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Keyline plow design from Open Source Ecology -- will it do the job?  RSS feed

 
Daniel Kern
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So I found a design for a keyline plow by the people over at Open Source Ecology but I am not sure how it would compare to a yeoman plow. To me it looks like a plain and simple subsoiler. But do you believe that the design is sufficient to do the job of keyline design?


 
R Scott
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It is a garden scale subsoiler. Won't run deep enough and there is no point to create side fracturing.

 
Daniel Kern
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what do you mean by side fracturing?
 
R Scott
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A good subsoiler point doesn't just cut a trench, it pushes out and up so it cracks the hard pan a foot to each side of the point.
 
Daniel Kern
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well what if you made one of these things a bit deeper and then put some side fracturing things on it. Could that work, or would it be better to find a different plan altogether?
 
Peter Ellis
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I think the linked design is scaled to a garden tractor and as such not really capable of doing the job on the intended scale for serious subsoiling or keyline work.

A quick google search for keyline plow brought up images of the full scale Yeoman's plow, which show nicely what R. Scott is referring to.
 
R Scott
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Daniel Kern wrote:well what if you made one of these things a bit deeper and then put some side fracturing things on it. Could that work, or would it be better to find a different plan altogether?


Why reinvent the wheel here. You can buy a good single point subsoiler from tractor supply for less than $200, and find larger machines used at farm implement dealers for less than you would pay to buy the steel.
 
Daniel Kern
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lol. Good point. I guess I'm just looking for an excuse to weld something. But still, would a standard subsoiler do the job of a keyline plow? I don't really understand the difference between the two.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Funny, we were just talking about this after church yesterday and two of us were trying to help a homesteader understand the difference between a subsoiler and a Yeoman's plow. I finally had to call the point of the Yeoman's plow a "sweep" that is similar to what people put on a cultivator to do shallow weeding in rows. Without the sweep, the subsoiler won't lift the soil underneath creating airspace at the bottom of the furrow that R Scott is talking about. Now, you could weld a heavy-duty sweep on the point of that implement in the photo from Open Source Ecology and you might get the effect of a Yeoman's plow. But, many want depth. I'd also add that I'd prefer the shank itself to be wider than the subsoiler shank so the furrow didn't close too easily after several rainfalls.

I've heard Bill Mollison in a video class say that these plows should be used at increasing depths from the first time you use them. For example, start out at 6 inches in the spring and then maybe later in the fall, come back in same field and cut a 9-inch deep furrow. This way, there is airspace in differing layers of the soil. If you have rocky soil and you are building your implement DIY, you may want to include a shear pin or a spring-type mechanism so the shank or attachment point doesn't break when you hit a large root or large rock you didn't see below the surface.

 
R Scott
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There are several US made "subsoilers" today that do as good of job of fracturing hardpan and aerating soil, but few are as efficient as the yeoman's point in their HP requirement.

It is the shape and angle of the point that matters. Darren Doherty had a lot of good answers on how to do this when you can't get a yeoman's plow when he was here. I will see if I can find the link.

Short answer: The tractor supply subsoiler has a shallow point angle that does the proper fracturing, it can benefit from sharpening the leading edge to lower HP requirement and surface disruption. I followed his advice and it works.

He answers the plowing depth question, too. 2" below the hardpan measured with a penetrometer. That is all the roots can colonize before the soil re-compacts. Any deeper is just wasting fuel.
 
Daniel Kern
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is this the tractor supply subsoiler that you were talking about? here
 
R Scott
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Yup. I have done ten acres with it so far and couldn't be more pleased.
 
Dan Grubbs
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R Scott, I'm wondering ... would there be a benefit of welding a bit wider "sweep" on the subsoiler that Daniel linked to? The used subsoilers I've see on Craigslist are more expensive than that unit from Tractor Supply. I'm really interested in getting that extra lift underneath to create a horizontal air channel. The shank cuts a vertical air channel while a sweep on the bottom lifts the soil creating a perpendicular air space.

And, as I read back through the thread, I'm also wondering if some of the discussion is blending purposes that a subsoiler/Yeoman's plow can be used for. For myself, I'm not really looking to break up hardpan, but simply to plow a single line on contour along which I will plant trees. The furrow will allow rain moving downhill to fall into the channel (similar to a swale). I want that triangular air pocket that a Yeoman's plow makes. Mark Shepard describes it much better than I do. I'll drop a photo below that I think many already have seen, but might help the discussion.

6062134.jpg
[Thumbnail for 6062134.jpg]
 
R Scott
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It makes a triangular channel. That 2 inch wide sweep point it's enough to do that, when in dry ground.

That is key to good aeration in key lining, doing it at the right soil moisture. Which is as dry as possible for most people. Best time here is usually late August, just before the fall rains start.

You can Google "mole plow" to see an alternative used in Britain and vineyards. Think a ball and chain pulled behind the point that open the channel for drainage. That would be easy to add.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Thanks R Scott -- I may pick up one of these from Tractor Supply as a "gift to myself" for this spring and fire up the old Ford 8N. As always, you have helped me out.
 
Kris schulenburg
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This may be a dumb question, I don't know anything about seed drills but here goes...would it be possible to put a seed box with a tube behind each tine to make a seed drill? Most drills look very complicated, are very expensive and the parts don't look very heavy duty; Say, to bust threw clumps of fescue in heavy clay, if you are pasture cropping or doing Gabe Brown type stuff. I don't know what the end of the tube should look like. Thanks for the discussion.
 
R Scott
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Yeoman's makes a seed box, or you can re-purpose the boxes from old corn planters. What makes drills and planters expensive is their ability to plant at a controlled DEPTH. You don't get that with a key line point in front. But for adding a little diversity to your pasture in the same pass, they may make sense. You get a lot more coverage with a drill, though.
 
Daniel Kern
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Now that I've spent a little bit of time on the land I now know that the soil is quite shallow, and there are many rocks present. This could present a challenge for a keyline plow/ subsoiler. But I would still like to try on certain areas.

Maybe a keyline is not appropriate for my area. If not that is a bit disappointing to me, but there are plenty of other tools to utilze.

If anyone is wondering I am in the cross timbers and prairies ecoregion of TX and in the

"Lampasas Cut Plain - In Northcentral Texas, the Lampasas Cut Plain vegetative sub-region lies south and southwest of the East and West Cross Timbers and Fort Worth Prairie, extending to the upper reaches of the Edwards Plateau. Counties found in the sub-region include parts of Somervell, Erath, Hamilton, Comanche, Brown, Mills, Bosque, Hill, and McLennan counties. Most of this region is underlain by various limestone formations.

Exposed flat topped buttes and escarpments capped by Edwards limestone which have been eroded over most of the region. The Lampasas Cut Plain is more rugged than the Fort Worth Prairie, being bisected by numerous low buttes and mesas formed by extensive erosion during it geologic formation. There are extensive regions of grasslands and valleys with higher, narrow, often wooded mesa-like divides. Soils at the surface, consequently, support the growth of plants adapted to higher alkalinity, such as live oak and juniper. Historical records indicate much of this region existed as a grassland or open live oak savannah that supported herds of bison and other herbivores dependent on the tall grasses that dominated the region.

The rich loam soils now support agricultural croplands that produce cotton, corn, oats, wheat, sorghum, milo, and other crops. Much of the land in this region is also used for livestock ranching for cattle, sheep, and goats. Habitat for white-tailed deer, Rio Grande turkey, bobwhite quail, mourning doves, fox squirrels, rabbits and a variety of nongame wildlife species is found here.

After the introduction of domestic livestock, farming operations, and control of wildfires, the landscape of much of the Lampasas Cut Plain changed. Land use practices associated with these and other ventures created a landscape that experienced invasion and domination in some areas by problematic brush species such as mesquite, Ashe juniper and other native woody species.

Overgrazing by livestock and elimination of naturally occurring fire also reduced native grass cover and allowed the invasion of other less desirable annual grasses and forbs. This change in plant life on the landscape, however, has increased habitat for a number of wildlife species and can be viewed as a positive result of historical land use in the Lampasas Cut Plain.

Management of habitat for white-tailed deer and other wildlife species in the Lampasas Cut Plain sub-region can be financially rewarding to landowners and land managers. White-tailed deer numbers exist at or substantially above habitat potential (the ability of native habitat to support deer without sustaining long-term degradation or loss of plant species) in much of this sub-region. Farm and ranch size is relatively large, making accomplishment of land management strategies for wildlife and habitat both productive and feasible."

From TPWD
 
Bruce Kirk
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After reading the comments listed here I see nothing about an actual set of designs that can be used to build ones own keyline plow. Do a set of plans actually exist anywhere or is the actual yeomans design a highly kept secret? If anybody has access or advice with respect to the possibility of acquiring a set of plans that will enable me to manufacture my own plow including the subsoiler I would be eternally greatful.

 
David Miller
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Bruce, I think the plans are pretty easy for an equipment bar if you but the shank.  I'm getting a simple one priced out to me now.  I've heard the shanks are around $500
 
Mateo Milmo
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Thanks for the good info here.
Did anyone in this thread find any plans online for building one of these out in a shop or have any self made plans?
 
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