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Worst case scenario with Yeoman's plow?

 
pollinator
Posts: 291
Location: Southern Finland zone 5
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G'day Darren!

I've been on a keyline course here in Finland but do not feel like I understand even nearly enough to start practising any of the stuff we were taught. There is a commercial business here that rents Yeoman's plow and recommended a contractor who could do the job for us. However, I feel unsure about the level of knowledge of this contractor.
For example, he told me that it doesn't matter if the fields are wet when you do the job which if I understand is not so (but am not sure). He also said that it would be a good idea to plow when the fields have frozen a bit, in late fall.
I asked our keyline course instructor and if I understood correctly then he said that the right time depends on at what depth the compacted hard "pan" is on our field. But then I didn't understand the rest of the explanation but didn't want to ask more questions (because he was busy and I knew that it would take too long until I understood )

The thing is, in our climate, the only time that one can be sure that the fields are dry enough so as not to compact is from May to August, which is of course the time when you have your crops there... Spring is dry, but it takes a while before all the moisture from the melting snow is gone and when you finally can go to the field with a tractor every farmer is so busy sowing that nobody has time to come and do the job for us, including the contractor who is also a farmer himself.

The autumns tend to be very wet and it's quite possible that the fields do not dry enough until the snow falls.

On our fields we have two problems: too much water early spring and autumn and too little water in July.
Too much water seems to be more of a problem in most summers than too little water. But there have been exceptions to this and I guess the exceptions are becoming the norm as climate change accelerates. There will quite possibly be more of those very wet summers AND of those very dry summers!

The soil is clay and compaction is a real issue.

So my question is (finally!): what is the worst that can happen if I let this contractor do the job and he doesn't really know what he's doing? Can our fields get worse or is it just that we pay a lot of money but nothing happens?
 
Instructor
Posts: 44
Location: Eppalock, Victoria, Australia
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G'day Nina,

It sounds like your keyline trainer is not particularly experienced as I would never recommend plowing wet soil nor do you bust a pan if its too deep or too thick straight up...it causing glazing and is detrimental to soil conditions.

As I mentioned in another post the best time to typically plow in winter freeze conditions is in autumn when the sub soil is dry and there is still enough surface soil moisture and temperatures to get some growth before things shut down. Any snow melt and rain will then work its way into the plow 'fissures' and get you ready for spring and summer. Then when the meadow is at the point of flowering graze or mow the grass at this point.

If in your case the autumns are wet then you may have to plow in May/August in successive fields over successive years so as to allow the processes of soil regeneration to take place without compromising your income. I'm going to assume that you are not continuously cropping and so when a field is in a pasture rotation then you should do your plowing on it and leave your cropping paddock (s) alone. Also only plow 2" (50mm) below the existing root depth. Its a waste of diesel going any deeper...Keyline soil renovation is a process that is not a race to the bottom, you are combining the use of a physical implement to create the incremental conditions for the soil and plant biology along with the soil and atmospheric chemistry and energy flows to get to work on providing the conditions for organisms to achieve their physiological potential and than doesn't happen overnight.

Whatever the case please don't plow your soil when its wet or when the subsoil is wet...

All the best,

Darren
 
pollinator
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Heenan Doherty wrote:
Whatever the case please don't plow your soil when its wet or when the subsoil is wet...



In my place, wet iin winter, old people indeed say to not touch the earth when wet or else it gets ill...

But I have heard the reverse, with a believable theory...
So.. Is this true in very dry climates?
I heard "do not touch the earth when dry", as it would kill the good fungi grid that help plants survive in desert conditions.
In that case, plowing during the wet period was supposed to allow regrowth of the myco-organisms before the soil was too dry to do so.

(sorry for this side question in a "wet weather topic")
 
Nina Jay
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Darren: Thank you very much for kindly repeating the things that probably are the most basic of basic keyline stuff...

It is obvious that I need to study A LOT more about this subject.

I am certain that it was not that the keyline trainer was inexperienced but that I just simply did not understand what he was trying to tell me.

The contractor, however, is a different story (a different person too!) I don't know him, have never met him, only spoke to him on the phone. What you said convinced my suspisions that this contractor guy does not know what he's talking about and I do not want him here until at least I know what needs to be done.


Xisca: what an interesting question!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Thanks Nina to make me comfortable!

Nina Jay wrote:I am certain that it was not that the keyline trainer was inexperienced but that I just simply did not understand what he was trying to tell me.



He might be more experienced in keylines than in pedagogy!
If you do not understand, then he did not explained in sufficient different ways so that everyone could understand.

I have been once stuck long (and colleagues as well) on something difficult to explain to trainees...
The result was tiring for the trainers, as we then had to walk many times to each individual.
Thus the big motivation to find HOW!
When I found the right way, then it was understood readily and for all a group with one explanation.
And with easy everyday words that could make an immediate image in people's mind.
 
Nina Jay
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:

He might be more experienced in keylines than in pedagogy!
If you do not understand, then he did not explained in sufficient different ways so that everyone could understand.



Thank you Xisca
But I still stubbornly maintain that it was my own fault
It was two days packed full of new information and I suck at geometry so I had to really struggle much of the time. By the time we got to the subject of Yeoman's plow my brain was just yelling: rest! coffee! Also, there's a limit to how much one person can take up time on a course when it was becoming obvious that the others understood. Also there's a limit to how many questions one can ask a busy professional AFTER the course... I don't want to become a nuissance but this keyline guy is way too kind to ever accept a payment for his extra time so I think the thing for me to do is just go on another course. I need a lot of help on this subject, studying alone is probably not the best way because I need help with the geometry part - it's always been very difficult for me even though I am okay at math in general, just not in geometry.

Anyway, I hope someone has ideas on what you talked about

Xisca Nicolas wrote: "do not touch the earth when dry", as it would kill the good fungi grid that help plants survive in desert conditions.



I cannot say much about this, but the question alone was very good and made me look at the whole subject from a different angle. I guess I was stuck on the physical qualities of the soil, worrying about compaction, but the biological side is very important too. Wow, it just keeps getting more and more complicated, doesn't it...
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Hehe, I did some orienteering and though I was good at "recognizing" a place after seeing the map ... geometry is difficult for me too.
And English not being my native tongue... some words are not giving me the right accurate idea.
In a different field, I can understand the words, but not the sentence!

And yes I agree that discovering how life is "working" is difficult and passionating.
There is a real world under our feet, and mainly thanks too fungi and bacterias, and better let them do their job, and help them whenever possible.

Glad my question was useful beyond the question itself.
And would be glad to know about why 2 opposite advices can be given, and sound good!
I heard "do not touch the earth when dry", as it would kill the good fungi grid that help plants survive in desert conditions.
In that case, plowing during the wet period was supposed to allow regrowth of the myco-organisms before the soil was too dry to do so.
 
Heenan Doherty
Instructor
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G'day,

Thanks for the notes.

Plowing the earth when it is bone dry is ok in my opinion as you are typically trying to remedy the situation of shallow and compacted and therefore no air & few fungi/aerobic biota. The Keyline plow shanks are set 80-100cm apart and so there is a considerable amount of area in between that is not disturbed. I would still ideally plow just after the first rains have kicked the soil biota into life (and plants) and the sub soil is dry but the nature of rain in most deserts doesn't allow you to be so strategic with your timing and so plowing as close to when the rains are likely to come is best practice in my opinion. So yes plowing of any description will cut through any hyphal networks, its a matter of how much and is what your plowing for part of a greater plan to regenerate a landscape using the plow as just one tool in a kit of integrated approaches.

So if you have desert soils the most important thing is to 1. get 100% ground cover 100% of the time 2. Push towards perennials establishing and persisting 3. Capture and infiltrate any runoff in situ so that damaging run-off doesn't occur - keyline pattern cultivation is one of the best ways of achieving this as is planned grazing (see: http://circleranchtx.com/circle-ranch-keyline-contrast-photos-9410) (Also BEFORE: http://www.permacultureglobal.com/system/post_images/3546/original/IMGP1342.JPG?1337711596 AFTER: http://www.permacultureglobal.com/system/post_images/3544/original/WW%20Before.jpg?1337711592 ) 4. Use planned livestock grazing to manage the vegetation and increase energy flow + mineral & water cycles.

Regarding education and pedagogy we have tried several formats over the years and done about 50 Keyline courses of various lengths. Because everyone is different with their levels of map literacy we have concluded that eHD is the best means available so we can spend the maximum time needed to deal with each and every element of this very incredible system of Keyline.

Thanks,

Darren

Darren
 
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