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Subsoilers and Salt.

 
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Hello everyone! I am a practicing chemical free suburban gardener/ chicken nut and new to this community. I have been looking at possibly trying to acquire land in the San Luis Valley. My research has given me concerns about soil saturation and salt alkalinity due to decades of "conventional farming". I can see how the mole subsoiler type plow (Yeoman Plow) can help with saturation issues, but will this release these offending compounds down stream, and is there a method for mitigating these before they are released from a property? Sorry if my question seems simple or stems from a misunderstanding but I am just beginning to learn how my existing skills scale up to a larger property and what new knowledge I will require to do so. Thank you and have a nice day.
 
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Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I would agree with your concerns about chemical contamination in the San Luis Valley. There are nice spots there, particularly around the fringes of the valley. I live and farm in Colorado, and think of the San Luis Valley as a really severe place with a horrible history of destructive agriculture. For a small scale permie, I would look really hard at the land use history in the area you are looking at. Also, beware the overspray from nearby farms. Considering the harshness of the climate there, severely cold in winter, brutally hot in summer, short growing season, late/early freezes, it is a tough place for anything but a conventional potato or alfalfa grower. Even then, I know good potato growers, the folks at potatogarden.com, who fled the San Luis Valley and were converted to organic philosophy from the chemical poisoning of that area. They now farm in Western Colorado and no longer suffer from chemical sensitivity illnesses.

Hope this wasnt too much gloom, just trying to share my experience. I wish you great success in finding a happy piece of land for your growing. Farming is the greatest joy.
 
Instructor
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Greetings Mr. Parchcreft,
We have seen good effects in very dry areas formerly farmed in industial-ag cotton (among the most destructive type of ag for land -- aral sea, etc)... we moved this from a saline soil to a 'non-saline' class with one pass of the yeomans plow and some good rains... lots of other good effects from that as well, full story here: Water and Transformation in Drylands

Of course this is not a silver bullet, but can be part of a larger holistic 'silver buckshot' combined strategy, for increased land healing synergies and options... 'shotgun' diverse pasture and crop mixes, pasture-cropping techniques, holistic planned grazing, soil biological stimulants, trees, etc... we will look at these strategies and ways to combine them in the upcoming workshop, along with demonstrating use of the Yeomans plow...

Hope to see you there!
 
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Location: CO, U.S.A.
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Hey, Owen! Good to see you in the forums! I have a situation for ya. The site I am working with was once a tree farm and lost much of it's topsoil when the trees were dug up and sold. Then it was scraped of any remaining topsoil to be bagged and sold. So the surface is essentially subsoil. Furthermore, the water table is very high and quite sodic in most places. Having trouble imagining how I could flush the soil of salts when the water table is so high. Would taking a ripper through it do any good? Could the subsoil be "activated"? Could deep tiller root crops survive this high water table and sodic environment without the help of animals? Will shallow, salt tolerant green manure crops with lots of effort on my part have to do? Thanks so much, so happy for you and Sustainable Settings! Bet it'l be a hoot!!
 
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Location: USDA Zone 5
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Thank you, Mr. Hablutzel, for taking the time to share your knowledge with us via this forum.

'Silver buckshot'- a memorable way to express the importance of not relying on just one 'fix' to a problem.

I've mostly read about the use of Keyline Design in areas with limited and/or very seasonal rainfall. What about areas with higher amounts of rainfall that (typically) occurs more evenly throughout the year? Does Keyline Design and the use of a keyline plow have any benefits when applied in that setting?

Of course, Holistic Management makes sense wherever one is, whatever one's goals, but I was wondering specifically about the keyline plowing technique.

Thank you.
 
Owen Hablutzel
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Hi Talia and Lm...

Talia, sounds like you've some tough issues happening there... so how generate solutions from the situation!? There are never any guarantees of course when dealing with complex natural systems, other than that they will surprise you! it may be a good idea to try some experiments on smaller scales before treating the entire place... ripping could potentially be of use, at least dilute some of the salty situation? and break up subsoil compaction... planting or seeding a lot of diversity and seeing what actually responds in those conditions might be useful too... perhaps reed canary grass (cows will love it too), maybe even rushes? the more the merrier to see what happens... using composts and/or compost teas as well could give back the biology missing, and help complex up the salts... maybe all along with your salt tolerant green manures too... experimentation can take some time but is usually worth it in the long run before spending too much time money and energy on a larger treatment at one time... good luck!


Lm, Keyline Design as a planning process is absolutely of benefit in any kind of environment for developing your whole farm layout.

Keyline plowing specifically can have benefits in less dry, more mesic environments also, depending on if by using that tool you are addressing something that is holding you back from soil improvement... a weak link. This could be compaction for example, which happens in all environments.

Where I would be much less likely to use that tool is in a healthy and well functioning soil, with a diverse active food web... if it is not 'broken' why fix it, or risk setting it back...

thanks for both your questions!

 
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