Why Soil Conservation?
THROUGHOUT agricultural history the landman has forever neededto concentrate his attention on the little things, on the daily chores and the weeklytask, and on the differing work of the changing seasons. He has not had the timegenerally to see or understand the wide and the basic things of agriculture or knowthe real background of his endeavours. He was too busy just eking out a living. Theagricultural development and use of land may cause tremendous changes in the naturalenvironment, and man, with his attention focused on the things which from day today directly concern him, has at times been overwhelmed by the sudden realisationof the deterioration which he had caused in his environment. Soil erosion, the finalresult of this deterioration, had become so widespread that it forced him from theland.
There are examples in history where, under good climatic conditionsof gentle and reliable rainfall and land shape not harsh or steep, a stable agriculturewas developed, and there are other occasions where in poor or less favourable conditionsman has controlled and improved land and founded a permanent agriculture. Still thereare many more instances where his agriculture caused wide land deterioration, which,by forcing huge population declines and mass movements, changed the whole courseof the history of nations.
Even in modern times during which the various sciences havemore greatly increased their scope as well as their knowledge than during the previousthousand years, agricultural science, like the early farmers, has still concentratedon the things of their special field, and the day-to-day work, and have tended tobecome even more remote from the broad environmental fields with which they shouldbe most vitally concerned.
The wide agricultural problem that has to be solved before modernagriculture is safe and permanent is, I believe, the one I have expounded in thisbook. Agricultural pursuits must be adjusted to become methods which improve thesoil so that the stability of the environment is preserved.
In man's attack on his problems he usually fights the obvious,the results rather than the causes, and through failure progresses to these causesand later to the real solutions. No doubt in the fight against soil erosion the resultsof erosion were fought and not the causes which he may have little understood.
All of us are aware that soil erosion has been a problem ofancient civilisations. Since this book and the practical experiments that lie behindit advocate a new approach to land problems, it is desirable that I should set outmy views and a little of my experience with soil erosion.
There are two completely distinct types of man-made soil erosionand they have two different causes.
The first type is the erosion or washing away of soil and earthsand decomposed rock and which is caused by the concentration of water flow. Thistype of soil erosion is a veritable land erosion and may start anywhere and at anytime.It is generally the result of public and private works that, in breaking both thesmall and major pattern of water flowing over land, cause new and unnatural concentrationof water flow.
The second type is the soil erosion resulting from an agriculturewhich is not adjusted to its environment and is caused by the general change anddeterioration of the soil's climate. This type of erosion may be local to one farmor regional and widespread. Its direct cause is from farming and grazing methodsand practices that cause a loss of soil fertility. The agency which removes the soilis water or wind or both.
The first type of soil erosion is seen widely in the erosionthat has resulted from road building. Wherever roads stretch out to conquer new landgreat erosion problems have followed. These are caused by diverted drainage, andwhere the two types of soil erosion affects the one property, then it becomes themost spectacular part of agricultural erosion. It is manifested in the greatly deterioratedlandscape and the consequential very large gullies.
The methods that cure soil erosion depend on the degree to whichit has broken the original land forms and profiles. The type of soil erosion thatis most widespread in Australia's general agricultural areas still permits reasonableland management and can be cured by methods of land improvement and soil developmentthat need not treat the erosion directly but cures and prevents it as incidentalto better farm planning and soil and water management. I believe I have proved inmy own work that the Keyline planning and development of land and its soil care isnot only the economic and most effective method of preventing or controlling thistype of erosion, but also the most profitable and logical.
Where the degree of soil erosion has reached the stage of gulliesand gutters making the more intimate treatment of soil and the satisfactory managementof land impossible, then the work is not so much erosion control or soil conservationbut becomes land reclamation. This type of destruction is fortunately not extensivein Australia, yet it is seen on some stock routes and other places not directly theresponsibility of the landman; however, quite a number of farms are affected by it.The work of reclamation here is a type of land reshaping more in keeping with suchconstruction work as the reshaping of land for an aerodrome than it is erosion controlin agriculture.
If such a deteriorated landscape problem were put forward forKeyline management, then reclamation would proceed as follows: Disregarding the damage,the land shape would be first appraised in the same manner as would be done on agood farm, and, of course, backed up with a knowledge of the climate. Water supplyfor the farm to be reclaimed would next be studied and determined. If the erosionwas such that the general shape could be recovered, the highest planning lines wouldbe marked in, again disregarding the gullies. Next, the area above these lines wouldbe reconstructed as cheaply as possible and preserving in the treated land naturalland shapes as disclosed in Chapter VI. This area would be fertilised and planted.The water conservation drain and keyline or highest dam would then be planned andbuilt. The work of land reshaping would continue by proceeding downward with theappropriate Keyline methods, which would be followed throughout the development ofthe property until a stable fertility was reached.
There are very many instances where the destruction of landhas proceeded to the stage where economic recovery is now considered impossible,and there are two reasons for this view, namely the high cost of recovery and thevery limited value of the land when it is stabilised again. However, there may bewider implications than the value of the land, and so on occasions much more moneythan the land is worth in its recovered state is spent on saving it. Nevertheless,in the Keyline approach to the cost of the actual reconstruction of the land forms(and the cheapest-to-make natural shapes is all that is required) there is the aimthat the land will rapidly become more fertile and valuable than previously. Whilethere is earth or decomposed rock material to work with, and in this type of landdestruction there usually is, then the recovered land will soon reach its highestdevelopment and value.
Leaving all these aspects of soil erosion, the proposition infarming and grazing is simply to maintain the natural shape and form of land permanently,so that soil erosion is not a factor.
Prior to the conversion of any land to agriculture, the landwas in a certain state of balance. Geological erosion, the very slow movement-of-materialvia the streams towards the ocean, is generally more than balanced by the decompositionof rocks and the continuous development of new soil. If the hills and primary (andoften secondary) valleys were rounded, then the valley transported the water withoutnew rapid erosion. If, in the occupation of the land agriculturally, the environmentis not deteriorated, then the land remains stable and the valleys transport the run-offwater safely. The land is made quite secure by improving the fertility of the soilin the new farming environment, and by avoiding the uncontrolled concentration ofwater flow. In Australian conditions farmers usually require more water, and particularlyat those times when the natural environment does not provide it, so they should controland conserve the water. This also makes certain that the valley will have less run-offto handle and even at the same time increase its capacity to handle more than itcould initially. Farming and grazing, as practices for the management of the environment,will produce a soil more fertile than the original soil and improve the environmentbeyond its best natural condition. If this does not follow, then farm planning andmanagement are at fault and the farming landscape will not be stable or permanent.However, the stability of farming land is often subject to influences from otherland, influences not a factor of the natural landscape, and so, on occasions, unnaturalconcentration of flow water may enter the land. Such water flow can affect the bestof agricultural land. If these inflows are not treated specifically, then wide destructionof the land form may occur. But water is a most valuable primary asset, and so itshould be controlled at the immediate point of entry and transported by water conservationdrains to a specially constructed storage. If the circumstances are such that wateris never in short supply and therefore the inflow cannot be used, then, and onlythen, should consideration be given to its safe disposal. The first approach maystill be one of control at the place where it enters the land.
Where an erosion gully enters from a road and continues througha property, causing active damage, then an earth dam is planned to first controlthe water, and in conjunction with a drain on a slight grade, transport the waterto a disposal area. The dam and drain may be a very modest structure. A ridge ofreasonably uniform shape and one that is suitably pattern-cultivated to transportthe water down the ridge centre, is a suitable area, as is also a good valley. Waterdisposal via a ridge has the great advantage that increasing amounts of water flowdown the slope do not cause increasing velocities as other forms of natural or prepareddisposal channels may do. The factor that causes water to flow down the centre ofa ridge is the reversal of the natural flow path occasioned by the furrows of thespecial Keyline cultivation pattern. The natural flow path is always away from theneutral line of the ridge and towards the valley, so that water flowing down theneutral line of the ridge is directed there only by the pattern of cultivation. Ifthe pattern has furrows two inches deep, then water cannot flow, for example, fourinches deep. This is because the water above the pattern would lose the influenceof the pattern and commence to follow its natural flow path as dictated by the shapeof the ridge and consequently, by spreading wider and shallower, becomes again influencedby the Keyline pattern of furrows further out from the neutral line of the ridge.Therefore, if a given quantity of water is flowing, it will form a general path downthe Keyline pattern-cultivated ridge, and if the volume of water flow is doubledor quadrupled the effect is that the width of the shallow stream increases accordingly.Yet there is not, as in most other methods of water disposal, an increase in thevelocity of flow. (See Figs. 4 and 8, Chaptere 6 )
A general loss of fertility, which has been described as a pre-soilerosion, is not manifested by active and visible soil erosion, but can be seen inthe examination of the soil of pasture land by the change in the soil's structureand generally by the decreasing depth at which the main pasture root system lies.This loss of fertility often first discloses itself in declining health of stockand lower stocking capacity with reduced yields. This type of erosion, the very seriousforerunner to active soil erosion, can only be cured permanently by, methods whichdirectly improve the fertility, the structure and the depth of the soil. This, however,becomes automatic with the start of the Keyline management of the soil of pastureland. Here again the important effect to be produced is an improvement in the soilclimate. While there are other procedures which will assist, the most natural basisfor lasting benefit relates to the improvement in the soil when moisture, warmthand air are in better relationship and when they are combined into one single factor.
There is no further need to discuss the Keyline approach orits solutions to the problems of land or water, as they are seen to be simple anddirectly effective. Now, if these soil-erosion problems are so simply disposed ofas in Keyline, why, then, is there such an emphasis in the minds of so many on theproblem of soil erosion, and why have we spent in the Federal and the various StateGovernment departments such a considerable amount of money on soil erosion controlor soil conservation? The subject is lightly discussed and dismissed with littlecomment in Keyline because it has been found that Keyline is quite effective in bothcuring and preventing soil erosion, and that in this type of development and managementof land, soil erosion is not a factor that requires any special consideration. Theseclaims are not made lightly or without realising the earlier seriousness of soilerosion, but from the background of long study and wide experience of both soil erosionitself as a land menace and of soil conservation with its approaches, methods andtechniques as a cure of soil erosion. It might be well to review why we had cometo be so preoccupied with soil erosion problems.
To start at the beginning of modern-day soil conservation, wideland surveys were conducted in America to investigate the losses from soil erosionthere, and determine the course that events would take if the problem was not attackedin a practical way. Prior to 1930 these reports indicated that about one hundredmillion acres of once productive land were seriously affected by soil erosion, andeven half of it to the stage of complete abandonment. The continuing rate of lossexceeded the equivalent of a million acres of fertile topsoil each year and the rateof loss was sure to increase. However, despite these facts and the lessons of history,there seems to have been no widespread awareness of the march of soil erosion inthe new world until what are known as the depression years of the early nineteenthirties. Then in America there started probably the greatest campaign to educatepublic opinion on the menace of soil erosion than ever had happened before in allagricultural history. No mad scrambling land boom ever approached in publicity thecourse of the "sale" of the great land menace of soil erosion. No otherland subject ever received such wide and popular press support. Then later, whenthe wonderful press co-operation and response started to die down somewhat theregrew up association after association, formed by public-spirited people, who, themselves"sold" on the reality of the menace of soil erosion and the need for actionin the matter, wanted to keep it continuously in the public eye.
America, like the rest of the world, was suffering from theshocking and repeated blows dealt out by the great depression and their unemploymentfigures ran into many millions. Consequently the great "soil erosion menace"became a boon to many unemployed as the Federal Government, fighting the two nationalmenaces of unemployment and soil erosion, started project after project, all of whichhad their impetus from these dual menaces to the nation. Agricultural officers weretaken from their work in departments and became soil erosion experts as vast sumsof money were poured into the battle. For a start the new experts seemed to forgetagriculture, but in keeping with the virile spirit with which America tackles herproblems when her people are really aroused, many of these officers became insteadof agriculturalists, enthusiastic amateur engineers. But the American people weretold that she was losing by soil erosion the equivalent of a million acres of fertiletop soil every year, and there does not seem much doubt that this figure may havereflected the true position. The new experts therefore were going to fight this greatbattle and win it, and where should they concentrate their major efforts but on thebiggest and best soil erosion gullies. So their requirements in plant and equipmentgot bigger and bigger until the new experts had tasted to the full the thrill ofthe direction of huge accumulations of big equipment.
However, like everything else, these matters were graduallymoved to better perspective, and the new soil erosion theorists and their departmentscommenced to grow up. "Soil erosion" was dropped for "erosion control"and then became "soil conservation". In 1934 authority on these mattersof soil conservation was vested in the United States Departments of Agriculture,a saner outlook was restored and soil conservation grew up further, and the panicpessimism that gave it birth has now been almost forgotten. In parts of America thework of the soil conservationist dominated the rural scene, as I have observed inflying over the country; also on another flight I saw more of the devastation ofsoil erosion than I have noted through the years in Australia.
The early American campaign against the menace of soil erosionaroused similar action in other countries, and it was not too long before appropriatelegislation was enacted in Australian States, with New South Wales in the van.
Here in Australia, however, we did not have the spending atthat time of even reasonable sums of money, and little, if any, equipment was forthcoming.By contrast in 1957 the Soil Conservation Department of N.S.W. spent the large sumof half a million pounds. Shortly afterwards Australia was in the second world warand it was not until 1946 that our soil conservation departments really got underway. In the meantime books on the subject became available for study and Australianshad been sent to America to learn the American methods and become soil erosion experts.
This type of critical review is only possible after the event,but the "selling" of soil erosion as a great national menace had its effecton myself as well as hundreds of thousands of other Australians. In earlier timesother nations, even whole civilisations, had experienced the same problem as America,and the march of soil erosion had won. Now for the first time in history a greatnation was organising its forces to win the battle against soil destruction, andit was a battle with the outcome deadly serious. These matters are covered widelyin other books, so they need not be pursued here. However, like so many others atthat time, I read these books and many articles and references to soil erosion whichwere contained in the press and in magazines. I looked for the signs of soil erosionwherever I travelled on my mining work and talked about the subject to those whomI met who were interested.
In Australia there were evidences everywhere of the real truthof the menace of soil erosion. The menace was indeed very real, and farmers and graziers,too, were convinced and worried by the great problem of soil loss. Two outstandingimpressions of those days remain. One was the first almost hopeless type of pessimismof the soil conservation concept, which in Australia extended among many classesof people, including landmen, the new soil conservationists and the higher officialor Government administrative officer.
The other impression was of my own query then, and it has notbeen forgotten. This related to the almost complete disregard for the run-off waterwhich was generally the instrument of the final removal of the soil in this soilerosion menace to which we were newly awakened. On the one hand I was very familiarwith the practice of the mining man conserving every drop of water in order to createhis own type of soil erosion in his sluicing operations, for instance, so that hecould recover the "values" in gold or tin. On the other hand, the agriculturalland of the farmer and grazier was allowed to sluice away in soil erosion with novalues being recovered by anyone. Then along came the soil conservationist to tellthe farmer how to get rid of the water "safely". Here is seen also, aninstance of this illogical division of authorities in purely agricultural matterswhich I have previously mentioned. If the Government agriculturalist or the soilconservationist, or any other authority then had the full control of the two aspectsof the problem, namely land and water, our agriculture must have gained considerably.Surely the farmers and graziers needed the water that was washing away their soil.There was as much positive evidence of the need for the water, in the many poor cropsand dried-out pastures to be seen, as there was of the accelerating march of soilerosion, and I asked myself this question, "Why wasn't all the water conserved?"However, I had to buy land, build many more dams, not for mining but now for agriculture,make use of many of the practices of soil erosion control and spend a lot of moneyon experiments before I had the final answer to just this one question, "Whywasn't all the water conserved?" I had become a farmer and grazier and a landowner and made my first practical use of the methods of soil erosion control althoughit was by no means my first experiences in the conservation and control of water.
Like many another practical man and farmer at that time, I wasprepared to be shown and told how to apply the methods of erosion control. I wastold, too, but certainly not what I expected or wanted to hear. The first GovernmentSoil Conservationists visited my property at my request in 1944 and some months beforea bushfire swept through the area. It was the worst fire in the district's history.Now at that time I'was not only a very enthusiastic believer in the need for someplanned and positive action against the menace of land deterioration, but I was ina position to do something about it, at least on my own property. I had plenty ofequipment of the type needed and which was then generally not available to the officialsoil conservationist, and I knew how to use it. I thought, of course, that the bulldozerwas the most powerful implement for soil erosion control. Now I know that the powerfulfactor that will cure and prevent soil erosion is the little, the very little andat that time neglected things that should be just part of all good farming and grazingpractice, and not the big bulldozer, which, of course, is a wonderful aid to thelarge-scale development of land. However, I was a practical mining man and knew,as I have said, earth, rock and water, and it seemed to me that this experience andmy less powerful equipment was just what was needed. Also, as a mining man, I wassomewhat of an optimist and in keeping with my profession. But imagine my reactionon being told by the soil conservationists that there was little that could be donefor my property. True, they said, contour drains could be put in to stop the furthererosion of the soil and the erosion gullies in all the valleys could be filled up,and probably would wash out again. No! The land could not be plowed, with the exceptionof an area which they pointed out of about 40 acres. The rest was too steep and wouldwash away if broken with the plow. The land was not any good and never would be andit was not worth doing much about it; that was their general attitude. But what aboutthe water I could save in dams? It seemed that water was no good for irrigation unlessthe land was river flats. However, the pessimism of those days to the problems ofland did not affect me much, and, of course, not all soil conservationists were quiteso pessimistic. However, these soil conservationists were almost right and they wereonly reflecting this hopeless and generally pessimistic feeling of the times aboutsoil erosion. Had not the greatest name in American soil conservation said more thanonce in the first few pages of his text, book (almost the bible of soil conservation)that once the fertile top soil is gone it is gone forever, and that there is nothingthat can be done about it, "so we must save the soil that is left". Again,that it is just as impossible to remake a farm once the soil has washed away as itis to make a motor car without the necessary steel and rubber and wood. On top ofthis attitude, the shale soils of the County of Cumberland, it was said, had neverbeen, good enough for pasture improvement, which fact was not known to me at thetime I bought the land. These things are mentioned to show the general backgroundat the time.
The next few years were busy ones for me, and I persisted inmy belief that I could eventually make a thousand acres of fertile soil on my property.I put in the usual structures and devices of soil conservation all over the farm,but there was this notable difference in my application of the methods, namely, someof the drains of soil conservation were constructed as water conservation drainsto carry the run-off water into dams for irrigation. The first dams with their waterconservation drains were built before the fire of December, 1944. This early idea,a basic approach and feature of Keyline planning, received some publicity as waterharvesting nine years later, when it was adopted at a farm belonging to Sydney Universityand following a visit to my farm by its manager. For the next few years, even withsome successes, it still appeared that the soil conservationists' idea that my soilwould never be good may have been correct.
I still believed in the concept of soil conservation and concentratedon improving its methods and trying to devise ideas for better land planning. I didmake some progress in this direction. This only led to my abandonment of the wholeconcept of soil conservation and I filled in miles of my soil conservation drains.I had spent a substantial amount of money and made many experiments, but, like somemistakes, these were valuable lessons. I had tried out soil conservation thoroughlyand probably learned much, and now I had abandoned the whole concept.
While I was moving from experiments to failure and away fromsoil conservation the work of soil conservation departments continued to spread inAustralia. The emphasis was still too much on water flow as a menace; water had tobe got away from the farm land safely, was the general attitude of soil conservationists.Contour drains, contour banks, absorption banks, pasture furrows, grassed waterwaysbecame widely-known terms and the use of these structures spread slowly. Likewise,the soil conservation departments grew and spread as large amounts of money wereallotted to them.
On occasions rather amazing things began to happen on some propertieson which soil conservation methods were used. While the extra water held in someof the structures prevented erosion and increased production, it also caused an improvementin the fertility of the soil, yet there appeared to be a reluctance to appreciatethis fact. It was not recognised on the part of the soil conservationists generally.Perhaps the phenomena was too strange against the views expressed in their textbooks,which said that soil lost to erosion was land destroyed permanently. Even today thisattitude persists, and an article on soil conservation, recently published, repeatsthe belief of the earlier days of soil conservation, that soil lost can never berecovered.
There could be little doubt of the fact that soil conservationgenerally worked and that it did stop soil erosion where the methods were appliedproperly. When some of the earlier attempts of soil conservationists made mattersa lot worse it was not of any importance but for the fact that mistakes are veryvaluable teachers to those who will learn. I do not want to belittle any of the successesof soil conservation. So many of them were more wonderful than the official soilconservationist seemed to appreciate. In my experience the official soil conservationisthas never taken sufficient notice of the actual soil changes that often took placebeneath his feet where soil conservation practices were applied. He has his bookand a few techniques and the tendency was to apply these almost willy nilly to anytype of eroded land. However, experience of soil conservation work is not alwaysa happy one, and every farm is a separate problem. A farmer and his wife visitedmy farm and with my wife we walked to the eight-inch lockpipe valve below a dam and,turning it on, commenced irrigating. When the farmer saw the water spread he askedhow many such dams we had and their cost. He told me he had spent more money on asimilar area of his property in similar rainfall conditions, on soil conservationwork, and could not turn on a one-inch tap. Again, very recently, a grazier witha large property said he put in "soil conservation" in one large paddocka few years ago. He called it the unpopular paddock, because no one wanted to workthere or even ride there; it was too uncomfortable, with its big banks and drains.In learning anything, mistakes are always made, and so the costs of improved farmingpractices are paid for by many landmen.
In America, under the guidance of agriculture, the methods ofsoil conservation fell into better perspective.
Gone is the reliance on the contour bank and the pasture furrow;and the large absorption bank, with its associated channel, once nearly as greata desecration of land as the erosion gully itself, is almost outlawed and rarelyin evidence. Now better farming is practised with more complete fertilisation, includingthe wider use of green manures; with alternate strips of cleanly cultivated and close-growingcrops and grasses, stretching across the land, and often dominating the landscapefor many hundreds of miles; and the rotation of grass and crops go hand in hand withimproved grazing management. Soil conservation, as in its original conception, haslargely disappeared, although part of the name lingers still in the newer term "conservationfarming".
Many Australians realise now that "wise land use"is not much use to a farmer if it means growing only grass when he wants crops aswell as grass. Agriculture was faulty, but now it has improved and it is still improving,and that is the simple answer to what is wise in land use. "Plowing grasslandsto grow cereals", once a widely publicised soil erosion cause, does not nowobtain. Again, it is how the plowing is done and how the farm is managed, and soit becomes just another matter of agricultural practice. "Grass and trees toreplace plowland", another early soil conservationist catchcry, is no answerto soil erosion nowadays when it does not suit the farmer. Good plowing and goodfarming enters into the picture and are here to stay. Forests are not the answerto soil erosion when we see forest land eroding; good management is the only wayhere also, and "hill country left timbered to protect the land" is no useto the farmer who wants grass for cattle, especially, also, if the trees are notof any value. No longer is it recommended that the farm be adjusted to suit the earlyideas of soil conservation, but rather the profession of the land is adjusting itselfbetter in its environment.
Soil conservation as an approach was never really necessary.Indeed, the accumulations of its mechanical procedures are not its own, but are borrowedfrom agriculture, ancient and modern irrigation systems, and from mining. To manylaymen the use of the contour in agriculture is the invention, even the great inspiration,of soil conservation, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the study ofaerial photography of Great Britain parallel contour lines were found, lines unseenfrom ground observation, which are interpreted to mean that contour working of landmust have been practised in early Roman times, and the contour as a means of illustratingtopography is not new. No! Soil conservation was certainly not born of inventionor inspiration, but rather of such forces as panic and pessimism; and perhaps mostof all as far as America was concerned it was seen as an aid to the spending of largesums of Government money to fight unemployment and depression. It may be consideredthat my rejection of the term "soil conservation" is just a matter of wordsonly, but it is more to the associations which the term raises that I object thanto the words themselves.
My desire is to eliminate entirely from our thinking the memoryof the battle to save the soil, the thought of large sums of money used and the generalair of depression, all of which we now know to have been completely unrealistic.
So soil conservation has performed this great service to land.Because of its mistakes, failures and misconceptions, as well as some successes,but most of all by the wide publicity which it gave to the menace of soil erosion,it not only made the landman aware of the danger and the need that something shouldbe done about it, but widely disturbed the general public as well. This constitutes,in my opinion, its great achievement and at the same time cancels out the need for"soil conservation". But so unrealistic, pessimistic and exaggerated weresome of the early statements on soil erosion that soil conservation agencies movedinto a place at one time where they regarded themselves, and were considered by someothers, as more important than the whole of agriculture itself. There has been atendency also at times for some soil conservationists to use their position and theirpopular publicity to exaggerate land problems in order to show a need for the soilconservationists and to try to make a permanent place for themselves even in suchmatters as national land policy. However, in a country like Australia it is not theinherent pessimism latent in old-time soil conservation theories that should influencepolicy in such directions. The more practical developmental approach of the experiencedagriculturalist should be followed in the broad aspects of land policy. Surely thereis now no cause for pessimism in our agricultural outlook! Soon it will be realisedmore fully that while it is right and proper to conserve water and to conserve fodder,the landman's job is not so much to conserve soil as it is to develop soil, to improvehis soil and to make it more fertile than it ever was. Soil is not dead, inert matter;it is alive and vital. It must be so managed as to improve its life so that the soilwill deepen. Then the farming landscape will develop as it should do. But this alsowill have been some measure of achievement for soil conservation itself. In the meantime,again in my opinion, there is a great deal of money now being largely wasted in SoilConservation Departments and too many excellent men being employed less effectivelyand beneath their true capacities by being designated merely soil conservationists.There are all too few of such excellent men concerned in the broader fields of agriculture,where they are sorely needed, and their talents and their usefulness should not be,even in small part, wasted to the nation.
"Soil erosion", as represented by land administrationand sponsored farm practices and reclamation, was over publicised, became much toopre-occupied with the mechanical side and was too wasteful of public money. The socialproblem of the great depression in America, which "soil erosion" was expectedto cure, no longer obtains. The newer form of "soil conservation" likewisehas outlived its usefulness, s ince, quite apart from the improvements in farmingand grazing, the successful soil conservationist naturally works himself out of ajob; and this is equally true of Soil Conservation Departments.
What is the alternative? In Australia it is not desirable thatSoil Conservation Departments be eliminated, but that they should be given a neworientation and a new attachment.
Agriculture is growing up and extending, and it must take awider and more comprehensive view of all its own functions. If Keyline or any otherequally good and broad environmental approach to land and water can automaticallycontrol soil erosion, eliminate the disastrous effects of droughts by preventingthe waste of water and floods, and increase productivity, then the large staffs ofSoil Conservation Departments could be very profitably employed on expounding thenew approach and teaching it to farmers and graziers, and thereby adding greatlyto the national benefit. Such staffs, however, will require to return eventuallyto the agricultural fold, since the new approach to land and water and with whichthis book is particularly concerned, makes it abundantly clear that land and itsproblems must be seen as a whole and not as separate unrelated and often antagonisticaspects of public administration.
As for the farmer and grazier, they are already on the way tothe new agriculture and bid fair to take advantage of every new opportunity whichis offered to them.