Hi Owen, thanks for taking the time to drop in here,
I am curious about how keyline plowing would or wouldnt be desirable in a situation where there already exists a mature, excellent quality pasture. I live just over the pass from Carbondale, so a fairly similar context. I run a small herd of dairy cattle on a mature pasture of red clove and mixed grasses. Our humus is 5%, heavy fertile clay, moderatly sloping topography, flood irrigated April to October. In some ways I think, our pastures are great, this is no greening the desert project, 'if it aint broke dont fix it'. But at the same time, I am always trying to learn and improve my farming. How could keyline plowing improve my pasure yields? What would be the first steps to take?
Thanks! Sure hope to see you in Carbondale.
Yes, sounds like you've some pretty great soil conditions and pasture mix happening there. Congratulations!
This is not a scenario where I would recommend keyline plowing... even if there were some potential improvement it would not likely be enough improvement to justify the expense. More likely is that you would risk some responses that were less desirable, like breaking up mycelial net effectiveness for awhile, perhaps reducing brix of the forages, maybe some weeds in the riplines even? You could see an improvement in irrigation efficiency due to the ripping, but this alone would not likely be worth the risk trade-off... Doesn't sound like there are any compaction issues to speak of either.
Your best 'bang for buck' for continued improvement is likely to be increasing the density of animals and animal impact, in the context of holistic planned grazing. Would recommend taking a workshop on Holistic planned grazing. We will also cover in the workshop improvement scenarios such as pasture cropping, 'shotgun' seed mixes, biological sub-soilers, soil food web, etc... as other methods, beyond plowing, that could be of use in your scenario.
What keyline design can contribute is all of the other elements of design planning, beyond using the plow itself...
Hope we see you soon in Carbondale!
Whole Systems Design, Consultation, Education, Group Facilitation
thanks for the response Owen. I figured keyline subsoiling would always be reccomended, so hearing your perspective is very interesting. I definitely appreciate that when you alter any system, there is the potential for unintended negative consequences. Glad to have your experience and knowledge shared here! I have learned a lot from your posts this past week, and again really thank you for taking the time to help teach.