Research station recognised for posterity

Guest blogger: Susan Boulton, Queensland State Archives

In August 2014, the Meringa Sugar Experiment Station was entered on the Queensland Heritage Register as a State Heritage Place. The Station played a crucial role in developing Australian sugar cane varieties and today it continues valuable agricultural research and technological innovations.

Situated north of the town of Gordonvale in Far North Queensland, the Meringa SES was established in 1917 as the Entomological Station of the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations.

Initially two residences, a laboratory and an insectary were constructed on the site. All buildings were highset and timber framed, as can been seen in this photo of the entomologists’ residences. Look closely and you will see a glass house between the two residences.

Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, North Queensland, c 1935. Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 2980

Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, North Queensland, c 1935

The complex of research buildings was set among mature trees near the North Coast railway line, as shown in this 1935 photograph.

 

Sugar Experiment Station, Meringa, near Cairns, c 1935. Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 1331

Sugar Experiment Station, Meringa, near Cairns, c 1935

As the Meringa SES expanded, more land was gazetted as reserves for experimental farms and departmental purposes. More detail about these reserves is available in the Queensland Heritage Register  .

Despite opposition from some scientists and politicians, cane toads were released by the Meringa SES in the mid 1930s because it was hoped they would eat cane beetles. As we now know the toads went on to have a devastating ecological impact.

Cane toads at the Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, North Queensland, c 1935. Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 2981

Cane toads at the Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, North Queensland, c 1935

Cane toads aside, there were great successes, including insecticides to control greyback grubs, reputedly the industry’s worst pest.

Department of Public Works architectural plans for buildings at the Meringa facility available for viewing, photographing and copying at Queensland State Archives include the:

  • entomologist’s Residence, Queensland State Archives, Item ID 585092
  • residence for assistant entomologist, Item ID 582449 and Item ID 582450
  • entomologist’s Laboratory, Item ID 585091 and Item ID 582454
  • glass house, Item ID 582453
  • implement and tractor shed, fertiliser store and stables, Item ID 582456
  • water Services, Item ID 585089
  • cottage for workmen, Item ID 582452

For other records about Sugar Experiment Stations, try searching Queensland State Archives’ online catalogue ArchivesSearch. 

Susan Boulton, Queensland State Archives