Planting Cereals in Desert Using Yeomans Plow

The idea of Keyline/Yeomans is to open soil to root growth by causing all water to soak in where it falls. The patterns hold water on the ridges and valley walls for this purpose. This is quite different conceptually from the ‘divert-and-impound’ mindset,  which tends to deal with water after it has already been concentrated. The Yeomans Plow does not invert soil, or kill plants, as do most discs and plows.

We have planted milo and millet while putting in these patterns. I share my range-scientist friends’ skepticism about successful production of grains and other edible forage in deserts, even though we are greatly increasing effective rainfall by increasing water infiltration in these treated areas.  My idea was to get something growing into those slits and fractures to hold them open until a native plant can take hold. Roots from immature dead milo might do this, and put organic material in place. I would not use seed that is not really cheap.  We own worlds of milo and millet already, and are not trying for a crop.

We are plugging ahead in many places, with different applications from sloping head-cuts to flat, desert-floor bare ground, both with and without seedings.  We are able to plow about 6 acres every three hours.  Not much but it adds up over long periods. I estimate $10/ hr labor and $4/hr fuel (1500 rpm on a 67 hp diesel): so about $7/acre in variable costs (not counting machinery).

Note the sprouts of seedlings.

Posted by Chris Gill

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