And to celebrate our connections with the CSIRO, here is a short history of the Samford CSIRO, written by Rollo Beaufort Waite, who worked there for many years.
History of CSIRO Pasture Research Station Samford by Rollo Waite
I am one of few remaining staff who worked for CSIRO on the Samford Commons—the site occupied mainly by the CSIRO Division of Tropical Pastures, but also others from the 1950s onwards. With some of my CSIRO colleagues, I have reviewed and built on the document produced by Geoff Harris and others at the opening of Samford Commons in 2015. This was instigated through Ms Julie Martin who has considerable contact with the organisation. As this dates back some 62 years, we can’t guarantee the absolute accuracy or extent of our recollections.
Rollo Beaufort Waite. 2018.
Before shifting to the Samford Research Station, the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry researchers at Gardens Point (now QUT campus) were in need of a nearby field station. A small area at Redland Bay on The Acclimatisation Society land had been used as a plant Introduction nursery and was moved c.1952 to a few acres on Samsonvale Rd., Strathpine. This site was also used as a pasture legume nursery for plant breeders and the housing of equipment, including a truck and tractor needed for the emerging work of agronomists at Beerwah before that field station was established. .
As part of the Samford Research Station, a dairy farm of 204 acres (82.62 ha) on the eastern side of Mt Samson Road. was purchased from Mr Cyril Gosden or Gosling, c. 1955. This included the original house the first farm manager, Mr Herb Warwick lived in. There were also the cow bails and a large shed which was converted into a farm workshop. This was stage one of the Samford Research Station.
In 1959, the CSIRO Division of Tropical Pastures was formed, with headquarters at the Cunningham Laboratory, Carmody Rd. St Lucia; first chief Dr Jack Griffiths Davies. At this time, stage two of the research station was established through the purchase of an established dairy farm of 431 acres (174.5 ha) from Abraham (Abe) and Laura Campbell. Unfortunately this was controversial in that Campbell refused CSIRO’s offer and his farm was resumed. An article refers to the Campbells being forced to leave their farm at two days’ notice and soon after being granted another two weeks to leave, after accepting what appeared to be a very low settlement price at the time.
I have been unable to ascertain whether the Cash house situated at the top of the hill as you drive in and later demolished was where the Campbells lived. The house opposite the bowling club was on CSIRO land. It had been rented and was occupied by a caretaker employee, Laurie Balfour, for many years. Some years later, a further c. 79 acres (31.9 ha) to the northwest of the eastern farm, was purchased from a Mrs Hendrickson and Mr Donaldson, making a grand total of 714 acres(289.02ha).
Individual field experiments were planted ranging in size from several square metres—perhaps 20–30—up to twenty hectares. These included numbers of replicated plots and were designed to show superiority or otherwise of particular pasture varieties or management treatments.
A major aim of division’s work at Samford was to investigate the potential of improved animal production from beef cattle under intensive grazing management on sown pastures. Two major grazing trials were established in the sixties with various stocking rates, (a) on grass only, plus nitrogen and (b) grass, plus nitrogen or legume. There were small plots for plant introduction and other testing, including the assessment of introduced and/or bred grass and legume cultivars for more extensive work.
The beef herd started as a Poll Hereford stud until around 1990 when issues with heavy infestations of cattle ticks had the program changed to the Belmont Red breed. This was originally developed at CSIRO Rockhampton—a cross—50 per cent Bos Indicus (Afrikander) and 50 per cent Bos Taurus (Hereford/Shorthorn). At the peak of the program, the property was carrying around 300 beef cattle. Steers were trucked in from the CSIRO Narayen Research Station, Mundubbera, with the turn-off target of 450–500 kg weight range, which included those from grazing experiments.
In 1961–62, a dairy complex was established on the eastern farm, including a herd of forty Jersey cows. There was a small laboratory, an office, milking bails and a feed shed. This work was aimed at evaluating various factors associated with the dairy industry—for example, milk composition and yield and grazing behaviour.
Several glasshouses were built from the early sixties onwards mostly for growing tropical grass and legume species, also lucerne, for experiments and seed production. The largest of these, built in the early 1980s, had individual rooms which could be temperature–controlled and regulated to mimic the length of day. The purpose of this glasshouse was to produce seed of experimental cultivars without fear of genetic contamination with pollen from outside or other rooms.
CSIRO Animal Physiology Division, later Animal Nutrition, established a large complex to the northwest as you enter the west block, mainly for animal nutrition studies. It had provision for pen feeding, a large shed, an animal operating theatre and a laboratory.
A seed store was built in brick, situated on the left as you progress along the roadway through the now Samford Commons. This was for the preservation of seed, mainly of introduced grasses and legumes within species considered to have potential merit as pasture plants in Australia—included scores of accessions of many species from various geographic areas.
A number of ex-army huts—possibly rescued from demolition at the Enoggera Barracks—were erected as staff facilities and, although meant to be temporary, remain today. One of these was used as a rat facility for the testing of various potential pasture plants for toxicity.
The Division of Soils built a facility for experiments regarding the permeability of soil samples, included a building and a rainfall simulation tower, situated on the west farm on the left before crossing Samford Creek.
About 1968, a new farm manager’s house was built on the east block, halfway up the hill as you proceed along the road from that entrance. The original house was demolished and Herb Warwick moved in. He was followed by Gordon Sheaffe, Jack Biggs, Peter Grant and Geoff Bunch.
A small airstrip was built in the sixties. This was an emergency for light aircraft and some limited aerial fertilizer application on the station and around the district. It was located on the eastern block, across Samford Creek, in a bend of the South Pine River.
The CSIRO Division of Forestry carried out research on hoop and slash pine on the eastern farm, using some of the abandoned dairy facilities and building a workshop. A small plantation of Eucalyptus grandis was planted for plant nutrition and other studies.
I have written an article: “The glory days of CSIRO at Samford”, which deals with the impact on the Samford district of the CSIRO in general and the Division of Tropical Pastures in particular. Here are some extracts, which round off this article, with particular reference to the Division of Tropical Pastures.
The CSIRO Pasture Research Station—one square mile of it—provided the heart and lungs to Samford from 1955 onwards. Although much is residential, some has been maintained by the Moreton Bay Shire Council as The Samford Commons—a monument to CSIRO pastures research in Queensland. My Samford connection is due entirely to being a CSIRO employee from 1951–94, working on the research station and living 1966–2002, at 301 Mount Glorious Road.
Pasture research involves testing species for adaptation and establishment, quality/quantity of forage, palatability, grass/legume compatibility, persistence under grazing, and finally animal live–weight–gain.
The Division of Tropical Pastures flourished with a mostly applied research capability. It hosted the International Grassland Congress, Surfers Paradise, in 1970. Despite funding problems it continued, but was closed 2000. There were five chiefs over the years—Doctors J G Davies, E M Hutton, E F Henzell, R J Clements and E Heij.
Fifty years quickly passes. Now all that remains of the sweat, dreams and bonhomie of our working and living together in CSIRO is recorded in scientific journals and reports. The field stations remain as archaeological relics.
I am proud to have been a small part of this body of research. So in the sunset of my life, I remember those old places I knew so well (Samford and Mundubbera). One thing is for sure, wherever CSIRO has been, there are familiar plants to remind me that once I was there.
Remember the CSIRO and its impact on the Samford Valley.
Rollo Waite 3/08/2017