The Keyline Scale of Permanence


   IN order to plan the development and management of land, themany factors that are involved should be related in some logical order. The planningof one aspect cuts across others, so some must have preference. Decisions have tobe made on all sorts of apparently conflicting items of land planning. We need ,also, to have an aim or an object, a basic plan.

   If something is to be planned and built it needs a basis ora foundation. If it has a foundation, then it should be permanent, more permanentthan the 'thing', whatever it is, that goes on the foundation.

   Decisions on any aspect of planning have a relative importancewhich relates to the permanence of the effect of that decision. A man decides tobuy a tie; this decision is not as important as the decision to buy a suit of clothes.It is unlikely that he buys the suit of clothes to match the tie, but logical tobuy the tie to match the suit. The permanence of the effects of each decision indicatesthe relative importance of the decision in planning.

   Every decision made on any aspect of land planning must be basedon or fit in with all others that are more permanent, or more permanent in theireffect than it is. Every decision should be based on adequate consideration of thewhole plan of development.

   If permanence and relative permanence are the guides on decisionswhich have to be made, then we need to determine these agriculturally in relationto all the factors involved.

   For instance, farmers and graziers are advised to plant trees,but where should they be planted? What are the factors involved in this decision?They should not be planted along an old fence that will need to be replaced in tenyears, particularly if the farmer can now see that the fence was erected originallyin the wrong place. Many recommendations suggest the planting of trees to protectvalleys. It would be surely a shame, when a few years later it became necessary toremove them to make way for a dam. Farm roads are sometimes an endless source oftrouble. How can their most suitable positions be decided?

   If a farm road clashes with a water conservation drain, andthis will happen more frequently in the future, how is the issue decided? Is thewater conservation drain made to suit the road or vice versa?

   A subdivision fence is required to divide arable land from agrazing area. How is its best location determined? Certain gateways wash badly. Whywere they put there in the first place? Is there a more suitable place for the fenceor a better position for the gateways?

   It is planned to have some irrigation; what factors determinethe exact position of the dam, the size and shape of the irrigation paddock? Whenit is finished could it then be obvious that another site for the dam, another siteor shape for the irrigation paddock would have been much better? A new building isto replace an old one. Will it be built in the same place? What are the main factorsthat affect the decision?

   These are only a few of the questions that arise. Decisionsare being made all the time, every day, and some of the most casual, thoughtlessly-madedecisions, apparently of little importance at the time, may have bad permanent effects.

   Then we have all had the experience of saying "That's goodenough" about a job we are doing. We probably knew it was not quite good enough;it did not last long enough and had to be done all over again. More time, much moretime, had to be spent later redoing the whole work. It may be much worse than justredoing the work. The original work may have affected something else, perhaps somethingquite important and permanent.

   Errors of this type are constantly happening, but on farms theireffects are magnified. It may be that a farmer without planning has decided quicklyto clear a piece of land. He wanted to work an idle machine. Inadequate instructionswere given to the operator about some trees that were to be left standing and thefarmer hurries off to repair a gate a mile away. It may be that he did not fix thegate properly, but it will do, and he goes back to the clearing to find the treeshe wanted have been removed. He can replace them, in fifteen or fifty years, butwhile he is adjusting himself to his loss a mob of cattle break through the "goodenough" gate and ruin a crop he grew for winter feed. Six months later the effectis shortage of feed. Ten years later he is still without his trees.

   The dam built without a plan is usually the one that washesout if there is heavy rain, and the dam constructed to plan as a thing of usefulnessand considerable beauty will not wash out and will last indefinitely.

   Every item of work a farmer does has its own life of usefulnessor effectiveness--its degree of permanence. If he is planning for the stability andpermanence of his farm he should be ever conscious of the relationship of these factorsto what he is doing or planning. What effect will his plans have on other thingsthat are more permanent? Still more questions.

   Will something cause a water concentration that can cut an erosiongutter in his land? Soil erosion is an opposing force working against the permanenceof his land which should be his most permanent possession. Is the general developmentof his property planned for permanence? I know a man who bought a dairy farm whichhe cursed every day. The house was at the top of a steep hill, the dairy buildingsat the bottom. Maybe it is much worse to climb a steep hill after working all daythan climbing a hill to work in the morning. To that man that hill got worse andworse until he sold the farm. It has probably changed hands a few times since. Inthis case, there was no planning for permanence in the locations of those buildings.No one wanted to make of it a permanent home. This type of farm is not handed downfrom generation to generation; it has no permanence.

   Natural land or undeveloped land owes its permanence to itsassociation with environment and time. It has reached a degree of balance and isstable. Agricultural land is, however, in a different category. Its degree of stabilityand permanence is a direct reflection of the people who control and occupy it.

   Man makes his moves and Nature sooner or later signifies approvalor disapproval. If it is approval, man can hold it permanently, but if it's disapproval,Nature reshapes the land again in a fashion that does not suit man.

   Farmers of the stable agriculture of the old world are not somuch affected by these problems of individual decision. They know the solutions veryoften, and act on them without even being aware of the problems which were ironedout for them centuries before. No doubt there were periods of trial and error, periodswhen changes were violent and often disastrous, but as farming lore and tribal lawswere handed down from father to son for generations than ran into centuries, traditionshardened and origins became blurred. No doubt there were many failures worse in theireffect than the droughts, flood and fires we know, and famine wiped out whole communitiesbefore agricultural man in Europe mastered his environment. And, looking back beyondthe documented period of agricultural change, there must have been times when a farmerby his primative experiments produced results as momentous to his community as theinvention of the wheel; and the glittering cavalcade of history as we know it (thewarriors, princes and prelates of medieval times; the monarchs, explorers and tradersof later times; the technocrat, bureaucrat and capitalist of today), travelled downthe road prepared by such geniuses.

   We of the new world have had little time. We have had no suchtradition of agricultural wisdom to guide us and there has been as yet no union ofthe techniques of the old world with the new conditions and horizons of the new world.

   For all that, the impact of the industrial revolution on thetraditional agriculture of Europe caused grave ills; in the new countries the effectwas swifter, deeper, and in places disastrous. For better or for worse modern technologyspeeds things along enormously. It is, however, just this powerful tool of moderntechnology, a lever, as it were, on the fulcrum of all traditional agricultural knowledge,that can reverse the process of deterioration with equal speed.

   The partnership of technology and tradition, with the exactsciences replacing much that was superstition, and almost infinite power replacingbullocking labour, these properly co-related, form a basis for a new type of permanentagriculture. With all due respect to the many who have made magnificent contributionsto the sum of our knowledge, I submit that there has been as yet no clearly formulatedpattern for permanence in modern agriculture!

   Seven years ago, after eight years of trial and error experimentson my own properties, I felt I had stumbled on to something of real agriculturalimportance in my land experiments. Three years later it seemed appropriate to setmy ideas down in print, and "The Keyline Plan", 1954, was the result.

   There has been since a further four years of experiment andproving over a much wider range of conditions, plus the great benefit of innumerablediscussions with some of the best agricultural brains in Australia. Looking backto my first inquisitive interest in the affairs of farmers and graziers from meetingthem as a mining man, I realise now that I have had opportunities that few men haveever had for just the type of work and investigations that have absorbed me for somany years. When I first purchased land I bought also all the problems of poor climate,eroded, abandoned land and dead soil. Fire took the life of my brother-in-law managerthe first year, a year of withering drought. Soon, freak rains were to test and destroysome of my first work. I had few problems of money that beset the first years ofmany of our best farmers, and no problems of equipment, since there were always plentyof bulldozers and giant scoops on my nearby jobs or mines. Then I had a fund of knowledgefrom my own work which I soon found was of greater value to me than any availablehelp or advice. I knew water, earth and rocks, and enough of many branches of engineering.The rest I learned by doing it. Over and beyond all this I could do what I liked,there was no one to dictate. I had the supreme advantage and the great privilegeof making my own mistakes in my own way. For fifteen years my experiments, mistakesand failures have pointed the way to the solution of each approach of the work andto the completion of a workable and successful plan. While aware still that thereis much to be learned, I feel that my experience and conclusions are of definitevalue.

   For these reasons then I offer the idea of the Keyline scaleas a contribution to the development of a modem planned agriculture that will bestable and permanent.

   The Keyline scale of permanence, or to give it a full explanatorytitle, "The Keyline scale of the relative permanence of things agricultural",is a further development of the Keyline Plan. It was developed for the purposes ofproviding a yard stick or guide to every type and kind of decision that has to bemade in any aspect of overall planning in the development and management of agriculturalland.

   The Keyline scale of the relative permanence of things agricultural,for the planning, development and management of agricultural lands is set out inthis way:

  1. Climate
  2. Land shape
  3. Water supply
  4. Farm roads
  5. Trees
  6. Permanent buildings
  7. Subdivision fences
  8. Soil

*   *   *

   The most permanent agricultural factor is climate. The generaloverall climate which has produced the natural vegetation and has given the finalsmoothing and shaping to the land is first on the Keyline scale.

   Land shape is intimately associated with the particular climateand is second in the Keyline scale of the relative permanence of things agricultural.

   These first two factors of the scale form the environment intowhich we must first fit our agriculture.

   Land shape under the Keyline plan is to be preserved. Fertilityerosion, the forerunner of soil erosion which causes the reshaping of land, is completelyprevented.

   Climate and land shape head the Keyline scale of permanenceand are very closely related in the time or age of their permanence.

   Item number three on the Keyline scale must unquestionably bewater supply. There can be no satisfactory or permanent agriculture without permanentwater supply. Even dry agriculture must at least have permanent water for householdand for stock. If water can be conserved in farm dams, then the structures themselvesare planned as permanent structures. Such water may be used for irrigation, and someof the irrigation dams may be depleted but the structures themselves remain.

   Under the general Australian conditions it is always desirableto conserve all the water that falls on the land. This desirable objective has notbeen attained in the past because of lack of study and of experiment that would makethis approach profitable and practical. Whatever the source of water supply, be itcreek, river, bores, farm storage in tanks and dams or even pumped or carted to theproperty, it forms an important background to all other planning and development.It may influence the pattern of clearing, the planting of trees, the selection ofhome and other building sites, the location of roads and subdivisions and croppingand grazing areas.

   The water supply should be decided and planned first so thatit will fit the two other more permanent factors, namely, climate and land shape.

   The fourth factor on the Keyline scale is main farm roads.

   On the gentler, easier country, the sites of permanent farmroads may offer alternatives, some of which may be suitable in general planning,but as the country becomes steeper and more difficult the siting of permanent farmroads depends more and more on climate and land shape.

   Fifth on the scale are trees, the trees that are to be leftin clearing of the land, or the trees that are to be planted. They are more permanentgenerally than homes but much less permanent than climate and land shape.

   It may be thought that trees are more permanent than water supplywhen the supply depends on dams that may silt up, but dams are located accordingto the climate and land shape and are designed and built for permanence. Siltingcan be prevented. If trees can live in drought conditions on natural ground water,then, surely, water supply can be made to last, provided dams are deep enough.

   The sixth item on the Keyline scale of permanence is homes andmajor farm buildings. Their sites should be selected having regard to all other morepermanent features. Trees and buildings are closely related as to their age of usefulness.Some trees for beautification will be planted near the homestead.

   The seventh factor is subdivision. The location of the subdivisionfences is influenced by farm roads, which in turn are located in respect to climate,land shape and water supply.

   As well as the main farm roads, reasonable access has to beprovided all over the property. The most suitable sites for subsidiary roads influencethe general subdivision fencing pattern.

   Soil is eighth on the Keyline scale of the relative permanenceof things agricultural.

   With the dominating place that soil fertility occupies in ourplanning aims it may be thought that soil would rate higher, but the scale is inorder of the relative permanence of things agricultural. If the soil is poor at thecommencement of planning it would not do to class it as third or fourth on the scaleof permanence. Soil is eighth or last, because the fertility of the soil can be lostin less time than a line of fence posts will rot. A poor soil may be converted intorich fertile soil in a tenth of this time.

   There is, however, the other aspect of soil that is relatedto number two of the scale, i.e., land shape. Land shape is really the shapeof the soil covering on the subsoil and rock form below. According to plan, landshape must remain stable and permanent.

   In repeating then, the Keyline scale of the relative permanenceof things agricultural, for the planning, development and management of agriculturallands is:

  1. Climate
  2. Land shape
  3. Water supply
  4. Farm roads
  5. Trees
  6. Permanent buildings
  7. Subdivision fences
  8. Soil

   But let it not be thought that these "eight" are thesole factors on the broad agricultural scale. Without, at least one other, the will,energy and ingenuity of our landmen, land improvement will not prosper.

   Each factor on the Keyline scale of the relative permanenceof things agricultural will be discussed individually as far as any one factor canbe separated from the others.

   Climate and land shape are intimately associated and are relatedin age.

   In any discussion on water supply we must consider it in relationto climate and land shape. The storage of water in farm structures cannot be separatedfrom either of these two factors.

   Like climate and land shape, water supply and farm roads areassociated in age, whereas the degree of permanence of the former relates to periodsof time ranging from tens of thousands of years, the time association of water supplyand farm roads, which are provided on the farm by man, is in the order of mere hundredsof years.

   Trees, next on the scale, also relate to water supply and mainfarm roads. In most farming conditions, where trees are still a factor, they maynow have a greater degree of permanence than farm roads and water supply.

   Permanent buildings are sited in relation to, or with considerationof, all the more permanent features. Their degree of permanence is generally greaterthan but relates to the next item, i.e., subdivision and fencing.

   Soil is life and life may die. So this last factor on the Keylinescale of permanence is to be developed to a much higher state of life and fertilitythan it attained naturally. The farmer and grazier may then be justified in consideringit as his permanent possession.

   When soil is held permanently in an improved condition we willhave attained the objective, a stable and permanent agriculture. The full durationof permanence will always depend on the farmer who is not only manager but custodianof his re-created agricultural land.