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History of local gem

History of local gem

The history of one of the world’s most sought after grasses is unfurled in a new book that has been published by Canterbury University Press (CUP) this month.

Akaroa Cocksfoot: King of grasses, written by historical geographer Vaughan Wood, explores the reason why the plant is so special, its history and why the grass has made a global impact.

Akaroa cocksfoot was only harvested from Banks Peninsula. At the height of the seed industry, around the turn of the 20th century, it was one of the most significant industries in Canterbury, earning more than $10 million per annum. Now the industry has entirely disappeared from Banks Peninsula, although newer cocksfoot cultivars are still used for commercial seed production in New Zealand.

Dr Wood says cocksfoot is a versatile, hardy grass that occupied much of the Western world.

“Akaroa cocksfoot became the premium cocksfoot grass seed by giving a more permanent pasture with better year-round growth than the competing cocksfoot grasses of the day.

“The payoff was, potentially, a very long term one for those choosing it. Consumers were amenable to choosing quality over cost,” he says.

The book explores the pioneering local industry, following the journey taken by the seed from the growing crop to the traded commodity.

“Readers will learn how and why Akaroa cocksfoot so quickly became one of the most sought after grass seeds in international markets.

“The book is the fullest exploration of the history of Akaroa cocksfoot, and also of international cocksfoot seed markets in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,” he says.

The book is based on research carried out both within New Zealand and internationally.

About the author:
Vaughan Wood is a historical geographer with a long standing interest in the agricultural history of New Zealand during the 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a contributor to Rural Canterbury: Celebrating its history (Daphne Brasell Associates and Lincoln University Press, 2001), Seeds of Empire: The Environmental Transformation of New Zealand (IB Tauris, 2011), and Making a New Land: Environmental histories of New Zealand (Otago University Press, 2013), and has published articles on early soil surveying, agricultural literature, weather records in farm diaries, and the New Zealand Wars. He has worked as a contract historian for the Christchurch City Council and the Waitangi Tribunal.

Akaroa Cocksfoot: King of grasses by Vaughan Wood, published by Canterbury University Press, November 2014, RRP $29.99, ISBN 978-1-927145-63-0.


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