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Æ : Example - Keyline Ripping for Water Infiltration

Keyline Ripping : Improving water infiltration, soil conservation / erosion control and drought resilience

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Arguably the largest challenge in almost all human-managed landscapes is water, having enough in the dry times and how to control it when there's too much.

This example was a case study in how to understand and correctly use pattern in landscapes to improve hydrological function and, in so doing, significantly improve water infiltration, resistance to erosion and ultimately drought resilience.
In these clay soils on slope, we found ourselves in a situation where an unexpected storm came through overnight and dumped 150mm of rain in less than six hours on a paddock that had been extensively (albeit shallowly) cultivated to a fine tilth. Under normal circumstances this would have resulted in a potentially catastrophic loss of top soil, with significant loss down slope - not only a problem for the farm, but also for the freshwater ecosystem below.

Fortunately however, we had applied best practice design principles and had worked closely with the contractor operating the equipment, educating them on how to apply keyline patterning to the land form and rip (essentially cutting slots) the ground
across slope (instead of up and down ,or randomly, which is surprisingly common).

This was the critical piece of the puzzle that eventually made the difference because when that downpour arrived, instead of picking up the soil and dumping it down hill, the water infiltrated deep into the soil profile and soaked in every drop. When the farmer rushed outside in the morning to assess the extent of the damage (fearing the worst) they were astounded to instead discover a paddock that looked like it had been briefly watered with a sprinkler.

Another important part of this technique is that we mechanically improved the ability for the sown diverse mix cover crop to easily and rapidly put roots down 3-4 times deeper than they might have previously, accessing and holding water deeper in the soil profile. In the short term this provides excellent water infiltration and holding capacity, and in the longer term sets this area up for higher resilience to water stress.

June 2022