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1874 to 1923: The Early Years

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In the 2nd Annual Report of the Department in June 1874, chemical and mechanical analyses of cores from different geological situations were reported by Mr W. Elvey, the Chemist for Agriculture. A land use survey of part of the Mallee, based on soils work in 1875, used the categories “Useful Mallee”, “Sandy Desert” and “Useless Mallee”. In 1890 the Chemist of the day proposed to draw a map showing the distribution of the soils throughout the Colony”. It appears that funds were not made available and the project was not undertaken.

In 1904 the Chemist M Howell commented on the need to correlate soil analysis with field trials, and, referring to the need for the chemical soil survey of Victoria quoted “20 analysts for 20 years”. However, two years later it was considered at Conference of Agricultural Chemists in Sydney that soil surveys were not feasible at that stage. However, “all field experiments should be conducted with the Agricultural Chemists in regard to design, conduct, interpretations and publication”.

In 1915 a Report by Scott based on soil examination stated that drainage was required to make soils at Tresco suitable for citrus, vines and lucerne. In 1918 a chemical soil survey was carried out at State Research Farm Werribee. In 1923 at a Pan Pacific Congress in Melbourne it was recommended to the Governments of the Pacific Region that work on soil survey be pushed ahead as rapidly as possible and that the physical character of the soil and subsoil be the basis of soil surveys. This followed an inspiring paper by Prof. C. E. Shaw of California (Walbran, 1955).

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