler economies, such as between developed and underdeveloped areas, like
27 the United States and Latin American countries (Engerman and Sokoloff, 1997). However, comparisons of more similar areas may offer lessons, too (Lloyd, 1998). What have we learned? Much of the progress of Australia and Columbia Plateau farming came through technological change. Some of the stories that emerge from this comparison portray big breakthroughs. The track-layer tractor and hillside combine in the Columbia Plateau, the stripper and the stump-jump plow in Australia, and the new and higher-yielding varieties of wheat in both regions are spectacular examples. But the story also is one of countless and continuous small improvements of technique, of complex interactions among many technical and economic factors, the adaptation of existing technology and development of informal best practices, and formal research. The comparison between Australian and Columbia Plateau wheat farming shows that people in both regions borrowed from existing technology. Callaghan and Millington make the following statement: In the process of developing methods to suit the soils, climate, and economic conditions of the Australian wheat belt, techniques and scientific knowledge were derived from the Old World. Many of the current farm practices and their underlying principles, however, were developed independently in Australia and owe nothing to overseas inspiration (1956: 1). The latter statement is too strong. Also, they might have included the United States and Canada with the Old World. Neither Australia nor the Columbia Plateau developed within an isolated world. Knowledge flowed in all directions.19 Having no comprehensive theory of technological change, the economist usually takes it as given, or as exogenous. However, the comparison of Australian and Columbia Plateau agriculture shows that technological change itself is produced, and serves as an input into production. Clearly, economic pressures lay behind these advances and the dramatic improvements in productivity they created. The effect of government policies and economic institutions created differences in the pattern and speed of settlement, the development of cheap inland transportation, and the financing of agricultural research. Governments in both regions followed policies of disposition of the land to private individuals. Though not a topic of this paper, development in both regions took place within a market economy and a system of private
28 property rights. Consequently, individuals had strong incentives to pursue their own economic interests in a way that was socially productive. It was this, together with the endowments of natural resources and innovative technological change which dominated, and raised Australian and Columbia Plateau agricultural productivity to levels which are at the forefront of the world today Notes 1 Lloyd (1998) notes the neglect of COMPARATIVE STUDIES of Australia and the United States. Other recent studies concern issues of interest in such comparisons (Altman, 2003; Fogarty, 1981; McCarty, 1972; Sharp, 1955; and Wynn, 1983) 2 See Meinig (1968) for an excellent discussion of the geography and history of the Columbia Plateau. See also, McGregor (1982) and Shepherd (1975). 3 Meinig, (1959: 212). Goyder's Line of Rainfall was an attempt by the Surveyor-General of South Australia, G. W. Goyder, to define the margin between land suitable for cultivation and that useful only for pastoral purposes (Meinig, 1962: 45-46). 4 Most of these earlier settlers were going to the Willamette Valley in western Oregon. 5 The speed of settlement also had much to do with the development of transportation, which shall be discussed in the following section. 6 This is from personal observation. 7 The question of self-sufficiency in food production also is a major historical issue for the Antebellum American South. 8 These rates would be equivalent to a cost of $8.50 to $10.00 to carry a bushel of wheat 240 miles from Walla Walla to Portland, Oregon, around 1870. This obviously would pose an impossible barrier to shipping wheat from the interior to a seaport where it could enter the world market with wheat selling for $1.00 a bushel in Liverpool. 9 Robert Fogel (1965) has made this point that the first breakthrough of high land transportation costs in the American economy came with river and canal transport. 10 Only the Murray River has a reliable flow, and it is too shallow in the summer. It also flows to the sea in a place not suitable for ocean-going transportation, and it does not flow toward the major urban centers of Sydney and Melbourne (Shaw, 1967: 25). 11 See Wadham, et al. (1964: 16) for a historical map of railway expansion in the Australian wheat belt. 12 Note that wheat from the Pacific Northwest had to be shipped around Cape Horn to European or eastern United States destinations until the Panama Canal opened in 1914. 13 The second great wave came in the twentieth century from the breeding of higher-yielding varieties of plants and animals; chemical developments in fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides; and in fertilization.
29 14 The reference to the American West instead of the Columbia Plateau alone is because so much of the technology important to the Columbia Plateau was developed in California. The Stockton connection was of especial importance. See below the discussion of the hillside combine and the track-layer tractor. 15 A facultative wheat is one that can be planted either in the fall or in the spring. A true winter wheat will not mature if planted in the spring. 16 Spillman became a leader in publicizing scientific agriculture. At the U.S.D.A. he became head of the Bureau of Farm Management, and from his role there, he is viewed as a founder of agricultural economics. He continued to promote diversification, believing that farms should rotate crops and integrate livestock into their operation. He applied the law of diminishing returns to the application of commercial fertilizers (Carlson, 2005). 17 There are sixteen elements which provide nutrients to growing plants. Three of the sixteen need not be furnished through commercial fertilizers because they are freely available from the air and water (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen). The other thirteen, which may be provided by fertilizers, are usually grouped into three categories, primary, secondary, and micronutrients. The primary nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Secondary nutrients are calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Micronutrients, which are needed in considerably smaller quantities, are boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. Nitrogen makes up seventy-eight percent of the atmosphere, but it is not directly available from the air. Except for legumes, it must be supplied in compounds which plants can use, such as ammonium nitrate or anhydrous ammonia. Phosphorus is usually applied in the form of salts of phosphoric acid and potassium as sulfates or chlorates of potash (McGregor and Shepherd, 2000: 436). 18 The Columbia Plateau soils, on the other hand, originally had ample phosphorus. It is only in very recent years that farmers there have added phosphorus supplements to their land. 19Note, for example, the above discussions about the development of harvesting technology, tractors, farm implements, and wheat varieties. Clearly some of this technology was borrowed and adapted to both Australian and Columbia Plateau conditions. Also, correspondence pertaining to United States contacts and interaction with the Australian wheat economy might be noted in U.S.D.A. correspondence files in the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. Most of this correspondence regarded the size and condition of the Australian wheat crop and the implications for the world wheat market. Some, correspondence, however, showed the connections between Australian and American wheat growers. For example, see C. W. Marvin, Acting Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., to G. W. Walker, Director, Lindley Walker Wheat Co., Ltd, Sydney, N.S.W., Australia, 20 August 1931. This letter pertained to an increase in the number of Australian wheat growers who were going to attend the International Grain and Hay Show held in Chicago in December 1931. (Correspondence, Department of Agriculture, Record Group 16, Box 1563) References Altman, Morris 2003. "Staple Theory and Export-Led Growth: Constructing Differential Growth," Australian Economic History Review, 43:3. pp. 230-255.
30 Burton, Herbert 1947. "The Growth of the Australian Economy, " in Australia, Grattan, Hartley, ed. Berkeley: California University Press. Callaghan, A. R. and Millington, A. J. 1956. The Wheat Industry in Australia. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Carlson, Laurie Winn 2005. William J. Spillman and the Birth of Agricultural Economics. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. Davis, Joseph S. 1934. "Pacific Northwest Wheat Problems and the Export Subsidy," Wheat Studies of the Food Research Institute, Stanford University, 10:10, pp. 353-426. Dunsdorfs, Edgars 1956. The Australian Wheat-Growing Industry, 1788-1948. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Engerman, Stanley L. and Sokoloff, Kenneth L. 1997. "Factor Endowments, Institutions, and Differential Path of Growth among New World Economies: A View from Economic Historians of the United States," in How Latin America Fell Behind. Haber, Stephen, ed. Stanford, Califonia: Stanford University Press. Fitzpatrick, Brian 1946. The Australian People, 1788-1945. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Fogarty, J. P. 1981. "The Comparative Method and the Nineteenth Century Regions of Recent Settlement," Historical Studies, 76, pp. 412-429. Fogel, Robert W. 1964. Railroads and American Economic Growth; Essays in Econometric History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Gray, R. B. 1954. Development of the Agricultural Tractor in the United States, Part I, Up to 1919 Inclusive. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Engineering Research Branch, Farm Machinery Section, Information Series 107. Gunn, John 1989. Along Parallel Lines; A History of the Railways of New South Wales. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Lloyd, Christopher 1998. "Australian and American Settler Capitalism: The Importance of a Comparison and Its Curious Neglect," Australian Economic History Review, 38:3, pp. 280-305. Lloyd, Christopher and Metzer, Jacob 2005. "Settler Colonization and Societies in History: Patterns and Concepts," paper presented at the 20th International Congress of Historical Sciences, Sydney, 3-9 July. Mann, Charles C. 2005. 1491; New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York: Alfred Knopf.
31 McCarty, J. W. 1972. "Australia as a Region of Recent Settlement in the Nineteenth Century," Australian Economic History Review, 13:2, pp. 148-167. McDonald, A. H. E. 1929. "The Future Development of the Wheat-Growing Industry of Australia," in Condliffe, J. B. ed., Problems of the Pacific, 1929. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. McGregor, Alexander C. 1982. Counting Sheep; From Open Range to Agribusiness on the Columbia Plateau. Seattle: University of Washington Press. McGregor, Alexander C. and Shepherd, James F. 2000. "Fertilization Practices in Pacific Northwest Wheat-Producing Areas," Agricultural History, 74:2, pp. 433-450. McNeill, William H. 1976. Plagues and Peoples. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press. Meinig, Donald W. 1959. Colonization of Wheatlands: Some Australian and American Comparisons," The Australian Geographer, 7:2, pp. 205-213. Meinig, Donald W. 1961. "Goyder's Line of Rainfall: The Role of a Geographic Concept in South Australian Land Policy and Agricultural Settlement," Agricultural History, 35:2, pp. 207-214. Meinig, Donald. W. 1962. On the Margins of the Good Earth; The South Australian Wheat Frontier, 1869-1884. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company. Meinig, Donald W. 1968. The Great Columbia Plain; A Historical Geography, 18051910. Seattle: University of Washington Press. North, Douglass C., et al. 1983. Growth and Welfare in the American Past; A New Economic History. 3rd ed.; Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Pike, Douglas 1957. Paradise of Dissent; South Australia, 1829-1857. London: Longmans, Green and Co. Pike, Douglas 1962. Australia; the Quiet Continent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Price, A. Grenfell 1924. The Foundation and Settlement of South Australia, 1829-1845. Adelaide: F. W Preece. Rasmussen, Wayne D. 1962. "The Impact of Technological Change on American Agriculture, 1862-1962," Journal of Economic History, 22:4, pp. 578-591. Sharp, Paul F. 1955. "Three Frontiers: Some Comparative Studies of Canadian, American, and Australian Settlement," Pacific Historical Review, 24:4, pp. 369-377.
32 Shaw, A.G.L. 1967. A Short History of Australia. New York: Frederick A. Praeger. Shepherd, James F. 1975. "The Development of Wheat Production in the Pacific Northwest," Agricultural History, 49:1, pp. 258-271. Shepherd, James F. 1980. The Development of New Wheat Varieties in the Pacific Northwest," Agricultural History, 54:1, pp. 52-63. Shepherd, James F. 1985. "Soil Conservation in the Pacific Northwest Wheat-Producing Areas: Conservation in a Hilly Terrain," Agricultural History, 59:2, pp. 229-245. Shepherd, James. F. 1988. "British America and the Atlantic Economy," in The Economy of Early America; The Revolutionary Period, 1763-1790, Hoffman, Ronald, et al., eds. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia Press. Stannard, David E. 1992. American Holocaust; Columbus and the Conquest of the New World. New York: Oxford University Press. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Correspondence, Record Group 16, National Archives at College Park, Maryland. Wadham, Samuel, et al. 1964. Wadham and Wood: Land Utilization in Australia. 4th ed.; Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Williams, Hill 2002. The Restless Northwest; A Geological Story. Pullman, Washington: Washington State University Press. Winther, Oscar O. 1950. The Old Oregon Country; A History of Frontier Trade, Transportation, and Travel. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Wright, Edgar W., ed. 1961. Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. New York: Antiquarian Press, Ltd. Wynn, Graeme 1983. "Settler Societies in Geographical Focus," Historical Studies, 80, pp. 353-366.

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