Yeoman’s Plow, an Important Sustainable Tool

Yeoman’s Plow is a type of farm machinery developed by A.P. Yeoman in Australia as a sustainable agricultural tool and enhanced method creating keyline designed farmland.

Keyline design relies on the concept of gravity-fed irrigation and is a method that provides long-term water security, conservation of soil through prevention of soil erosion, and sustainability of agricultural systems, especially in arid climates.

The Yeoman’s Plow is a modern update of the ancient “forked stick” plow and the 1930s American design the Graham Hoehme Chisel Plow and is a key component of keyline design and permaculture. Unlike disk plows that turn the soil and can destroy, or at the very least, hinder soil development, the Yeoman’s Keyline Plow creates deep cut into the soil which helps open and aerate the soil and allows for increased water infiltration without mixing the shallow fertile topsoil with the infertile subsoil.

The Yeoman’s Plow has gained widespread acceptance and use throughout Australia and is beginning to find a popular niche with those practicing holistic range management in the United States. In the U.S. there are other plow options similar to the Yeoman’s Plow but are typically described as a “vertical tillage,” “zone tillage,” “chisel plow,” “sub-soil plow,” or a “deep ripper.”

Many options of plow are available and include those that have very low surface disturbance, suitable for pastures, or deep sharp tips that will break though the most compact soil. In many cases, the U.S. versions are better suited for the soil type found throughout the U.S. as the Yeoman’s Plow was specifically developed for the dry clayey soil of Australia.

A 2009 study by the California Energy Commission concluded that the use of keyline plows created the lowest carbon emissions from the subsoil and the addition of compost to grazing lands enhanced the carbon sequestration. This is an important finding because carbon sequestration, or the capture and removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is one of the methods to reduce carbon footprints and also a long-term solution to combat the accumulation of greenhouse gasses and global warming.

Regardless of the specific band of plow used, the concept of the Yeoman’s Plow and vertical tillage is a significant aspect of sustainable agriculture, keyline design, and holistic range management. -KATHY FAIRCHILD

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