Keyline design and cultivation is a soil conservation system that utilizes a specialized plow implement known as a Keyline plow. Unlike a conventional plow, it does not turn the soil over. More like a sub-soiler, the Keyline plow uses a small triangular plow tip mounted at the base of a narrow twenty-six inch long shank that rips an approximately one inch wide slice through the soil and leaves a slightly wider trapezoidal opening at the bottom of the furrow below ground. The subtle, sub-surface opening of the soil can decrease the compaction of the soil, increase infiltration and water holding capacity, and increase soil carbon with minimal disturbance at the soil surface. Surface water can be gradually prevented from eroding sites, by aligning Keyline plow passes on contour key points, and parallel plowing slightly off contour between keypoints. By implementing this type of work we can change how water behaves on surfaces and redirect it into parallels, rather than fall lines, for infiltration which will benefit revegetation efforts and reduce soil loss. Changing how water behaves on keylined sites keeps water higher on the landscape longer. Keeping capillary activity charged longer benefits fragile crusts, root zones and increases germination rates of seed and better establishment of seedlings.
Photos by Esha Chiocchio