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 ofthese main factors of agriculture. The fertility of good soil can be destroyed beforea line of fence posts will rot. A poor soil can be changed into a highly fertilesoil in about a tenth of this time.

   If almost any type of soil in a climate that makes a satisfactoryagriculture possible can be converted quickly into highly fertile soil, then theorthodox practice of planning farm layouts with the emphasis always on the varioussoil 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 couldbe of sufficient importance to warrant a small localised departure from this principle.

   We are interested in making permanent one class of soil onlyand that is the best soil possible in the particular natural environment when theenvironment, and with it the soil climate, is undergoing a continuous progressiveimprovement towards its most favourable agricultural peak and as a direct resultof the techniques of our planning, development and management.

   This brief mention of soil, the eighth factor on the Keylinescale of the relative permanence of things agricultural, serves only to give soilits proper place on the scale. As mentioned in Chapter IV, "The Keyline Scaleof Permanence", the whole stability and permanence of our agriculture dependsto 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 continueddegree of permanence, once it is occupied and exploited agriculturally, to its coveringof soil.

   The Keyline scale of permanence does not need to be carriedany further than this eighth factor--soil. The permanence of stock breeds and theircontinuous breed improvement depend firstly on the pastures and crops which in turndepend always on the soil.

   Agriculture generally and of whatever kind can develop to itsgreatest heights only when every factor of the Keyline scale of the relative permanenceof things agricultural has each been considered in its proper order and place inthe development and management of the farm.

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   We have come to the end of our eight factors as introduced inChapter IV and continued in Chapters V to XII. The discussions in these chaptershave shown the Keyline scale of permanence to be a new conception and the eight factorshave been placed in their true perspective.

   But there is the further consideration of the landman. Whilehe is not given a place on the Keyline scale, he does, by his control of land, dominatefor 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. Thenin a subsequent chapter the Keyline scale will be applied to an undeveloped propertyof easily discernible landform and of low economic value.

   The Keyline scale to be a workable tool for good farming andgood grazing practices needs therefore to be good business for the landman, and sothe Keyline scale of permanence must be shown both to be good business on establishedproperties and as well a better basis for the planning of new land than any methodsnow in practice.

   Farms and grazing properties have their water supply, farm roadsand trees; they have their homestead and permanent buildings and their subdivisionpaddocks. They are also generally producing a satisfactory living from their soiland their people are happy and enjoy their mode of life as it is. Moreover, manyfarmers and graziers, as I have repeatedly found, have their plans for the furtherdevelopment of their properties. Will they want to adopt another plan, a plan whichthey may first consider is not their own? What therefore has the Keyline scale andthe full land planning technique of Keyline to offer those of the good farms andgrazing properties? How will the Keyline scale apply to them?

   First of all, to the farmers and graziers with good propertiesand their own plans for the future, I say Keyline will fit your property in as completelyan individual way as your own plan which it will extend and improve beyond your presenthopes. The pattern and the picture that it will produce on your land is the ultimateand natural one for the particular shapes of your land. No other property will belike 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 scientistsin particular do not have the kind of basic conception of soil which enables themto quickly accept my own view, which is that any soil can be improved beyond itsbest 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 toimprove his own soil. Many farmers and graziers visiting "Nevallan" afterreading "The Keyline Plan" have first considered that their soil was reallygood (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 ofthe 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 Keylinesoil development plan on their properties.

   So Keyline has, I believe, this something which every landmanwants, no matter how good his property, and that is better soil. But as soon as agreatly improved soil becomes a certainty or as soon as the landman accepts the factof rapid soil improvement, things are changed. While there is little point in increasingthe productiveness of a property to carry, for instance, an extra few hundred sheepin circumstances where the extra sheep would cause overwork for the farmer or makeit necessary to employ an extra man for no extra profit or even at a loss, now thereis a different story when the increased productiveness from just this one Keylinetechnique may quickly double carrying capacity and then continuously further improveit. No matter what the previous condition of the development of the property, thelandman must then make new plans in order to obtain the best advantage from thisnew productiveness. It will be better now if the new planning and new work is doneto suit his climate and individual land shape, and so Keyline can be his logicalguide.

   It follows therefore that the rapid effects of the soil improvementmethods of Keyline quickly lead to a consideration of planning. But consider againthe aspect of water supply. Whenever farmers and graziers see the water flow at therate of over a hundred thousand gallons an hour from my keyline dams and reservoirson "Yobarnie" they are immediately interested and intrigued. Then theyfollow the irrigation water along the drain to the drain-stop which causes the waterto overflow the lip of the irrigation drain. But when they follow the pattern ofthe water flow and see the effective spread and the uniformity of the irrigationthey then appreciate the significance of what they have seen and want the same set-upfor their own properties. The next step is that they try with their mind's eye topick suitable spots for a dam and an irrigation area on their own properties. Theymay decide they have one such place on their farms. But it is not easy for them toquickly interpret the new conception to their own circumstances and they may seeone site when there could be six better ones. If these men are convinced that thisKeyline idea is a good one and will be profitable for them they must also see thattwo or ten will be twice or ten times as profitable, and, further, that all theirrun-off should be so conserved. The limit of the effectiveness of water conservationand irrigation cannot be attained unless the planning of the scheme fits the landman'sown 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 nomatter 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 shapefeatures of the farm.

   Again, the present permanent buildings are the hub of the workingfarm and will remain that way. The influence that they will have on Keyline planningis simply that improvement in soil, water supply, trees and farm roads will commencehere instead of further away. When a new subdivision fence becomes necessary, andonly as a means of accepting the profits from improving land capacity, then the areasextending from the homestead are the first ones to be considered.

   On many occasions farming folk start their farming life in asmall temporary cottage. They have plans for their home, but may soon find that manyother farm developments are competing with the home for the available money and thehome building plans suffer and time goes on. But the Keyline planning of this propertywill decide, in a very positive manner, the site for the new home and enable a littleto be done to improve the site. It could be that with the new home site fenced andperhaps used as a special paddock on which some attention continuously improves itssoil and a few trees planted and suitably protected, the site will, when the homeis completed, have the look of age and beauty that only the well-established treescan give. Trees, to whatever pattern the new home site indicates, can be plantedand 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 establishedproperties. The lines of Keyline planning should be marked first with a furrow thatwill last two or three years, so that those parts of the work that are not to beproceeded 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 thepaddocks on a farm tractor or car, can then be adapted to the lines already markedin. New fences when they are required are only for the purpose of obtaining the benefitsof the increased productiveness of Keyline, and then their location is decided onthe Keyline plan of the overall development.

   However, it becomes a completely different matter when fencesare considered in respect to new water supply structures. The dam or dams in Keylineare to be precisely located as dictated by climate and land shape; therefore thoseparts of present fences which are in the way are removed and the paddock area involvedis 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 asan 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 lineswhich may be located at this time or which may have been marked in perhaps two yearsearlier. The drain may cross one or more fences, but these fences remain. A panelor two of the fence will generally be worth moving for the easier construction ofthe drain, or on other occasions it is left standing and the section of the drainunder the fence is put in by hand.

   Keyline should always be followed in the most logical and practicalmanner by first gaining a complete appreciation of the overall plan as it appliesto 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 propertyaffects all the work, both as to the short-term aspects of day-to-day working andto the long-term benefits of the ultimate in permanence and value from complete watercontrol which follows the development of the plan. Always the Keyline scale of permanencewill assist in this full, if gradual, development.

   We can look now to lands that are flatter. Behind allthe discussion of the Keyline scale, and in fact Keyline generally, with its precisedefinitions and ready classifications of land shape, is the picture of hills andridges and valleys in definite and readily distinguishable forms. And so the impressionmay arise that Keyline is something only of the type of undulating country that emergesfrom these descriptions. This view has sometimes been expressed, and in fact someof our visitors at "Nevallan" and "Yobarnie" at first thoughtthat Keyline was something for our own properties only and would not apply to theircountry which was of very different shape. Again some farmers who knew "Nevallan"and "Yobarnie" well had expressed the view that our newer property at Bathurstor at Orange would be a very different proposition, inferring that they were notsuitable 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 itis always this way. First, a property is thought not suitable for Keyline, and thenwhen the lines are marked in and the work starts the same folk see just the opposite--itis then the "ideal". The reason is simply that they are looking for landsuitable 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 eachfarm or grazing property. And so it is with the flatter lands, where the broaderand lower and less distinguishable shapes do not impress themselves on the eye. Butfor these lands the planning of Keyline is still based on the shape of the land asrevealed by water movements.

   The very gentle slopes will have all the land patterns in theircontours that are seen in the country of more definite shape. These patterns of ridgeand valley will be consistent-they are always so; and they can be clearly seen ontheir contour maps. But each land form and land unit may be much larger inarea andare not seen so clearly unless the land areas or farms represented on the contourmaps are also of larger size.

   On our own properties the lands may range in slope from onefoot fall in less than two, to one foot in forty-five feet. On the flatter landsthe steepest slope may be as flat as one foot fall in forty feet and the flattestslopes of one in a hundred. And the discussion could go on. We could speak of countrythat is very dry and that that is all the more reason for conserving all run-offand for improving soil to hold its moisture and growth longer, and for tree beltsto break the drying power of winds. But the evaporation rate is very high, and muchwater 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 fivefeet and more from open water surfaces in the summer months alone. But it would behardly less logical to decide not to cook food because the heat lost or wasted ismuch greater than that actually used in cooking, than to discount the idea of conservingwater because much may at times be lost by evaporation. Large low-cost water conservationcapacity is a feature of these flatter lands and so long as there is run-off, reliableor 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 backgroundof the climate and the land shape. Wind then is a feature of this climate, and sois 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 feetor more up to an average depth of eight feet, which usually would be provided bymaking a dam of twenty feet maximum depth. Generally on flatter land the most economicaldepth may be somewhat less than twenty feet, fifteen feet of water being usuallyan economical as well as a practical figure. Further discussion on water storageon 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 Keylineare 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 countrywhere run-off water is not a factor, the pattern of development may be then basedon the prevailing winds. The same factors of soil climate, the improved associationof moisture, warmth and air in the soil, still apply in soil improvement. Tree beltsacross the path of the prevailing winds are still important factors and water supplyremains 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 forplanning and the wider is the improvement that good planning will bring.

   While there are some lands which when fully planned and developedon Keyline will illustrate all the techniques of Keyline in ways easier to see andsimpler than the plan on other lands, in the end all agricultural land has its climateand land shape, and therefore the planning of Keyline based on these factors willalways apply to produce an improving property.

   Full consideration of all the factors of the Keyline scale willensure that development cannot do otherwise than follow the most suitable course.