Bush Sickness

The land to the north-east and west prospered, but south of a line stretching across South Waikato the land was often barren and stock withered away with a debilitating disease known as "bush sickness. It was as if by some mysterious curse a blanket had been thrown across the south. The early settlers discovered that pumice land was indeed not the Promised Land. The porous pumice lacked the nutrients that were found in the neighbouring provinces.

The pumice soil lacked the trace element cobalt. It was the lack of this element that caused bush sickness. After the discovery of this trace element deficiency in South Waikato soils, small amounts of cobalt added to fertiliser and the spread of topdressing from about 1937 eliminated bush sickness almost overnight.

Unfortunately, it was a lifetime too late for many who tried in vain to make a living from farming the barren land. However, some survived. Much of the land was converted into plantations of exotic trees such as Pinus Radiata (California Pine) and Canadian Redwood. But by far it was Pinus radiata that dominated the landscape.

For more information on on Pinus Radiata and bush sickness, go to sci.waikato.ac.nz/farm/content/soils.html#bush_sickness