Keyline Water Management: Field Research and Education in the Capital Region, BC

Resilient Farm Resource Guide for Coastal BC

A FAQ Resource Guide to help farmers adapt to and mitigate climate change-related challenges. Click here.

What is Keyline Farm Planning?

Keyline farm planning is a management tool that uses natural landscape contours and farming techniques to slow, sink, spread and store rainwater as well as build soil fertility. With a detailed contour map of your farm, keyline planning can help determine the optimal placement for farm elements such as: irrigation ponds, cropping & orchard rows, structures, roads/tracks, fences, livestock rotation, subsoil rip lines, and more. 


Rainwater moves largely based on landform, from the ground where it falls to its final destination in valleys, creeks, lakes and oceans. Water also carries nutrients. With a detailed contour map, we can work with natural contours to maximize these resources and build soil. Keyline patterning allows the farmer to harmonize with the landform while maintaining parallel cultivation rows.


Keyline strategies focus on slowing, spreading, sinking and storing rainwater in the landscape and building topsoil, not just conserving it. By slowing heavy storms, we reduce erosion and soil loss. By spreading, we can buffer the natural concentration of water in 'valleys' from 'ridges'. By sinking, we can also keep as much water and nutrients on the farm as possible to optimize ground water recharge.  By storing abundant winter rainwater in ponds, we can have excess water  in times of scarcity.


Keyline techniques vary depending on the production system, but the common thread is the keyline patterning. Techniques can include: multi-functional tree planting (shade/ wind protection/ forage / fodder/ crops), subsoil plowing to reduce hardpan, pond building to store winter rains for summer irrigation, energy-efficient, multi-functional road building and more. They have the potential to enhance the water efficiency of any existing production system. 

About This Project

Hatchet & Seed is pleased to announce the “Keyline Water Management: Field Research & Education in the Capital Region”.

From 2015-2017, we’ll be monitoring the effects of ‘keyline subsoil plowing’ using the Yeoman 6SB subsoil plow on three unique farms in the capital region.

This 3-year project also includes an educational component, with free public seminars and several field days designed to empower farmers to use GIS imaging technology and a simple field contour layout to better understand their farm’s micro-watershed.

To read a 2-page project summary produced the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative, click here:

Funding for this project has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative.

Keyline Design Project Scope - Capital Region, Southern Vancouver Island
Project Scope - Capital Region, Southern Vancouver Island

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the BC Ministry of Agriculture are committed to working with industry partners. Opinions expressed in this document are those of Hatchet & Seed and not necessarily those of AAFC, the Ministry of Agriculture or the Investment Agriculture Foundation.

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