What is below tells you, what we now know to be the best way and best times to use your plow to get the best humus build up and therefore best yields.
So first of, when do I start using the Yeomans Keyline Plow?
Immediately. The day it’s delivered. Don’t wait for the next rain to soften soils as you normally might. Cultivate now so the next rains you keep. The one exception is in poor grazing land when you’re low on grass and you’re not expecting rain for many months.
And if it’s already over saturated – plow now, or as soon as you can. The soil life needs air to breath. The fungi and bacteria that create humus are aerobic; they breathe air so use the Yeomans as soon as you can get the tractor on the land. Soil life is drowning but with the air, soil life will proliferate like mad.
To get going, (that’s when you don’t have anything specific in mind), just set the shank spacings at around half a metre or 20″. If they are already at 13″ (one third metre) leave them there and see how it goes.
In virgin country set the depth at around say 8″ (200 mm). Or maybe a little more. And away you go. If the land has ben cultivated any time in the past, dig down with a shovel until you detect the old hard pan. Then set your depth at about 2″ to 3″ (50 to 75 mm) under the hard pan. and start plowing.
Sometimes it’s hard to pull through the hard caked ground the first time around. If it is then don’t go in at a shallower depth. The best thing to do is to is to remove a sheer pin and turn a couple of shanks up in the air and out of the way and replace the pin. That should fix it. The shanks stand straight up. Takes less than thirty seconds.
Next time you subsoil it will be amazingly easy. So you can just turn the tines back down. Again thirty seconds maximum. ( Forgive me, but I tend to use the words “shanks” and “tines” interchangeably.)
It’s working perfectly when you see the ground rise up around the tine and then gently settle back to not quite where it was before. It’s slightly higher. Sometimes hard pans come up like slabs of broken concrete. If it does that a lot, then fit a crumble roller. That will cut through and flatten the big clods.
Storm rains go straight into the deep worked soil. Storm erosion vanishes. There is just no wash. And with all that water and air, and provided the microbes and fungi have some dead root material to eat, then soil life will just explodes.
And you are creating fertility, creating humus, like it’s never happened before so fast!
2. When do I use it during the year and how many times ?
Second cultivation, plow about a month or so after the first rains. That gives hard pans time to break down. In general for pasture, at least once a year to start – maybe twice first year – generally before the rainy season and the hot weather. But don’t cultivate immediately following eating the paddock out. Give the grasses a few weeks to reestablish.
(This video shows how the shank goes through the ground. Darren Doherty, Keyline and Permaculture expert took the video. He uses a Yeomans Keyline plow for his soil development work. Most of the other videos linked to this one are related to Permaculture itself not related to the Yeomans Plows.). Most serve to illustrate practices that destroy soil fertility by seriously disturbing soil layers and structures. Thus reducing soil fertility, when our objective must be to enhance it.)
3. How deep do you go ?
If there is no hard pan, first cultivation about 3” or 4” (75 to 100mm) deeper than main root mass of pasture – say about 6” – 10”. (150mm to 250mm) Subsequent cultivations about half a hand (2” or 50mm ) deeper that previous. This is generally satisfactory and will give you a complete breakout between the shanks.
No great commercial advantage occurs by cultivating much over say 14”(350mm). The exception being if you are in badly leached soils where you are chasing minerals. The worst, most leashed, most pitiful soils are those in stable tropical rain forests. That’s when you have to go really deep to find nutritious minerals.
When hard pan occurs the theoretical ideal cultivating depth would be halfway through the hardpan. But that’s near impossible so don’t try for this depth. The hardpan is like a slab of concrete three inches (75mm) underground and is almost an engineering problem and not an agricultural problem. If the ground is moist, cultivate a minimum depth of just under the hardpan with all the tines on. If it is a little dryer you can pull up big slabs of hardpan, which you don’t want. Take off every 2 nd tine and spread tines as far apart as possible front to rear and cultivate a couple of inches under the hardpan. Pan will start to break down even with no rain. Wait for rain – cultivate about the same depth as previous at the next cultivation. Subsequent cultivation should be determined by deepening root zone. A good alternative is to fit a crumble roller. This breaks up the big slabs of hardpan material and speeds up the formation of fertile soil.
4. How fast should I travel with a Yeomans?
Generally speaking travel at around a good walking pace, say 3 to 4 mph, say 5 to 6 kph. It’s okay to go a bit faster but when subsoiling the point is traveling in ground that possible has never before seen the light of day, so you hit things that you never suspected where there.
Also you want the earth to rise and fall gently. Traveling faster tends to throw the earth around more and you get more soil layers intermixing; and soil microbiological life doesn’t like that.
With smaller tractors if you hit a totally immovable obstruction, it really pulls back on the tractor. And that gives you time to stop and back off, and you won’t sheer a sheer pin.
5. Handling Hard Pans in Irrigation Country ?
Quite remarkable results are obtained in irrigation country. The hardpans are generally deeper, starting at 6” or 7” and the pan itself is thicker, as much as 8” thick, very much harder and a great deal more impervious. This situation results from a great deal more cultivation damaging the soil structure and flushing of the soil particles down by the artificially high “rainfall”. The effects of deep cultivation through this hardpan are:-
Firstly – Irrigation water will go much deeper and quickly. A six inch mud layer is not created which will dry out quickly in hot dry conditions. The roots will penetrate down deeper to obtain moisture and minerals at the same time deepening the living soil zone.
Secondly – the amount of waterings is considerably reduced (in one case, from once every 4 days to once every 14 days).
Thirdly – this has the effect of stopping the rising water table carrying the salt problems to the surface. The water table will start to drop and any salt problems will start to diminish. Normal leeching will then start to cleanse the salt from the soil.
6. What happens when you hit a stump ?
The plow and shank assemblies are extremely strong, They’re pretty much designed to go anywhere. They have to be for when you are sub-soiling you are generally going deeper than any previous cultivation ever. It’s like virgin land.
You will pull out most stumps and break through most roots. Very big stumps – say two feet (600mm) through, you might shear a shear pins, the shank swings back – won‘t fall off – then bounces along until the end of the run. Then simply slip in a new shear pin. (this is undoubtedly the easiest to use and the cheapest shear pin system in the world).
If you don’t hit the stump head on then you break through all the old roots. At the next cultivation, usually the big center stump will come out with no trouble. It’s like a rotten tooth. There is no cheaper way of clearing stumps. Big rocks – you just pull them out of the ground, say up to half ton or so. Bedrock – plow scrapes over the top. You can see the blue smoke coming out of the ground. Sometimes you will sheer a sheer pin.
7. What are Batswings For ?
The Batswings are used for weeding and the range of cultivation where sweeps would be used. Effectively they are a heavy duty sweep. Batswings can be inverted and used for “hilling up” for row crop work. They last a good twice as long as conventional sweeps. They can also be hard faced for extra wear. They are also used apparently with very good results in sugarcane for deep working. (The ground doesn’t want to be too hard)
8. What’s this Wobble Blade thing I hear all about ?
They’re a type of weed knife that can be used when the paddock is full of rocks and stumps. Ordinarily weed knives are only used in well worked ground. They’re rigid. A blade hits a stump, it breaks or bends.
The Wobble blade is a totally new concept. We even took out a patent on the idea. First the assembly is much heavier and stronger than conventional systems, but the big thing is it’s free to wobble from side to side. The assembly is mounted of a one inch pin. The right side blade hits something that it can’t cut through, or push aside, and the blade swings out of the way. And the left blade swings forward.
Between the blades is a vertical fin, like a ship’s keel, that keeps the system straight. To wobble out of the way the rock has to force this fin sideways through the ground. And that takes some doing.
Wobble Blades work like a cross between a heavy rigid blade plow and a standard, light, secondary cultivation, weed knife. They solve a lot of problems.
You can use the Wobble Blades for weeding when growing crops; and with just no fear whatever of hitting something you didn’t know was there. Or you can use them when clearing new country. They’re great in scrub country. It just treats small bushes, up to around, say, two inches 50 mm thick, like little weeds.
The weed knives, (for little weeds) shown at the top of page 10; we don’t sell many anymore. We still stock them, but the Wobble Blades have really taken off.
The whole Wobble Blade assembly costs around three hundred dollars.
And they’re built to work.
9. Can I fit conventional chisel plow points?
YES! That’s versitility for you!
There is a point adaptor. It’s called an AJ 50 Adapter. (on page 7 in the RED BOOK) It knocks on to any of the shanks, same as Wombats or Merlin points. However the front of this adaptor is like a pretend lower end of a spring tined chisel plow shank, with the same tool mounting bolt holes. They’re the same centers as on the original Grahme Holme Chisel Plow. That means that all the range of chisel plow earth working points and sweeps can be fitted to the Yeomans. So hundreds of various points can be fitted. Effectively, the Yeomans becomes the only cultivating implement you’ll need on the farm.
10. Do I need coulters?
In shallow but densely matted pastures, coulters are often needed. After a few cultivations the grass roots go down instead of out and coulters are not so important.
If the ground is covered with vine type plants coulters prevent buildup.
Coulters have little effect on the subsoiling effects you are after.
Don’t use coulters if the ground is full of rocks. If a coulter disk roles over a big rock or a big lump of wood, the coulter effectively acts as the depth control so can get overloaded and be damaged. But they are pretty rugged.
Sometimes on large trailing model plows you might find a build-up occurs, often at one specific point on the plow. A coulter strategically placed on the plow beam just ahead will fix the problem. A couple of coulters on a 40 foot plow is often all that is needed to prevent build of plant residue for hours of continuous subsoiling or plowing.