Many sustainable farmers are fascinated by the concept of allowing the land and its contours to dictate the best practices for every acre. For those of you who are looking for some grist to add to the mill on this subject, give Water For Every Farm: Yeomans Keyline Plan by P.A. Yeomans a try.
After a brief explanation of what keyline is (a plan of irrigation custom-tailored to the lay of the land), the book launches into an examination of land contours and how they should be treated when tilling and irrigating. These contours then become the basis of choosing the best sites for dams, roads, trees, fences, and more.
While the book is heavy on theory (e.g., the chapter on city planning), it is backed by practical experience. Yeomans implemented his ideas in the challenging landscape of Australia and by all appearances made highly efficient use of his water resources for irrigation.
Water For Every Farm is not exactly a resource for beginners. It’s rather technical and not always easy to follow. However, if irrigation is a topic of interest to you, you will probably find the time spent studying keyline principles to be valuable. Even if you are simply interested in making the best possible use of your land, there is still information here you can use.
Perhaps for the average reader, the best way to make use of this book would be to read the first four chapters to gain an understanding of what keyline is, why landscape geometry is so important, and how to identify the contours of the land. After that, the reader may choose to skip to any relevant chapters, such as those on cultivation, development of water resources, planting contour strip forests, or soil fertility.
Water for Every Farm is rather heavy reading, but it does present some information well worth considering on adapting farming practices to the land.