Volume 65: Macarthur-Onslow correspondence, 1846-1929: No. 518

You are here


[Page 518]

May 1, 1929. ]   Agricultural Gazette of N.S.W.    335                 

Miscellaneous Publication, No. 2,732.

   The First Wheat in Australia.



G. P. DARNELL-SMITH, D.Sc., F.I.C., F.C.S., Director of the Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

The first efforts at growing wheat, or corn as it was termed by the first settlers, were made on land which now constitutes part fo the Sydney Botanic Gardens.
The following extracts from the earliest despatches will indicate how dependent was the infant colony upon food from outside, and how difficult was the clearing of land and the raising of wheat around Sydney Harbour.


Sydney Cove, N.S.W.,

Despatch No. 1                                                   15th May, 1788
  We got into Port Jackson early in the afternoon and had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world  .  .  . .  The different coves were examined with all possible expedition.  The necks of land that form the different coves, and near the water for some distance, are in general so rocky that it is surprising that such large trees should find sufficient nourishment, but the soil between the rocks is good, and the summits of the rocks, as well as the whole country round us, with few exceptions, are covered with trees, most of which are so large that the removing them off the ground after they are cut down is the greatest part of the labour  .  .  .  .  The great labour of clearing the ground will not permit more than eight acres to be sown this year with wheat and barley.  At the same time the immense number of ants and field-mice will render our crops very uncertain.


Sydney Cove, N.S.W.,

Despatch No.4.                                                     9th July, 1788.
  Your Lordship will excuse my observing a second time that a regular supply of provisions from England will be absolutely necessary for four or five years, as the crop for two years to come cannot be depended on for more than what will be necessary for seed, and what the "Sirius' may procure can only be to breed from.   
Private letter.                                 Sydney Cove, 9th July, 1788 
     The Lieutenant Governor has about four acres of land in cultivation.  I have from eight to ten in wheat and barley.  The officers will be able to raise sufficient to support the little livestock they have, and which is all that can be expected from them.  All the corn raised this year and the next will be saved for seed, and if necessary should oblige us to use it, it would only be a few days' support for the colony ; and from the rats and other vermin the crops are very uncertain.

                                                    Sydney Cove, Port Jackson,
​ Despatch No. 7.                                28th September, 1788   
         The detachment is now inclosing ground for their gardens, and we have about six acres of wheat, eight of barley, and six acres of other grain, all which, as well as such garden seeds as were not spoiled, promise well, and though the soil is in general of a light sandy nature, it is, I believe, as good as what is

   The extracts contained in this article are taken from the "Historical Records of Australia,"  Vol. 1. Series 1.


This page has its status set to Ready for review and is no longer transcribable.