About This Project

About This Project

Summary

From 2015-2017, we’ll be monitoring the effects of ‘keyline subsoil plowing’ on seasonal soil moisture using the Yeoman 6SB subsoil plow on three unique farms in the Capital Region, BC.

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.

Overview

Hatchet & Seed is pleased to announce the project:“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.

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

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

Project Objectives

Keyline Plow
Creating precise plow lines or mounds that fall slightly off contour
Keyline Plow
Keyline Plow Rows

Field Research

This project seeks to implement and monitor ‘keyline pattern cultivation’ as a means of rain/storm water management (mitigating flood and drought regimes). Treatments will take place each fall in 2015, 2016 and 2017 on three unique test farms with different production models (an annual vegetable farm, a pastured livestock farm and an orchard start-up). Our hypothesis is that properly applied keyline subsoil treatment may contribute significantly to a number of beneficial outcomes:

    • The deepening of the rhizosphere by fracturing hardpans and reducing compaction
    • Increased oxygen, nutrient and water infiltration, increasing soil health
    • More even distribution of rainfall across the land and increased resiliency to flooding and drought
    • Increased farm water use efficiency and conservation
    • Reduced nutrient leaching and stormwater runoff overloading into local creeks and near-shore marine environments

Outreach & Education

We also strive to provide valuable education outreach to farmers, land-managers, developers and policy-makers. We seek to:

  • Raise awareness about the potential benefits of keyline design for flood/drought proofing landscapes, increasing soil carbon, and reducing nutrient leaching and stormwater runoff overloading into local creeks and near-shore marine environments.
  • Promote the integrated use of keyline design in a diverse number of production systems with a special focus on the adaptation potential of ‘perennial agriculture’.
  • Adapt keyline design strategies & techniques to the regional context in an open sourced way with the input of local farmers and agricultural experts.

About the Field Monitoring Program

The 'Keyline Plow' coulter and shanks, designed for minimal surface disturbance.
The 'Keyline Plow' coulter and shanks, designed for minimal surface disturbance.
Nitrogen-Fixing Seed Germination in Riplines (Clover & Vetch)
Nitrogen-Fixing Seed Germination in Riplines (Clover & Vetch)
Soil moisture probes measuring Volumetric Water Content (VWC%) a 2 different depths.
Soil moisture probes measuring Volumetric Water Content (VWC%) a 2 different depths.

A Project Update:

February 7th, 2016

Greetings and thank you for your interest in our project,

There is a growing demand for more efficient on-farm water management and 'keyline design' has begun to garner more widespread adoption in North America, particularly among those practicing agro-forestry, silvo-pasture and ally cropping. Keyline design represents one of several land management best practices that contribute to flood and drought proofing farms. For this project, we have created a pilot study to explore how one aspect of keyline design, keyline plowing, might be used to relieve compaction and increase infiltration of rainfall on the farm landscape.

'Keyline plowing' is only one component of the keyline system developed by P.A. Yeomans and it may or may not be applicable to every individual farm context. Keyline water management also encompasses the 'patterning of the landscape' and placement of water reservoirs, irrigation lines, roads, as well as orientation of crops, orchards and grazing systems.

Keyline plowing is best used in conjunction with cover cropping and management-intensive grazing; however, the purpose of our study is to see what effect keyline plowing has on its own for water infiltration/storage. We wanted to minimize variables; in addition, if this pilot study suggests keyline plowing can improve infiltration and storage of water on sloped, compacted landscapes, it is the simplest aspect of keyline design that can be implemented to improve water efficiency on existing farming operations.

To test the potential benefits of 'keyline plowing’, we have set up our pilot program to compare keyline treated pasture to a control (untreated pasture) on three sites. On one site, nut trees will be planted on keyline layout as well, with keyline plowing occurring in between tree rows. As this study is a pilot, it represents a relatively small sample size. Our project agrologist Sara Duncan (P.Ag.) has identified some of these constraints, which will be included in the final report in 2017.

Below is a simplified summary of our program.

  • We've chosen two farms (Central Saanich + Salt Spring Island) to install permanent soil moisture probes at different depths on both control & keyline-plow-treated plots. Another farm in Central Saanich will be monitored using subjective field and farmer observations.
  • We chose the centre of small ridge lines as the natural division between our control and treatment monitoring plots and keyline ripped down to 2'' (5 cm) below topsoil depth on one side of the ridge and left the other side of the ridge untreated as a control. The probes will measure volumetric water content every 4 hours for the next 2 years. Local weather data (Victoria airport) will be used to provide rainfall timing and amounts for context
  • Both sites are sloped landscapes with compacted soils (we hit 300 psi in the first 6 cm in October) supporting mostly un-managed pasture. One site had moderate soil carbon levels, the other very poor.
  • We've taken baseline soil samples for both treatment and control plots that include: major/minor nutrient profile, total carbon, active carbon, pH, % organic matter, C:N ratio, and bulk density.
  • We created transects downslope on both treated and untreated plots to measure compaction using a penetrometer. We measured in October after a long period of drought when soil was at peak compaction.
  • Immediate results were that the plowing relieved compaction down to plow depth, not just in the ripline but 10-12 cm on either side of the ripline. We will measure compaction through the study to see whether reduced compaction is sustained.

We're very pleased with the initial monitoring project set-up, and are excited to share information about our project as it unfolds.

Thank you, 

 
    - Tayler Krawczyk, Project Lead
       Hatchet & Seed 
       250.884.2279

 

A tractor guide ensures equidistance between riplines.
A tractor guide ensures equidistance between riplines.
Keyline plowing compacted, steep sheep pasture.
Keyline plowing compacted, steep sheep pasture.
A 'duplex soil', with carbon-rich topsoil above a clay-loam.
A 'duplex soil', with carbon-rich topsoil above a clay-loam.

Project Team

Tayler Krawczyk

Tayler Krawzcyk

Project Lead

Tayler is an ecological landscape designer, permaculture practitioner and project manager. Focusing on edible landscaping and climate-smart land design, he operates Hatchet & Seed, with his partner Solara Goldwynn. Tayler will be responsible for managing project logistics, completing open-access farm plans for each participating farm and ensuring successful project delivery.

 

Darren J. Doherty

Darren Doherty

Keyline Design Consultant & Educator

Darren Doherty has extensive experience across the world in regenerative agriculture project design, development, management and training. Darren has been involved in the design & development of nearly 2000, mostly broadacre projects across 6 continents in close to 50 countries. Darren is the originator of the Regrarians Platform process which outlines a strategic & logical process to the development of regenerative agricultural systems.

Sara J. Duncan

Sara J Duncan

Consulting Agrologist

Sara Duncan is an environmental scientist with experience in soil classification and interpretation for soil salvage and handling, land reclamation planning and research, and technical writing for environmental assessment and research reporting.

She will be responsible for designing and implementing the soil monitoring component of the project.

Mark Benson

Mark benson

Equipment Operator 

Mark Benson owns and operates Downey Road Stables and will provide tractor services and other farm implements for the field research.

Participating Farms

Bullock Lake Farm

Organically grown produce, cut flowers, pork, poultry, and lamb on Salt Spring Island. On-farm accommodation, cut flowers for events, and Community Supported Agriculture.

View Farm Website
Ravenhill Farm panoramic

Raven Hill Farm

Historic 10 acre farm in Central Saanich with goats, bees, chickens, fruit trees, herbs, veggies and more. The new owners Brea and Todd are looking to turn the farm into a hub for education in ecological mixed farming.

Beetnik farm

Beetnik Farm

A small scale vegetable and cut-flower producer in Central Saanich, selling to various local markets and restaurants.

Project Partners

This project is proudly supported by:

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