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Soil--The Eighth Factor
ALTHOUGH soil is of first importance in any agricultural development, it is the last or the eighth factor on the Keyline scale of permanence of any of these main factors of agriculture. The fertility of good soil can be destroyed before a line of fence posts will rot. A poor soil can be changed into a highly fertile soil in about a tenth of this time.
If almost any type of soil in a climate that makes a satisfactory agriculture possible can be converted quickly into highly fertile soil, then the orthodox practice of planning farm layouts with the emphasis always on the various soil types is an unsuitable approach and is not followed in Keyline planning. However, a particular highly valued crop that may be produced on a special piece of soil could be of sufficient importance to warrant a small localised departure from this principle.
We are interested in making permanent one class of soil only and that is the best soil possible in the particular natural environment when the environment, and with it the soil climate, is undergoing a continuous progressive improvement towards its most favourable agricultural peak and as a direct result of the techniques of our planning, development and management.
This brief mention of soil, the eighth factor on the Keyline scale of the relative permanence of things agricultural, serves only to give soil its proper place on the scale. As mentioned in Chapter IV, "The Keyline Scale of Permanence", the whole stability and permanence of our agriculture depends to a large extent on just what we do with our soil, the least permanent of the factors. Land shape, one of the most permanent natural features of land, owes its continued degree of permanence, once it is occupied and exploited agriculturally, to its covering of soil.
The Keyline scale of permanence does not need to be carried any further than this eighth factor--soil. The permanence of stock breeds and their continuous breed improvement depend firstly on the pastures and crops which in turn depend always on the soil.
Agriculture generally and of whatever kind can develop to its greatest heights only when every factor of the Keyline scale of the relative permanence of things agricultural has each been considered in its proper order and place in the development and management of the farm.
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We have come to the end of our eight factors as introduced in Chapter IV and continued in Chapters V to XII. The discussions in these chapters have shown the Keyline scale of permanence to be a new conception and the eight factors have been placed in their true perspective.
But there is the further consideration of the landman. While he is not given a place on the Keyline scale, he does, by his control of land, dominate for good or ill the environment in which he works and makes his living. Firstly, consideration can be given to those farmers and graziers on good properties. Then in a subsequent chapter the Keyline scale will be applied to an undeveloped property of easily discernible landform and of low economic value.
The Keyline scale to be a workable tool for good farming and good grazing practices needs therefore to be good business for the landman, and so the Keyline scale of permanence must be shown both to be good business on established properties and as well a better basis for the planning of new land than any methods now in practice.
Farms and grazing properties have their water supply, farm roads and trees; they have their homestead and permanent buildings and their subdivision paddocks. They are also generally producing a satisfactory living from their soil and their people are happy and enjoy their mode of life as it is. Moreover, many farmers and graziers, as I have repeatedly found, have their plans for the further development of their properties. Will they want to adopt another plan, a plan which they may first consider is not their own? What therefore has the Keyline scale and the full land planning technique of Keyline to offer those of the good farms and grazing properties? How will the Keyline scale apply to them?
First of all, to the farmers and graziers with good properties and their own plans for the future, I say Keyline will fit your property in as completely an individual way as your own plan which it will extend and improve beyond your present hopes. The pattern and the picture that it will produce on your land is the ultimate and natural one for the particular shapes of your land. No other property will be like it because all land shapes, while following as it were natural rules and patterns, are different just as are finger prints; no two are alike, they are all individual.
But, leaving planning for a moment and getting back to the soil. I have found that many landmen and agricultural people in general and some scientists in particular do not have the kind of basic conception of soil which enables them to quickly accept my own view, which is that any soil can be improved beyond its best natural or original fertility and that the process is simple, rapid and economical. But I have not yet found any landman, who, accepting this view, does not desire to improve his own soil. Many farmers and graziers visiting "Nevallan" after reading "The Keyline Plan" have first considered that their soil was really good (they had come to investigate planning for timber clearing, or dam construction, or an irrigation system, or some other matter), but after digging into a foot of the soil on "Nevallan" they were then not so sure as to their own soils, and before leaving had the fixed intention of immediately starting a three-year Keyline soil development plan on their properties.
So Keyline has, I believe, this something which every landman wants, no matter how good his property, and that is better soil. But as soon as a greatly improved soil becomes a certainty or as soon as the landman accepts the fact of rapid soil improvement, things are changed. While there is little point in increasing the productiveness of a property to carry, for instance, an extra few hundred sheep in circumstances where the extra sheep would cause overwork for the farmer or make it necessary to employ an extra man for no extra profit or even at a loss, now there is a different story when the increased productiveness from just this one Keyline technique may quickly double carrying capacity and then continuously further improve it. No matter what the previous condition of the development of the property, the landman must then make new plans in order to obtain the best advantage from this new productiveness. It will be better now if the new planning and new work is done to suit his climate and individual land shape, and so Keyline can be his logical guide.
It follows therefore that the rapid effects of the soil improvement methods of Keyline quickly lead to a consideration of planning. But consider again the aspect of water supply. Whenever farmers and graziers see the water flow at the rate of over a hundred thousand gallons an hour from my keyline dams and reservoirs on "Yobarnie" they are immediately interested and intrigued. Then they follow the irrigation water along the drain to the drain-stop which causes the water to overflow the lip of the irrigation drain. But when they follow the pattern of the water flow and see the effective spread and the uniformity of the irrigation they then appreciate the significance of what they have seen and want the same set-up for their own properties. The next step is that they try with their mind's eye to pick suitable spots for a dam and an irrigation area on their own properties. They may decide they have one such place on their farms. But it is not easy for them to quickly interpret the new conception to their own circumstances and they may see one site when there could be six better ones. If these men are convinced that this Keyline idea is a good one and will be profitable for them they must also see that two or ten will be twice or ten times as profitable, and, further, that all their run-off should be so conserved. The limit of the effectiveness of water conservation and irrigation cannot be attained unless the planning of the scheme fits the landman's own land shapes, and so planning on this factor is seen to be a necessary first step. So we see that a conception of the overall planning of Keyline is an early step no matter what particular aspect of Keyline is the first one that attracts the interest. Then any work whether new or of a routine nature just naturally fits the land shape features of the farm.
Again, the present permanent buildings are the hub of the working farm and will remain that way. The influence that they will have on Keyline planning is simply that improvement in soil, water supply, trees and farm roads will commence here instead of further away. When a new subdivision fence becomes necessary, and only as a means of accepting the profits from improving land capacity, then the areas extending from the homestead are the first ones to be considered.
On many occasions farming folk start their farming life in a small temporary cottage. They have plans for their home, but may soon find that many other farm developments are competing with the home for the available money and the home building plans suffer and time goes on. But the Keyline planning of this property will decide, in a very positive manner, the site for the new home and enable a little to be done to improve the site. It could be that with the new home site fenced and perhaps used as a special paddock on which some attention continuously improves its soil and a few trees planted and suitably protected, the site will, when the home is completed, have the look of age and beauty that only the well-established trees can give. Trees, to whatever pattern the new home site indicates, can be planted and will grow well with the minimum of attention, as is shown in the chapter on trees.
The planning lines of Keyline do not change the fences on established properties. The lines of Keyline planning should be marked first with a furrow that will last two or three years, so that those parts of the work that are not to be proceeded with immediately may be lived with and better visualised and understood. And any work in the area, be it some type of cultivation or just driving across the paddocks on a farm tractor or car, can then be adapted to the lines already marked in. New fences when they are required are only for the purpose of obtaining the benefits of the increased productiveness of Keyline, and then their location is decided on the Keyline plan of the overall development.
However, it becomes a completely different matter when fences are considered in respect to new water supply structures. The dam or dams in Keyline are to be precisely located as dictated by climate and land shape; therefore those parts of present fences which are in the way are removed and the paddock area involved is adjusted with a little new fencing. And likewise with the new irrigation area, which soon will become so valuable to the property that it warrants fencing and as an island paddock if necessary. There is no doubt that this is the right approach. Now water conservation drains come into the picture. They follow the planning lines which may be located at this time or which may have been marked in perhaps two years earlier. The drain may cross one or more fences, but these fences remain. A panel or two of the fence will generally be worth moving for the easier construction of the drain, or on other occasions it is left standing and the section of the drain under the fence is put in by hand.
Keyline should always be followed in the most logical and practical manner by first gaining a complete appreciation of the overall plan as it applies to the property and according to the climate and the land shape of the property. The particular water relationship of the enterprise of the farm and grazing property affects all the work, both as to the short-term aspects of day-to-day working and to the long-term benefits of the ultimate in permanence and value from complete water control which follows the development of the plan. Always the Keyline scale of permanence will assist in this full, if gradual, development.
We can look now to lands that are flatter. Behind all the discussion of the Keyline scale, and in fact Keyline generally, with its precise definitions and ready classifications of land shape, is the picture of hills and ridges and valleys in definite and readily distinguishable forms. And so the impression may arise that Keyline is something only of the type of undulating country that emerges from these descriptions. This view has sometimes been expressed, and in fact some of our visitors at "Nevallan" and "Yobarnie" at first thought that Keyline was something for our own properties only and would not apply to their country which was of very different shape. Again some farmers who knew "Nevallan" and "Yobarnie" well had expressed the view that our newer property at Bathurst or at Orange would be a very different proposition, inferring that they were not suitable for the type of Keyline development as they pictured it. But, of course, it was not long before someone else was saying that "Kencarley", at Orange, or "Pakby", at Bathurst, was the ideal for Keyline development. And it is always this way. First, a property is thought not suitable for Keyline, and then when the lines are marked in and the work starts the same folk see just the opposite--it is then the "ideal". The reason is simply that they are looking for land suitable for Keyline when land itself makes its own individual pattern of Keyline, and that it is Keyline which emphasises the exclusive pattern that belongs to each farm or grazing property. And so it is with the flatter lands, where the broader and lower and less distinguishable shapes do not impress themselves on the eye. But for these lands the planning of Keyline is still based on the shape of the land as revealed by water movements.
The very gentle slopes will have all the land patterns in their contours that are seen in the country of more definite shape. These patterns of ridge and valley will be consistent-they are always so; and they can be clearly seen on their contour maps. But each land form and land unit may be much larger inarea and are not seen so clearly unless the land areas or farms represented on the contour maps are also of larger size.
On our own properties the lands may range in slope from one foot fall in less than two, to one foot in forty-five feet. On the flatter lands the steepest slope may be as flat as one foot fall in forty feet and the flattest slopes of one in a hundred. And the discussion could go on. We could speak of country that is very dry and that that is all the more reason for conserving all run-off and for improving soil to hold its moisture and growth longer, and for tree belts to break the drying power of winds. But the evaporation rate is very high, and much water would be wasted from the dams, so why not use the trees to retard evaporation. Of course, evaporation can absorb large quantities of water. The rate may be five feet and more from open water surfaces in the summer months alone. But it would be hardly less logical to decide not to cook food because the heat lost or wasted is much greater than that actually used in cooking, than to discount the idea of conserving water because much may at times be lost by evaporation. Large low-cost water conservation capacity is a feature of these flatter lands and so long as there is run-off, reliable or unreliable, conservation of water on the plans of this book will be profitable. Water supply and all matters affecting water supply are planned from the background of the climate and the land shape. Wind then is a feature of this climate, and so is the evaporation rate, and thus evaporation affects the design of dams as a result. If the evaporation rate is five feet, dams are designed with a depth of ten feet or more up to an average depth of eight feet, which usually would be provided by making a dam of twenty feet maximum depth. Generally on flatter land the most economical depth may be somewhat less than twenty feet, fifteen feet of water being usually an economical as well as a practical figure. Further discussion on water storage on these land shapes is contained in a later chapter.
The flat land of the large irrigation district should be mentioned. Here, as much or more than anywhere else, the soil treatment techniques of Keyline are needed where generally the problem has been too much water and too little air. Good planning will also improve these lands.
On those lands that are really flat and in near desert country where run-off water is not a factor, the pattern of development may be then based on the prevailing winds. The same factors of soil climate, the improved association of moisture, warmth and air in the soil, still apply in soil improvement. Tree belts across the path of the prevailing winds are still important factors and water supply remains the basic planning guide whatever the source of water on which the land depends. Generally the more critical the climate agriculturally the greater is the need for planning and the wider is the improvement that good planning will bring.
While there are some lands which when fully planned and developed on Keyline will illustrate all the techniques of Keyline in ways easier to see and simpler than the plan on other lands, in the end all agricultural land has its climate and land shape, and therefore the planning of Keyline based on these factors will always apply to produce an improving property.
Full consideration of all the factors of the Keyline scale will ensure that development cannot do otherwise than follow the most suitable course.