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A tribute to P. A. Yeomans

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Your blogger has had an involvement in agriculture and horticulture for the past 40 years. Farming is an honorable profession.  Australian agriculture has much to be proud of in terms of supplying the nation and the world with food.  Nevertheless its record of caring for the environment has often been less than optimum. As a nation during the past 200 years we have introduced plagues of rabbits, cane toads, prickly pear cactus, and bureaucrats.
During the 1960's and 70's Australian farmers literally went berserk clear- felling huge expanses of native bushland in order to establish farms.   As a result, much of the continents fragile soil was eroded either by wind or water.  Huge dust storms swept across the country carrying precious topsoil and depositing it in the oceans.

Today, Australias Murray-Darling river system is a disgrace to the nation.  Farmers have been given permission by past Governments, to completely block its tributaries to provide irrigation water for crops totally unsuited to Australias semi-arid regions.  (eg cotton and rice),  and been given almost unlimited pumping rights for other crops.  During 2007 the Darling river stopped flowing completely as did the mouth of Australias largest river, the Murray, allowing saltwater inundation to destroy fragile flora and fauna habitats.  It was convenient for officials to blame this occurrence on an extended drought.  The truth I suspect is that Government officials over the past 50 years have failed to recognise water as a finite resource and regulate its usage accordingly.
Additionally many thousands of hectares of good farming land in Eastern and Western Australia is now unusable because of salination…..the result of unsuitable irrigation practices.

P.A. Yeomans (1905-1984) was a geologist turned farmer during the 1940's and 1950's.  (The writer would like to apologise for any factual errors as he is relying on memory)   He was a man who devised sustainable systems for farming long before anyone else saw the necessity of doing so.   His geological experience enabled him to design a farm planning model almost totally opposite to conventional agriculture at the time.  He was derided by Government officials and many conventional farmers alike.
Yeomans designed the "Keyline System" of farming detailed in his book "The Challenge of Landscape".  Tradition had it that farm water storages be placed at the lowest point of a farm then pumped back uphill to irrigate.  Yeomans found out that by placing smaller water storages as high up on the property as possible, and often on ridgelines, he could divert rainfall runoff from the valleys out to the ridges using contoured and  grassed water channels.  This system prevented soil erosion, increased absorbtion of rainwater into the soil, and reduced the need for subsequent irrigation, which, if required could be done by gravity flow from his higher water storages.  It was revolutionary thinking, which he proceeded to prove and  put into practice on 3 large grazing properties in New South Wales.
Additionally he retained or planted wide strips of trees to improve the farms micro climate, when accepted practice was to bulldoze vegetation.  He did not plough large areas of soil leaving it vulnerable to erosion, but deep- ripped his grazing land to open up compacted soils and gradually integrate organic matter into them, increase rain penetration, and improve micro-biological activity in the soil.  He judged his success by observing the huge increase in earthworm numbers in his soils.
The Permaculture movement of the world now recognise these practices as part of their system of sustainable agriculture.

P.A  Yeomans should be remembered as an innovator and intelligent custodian of our fragile earth.  In the 21st century, farmers can no longer afford to ignore the lesson he showed the nation 50 years ago.     The bureaucrats who failed to recognise the value of his work should now take a look at the Murray and Darling Rivers, and bow their heads in collective shame.

The world contains too many parasitic non-achievers wielding power far in excess of their knowledge and abilities, and not enough intelligent and innovative doers getting their hands dirty. (literally and/or figuratively)

P.A. Yeomans, you deserve the greatest honour for being an outstanding caretaker of mother Earth.

The German physicist Max Planck (1885-1947) is quoted as saying;
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

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