Mulloon Creek Natural Farms, following nature

Keyline Pattern Cultivation

What is it?

PA Yeomans, the originator of the keyline system, was an engineer turned farmer who observed phenomena on his farm that he felt indicated that some of the management could be improved. By making careful and systematic observations and running small experiments, he concluded that he wasn’t making best use of the rain that fell on his property; he was neither infiltrating it into his soil for longer term availability, he was not storing it in ways that allowed him to use it productively and he was not adequately preventing its evaporation.

He developed a system of optimising water capture, use and storage into the landscape including design and location of dams and irrigation systems as well as the use of specific cultivation techniques using a specialised plough design and the placement and management of trees as shelter belts. These techniques resulted in greatly improved soil health and productivity.

The Yeomans or Keyline plough design claims to encourage the rapid building of topsoil by facilitating improved conditions for plant and microbial life through:

  • Increased soil aeration from the shattering action and upwards and outwards lift caused by the specially designed foot on the ripper.
  • Increased soil moisture levels due to rainfall runoff received into the plough furrows.
  • The minimal mixing of existing soil layers resulting in an intact A horizon microbial population which is able to colonise the newly aerated and sufficiently moistened subsoil layers.

Ploughing is carried out using ‘Keyline pattern cultivation’ (KPC), as described in Water for Every Farm, by P.A. Yeomans which results in rip lines that slope gently away from the valleys out towards the ridges to guide water from the valley out towards the ridge, evenly distributing moisture levels across the landscape.

Implementation and Research

Mulloon Creek Natural Farms (MCNF) has implemented Keyline Pattern Cultivation to improve the quality and depth of soil in some of our sloping country paddocks. Keyline Pattern Cultivation uses the Yeomans plough and ‘Keyline pattern cultivation’ (KPC), as described in Water for Every Farm, by P.A. Yeomans. At MCNF we have used a ‘Yeomans Keyline Plough’ pulled behind a 90 Hp tractor. The plough is designed with three 500mm long shanks spaced at 600mm apart with a coulter in front of each. Each shank has a narrow leading edge of 15mm with a wider angled foot at the base.

Monitoring of changes resulting from Keyline Pattern Cultivation is done by comparing soil samples taken from two adjacent valleys matched for aspect, soil type and catchment. One of these areas has been cultivated, and the other has not been cultivated, neither will have any other intervention. Changes to the soil samples from our monitoring areas will be recorded over the next several years and conclusions drawn as to the affect of the practice on this soil type in this area.

References

  • Water for Every Farm, P.A. Yeomans

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