Harry Samuel Whittington was born in Beverley, in the Western Australian Wheatbelt on 29 April 1921. He grew up on his father’s property, “Springhill”, Brookton, where he returned in 1936 after his education at Northam High School. He was an ambitious young man and was keen to train as a pilot. Indeed he was just about to “go solo at Cunderdin” (J Whittington 2000) when he was ‘manpowered’ back to the farm on his father’s death in 1942. That flying training didn’t get forgotten, however, as he was later to fly with WISALTS colleagues taking aerial photos of the landscape and travelling to visit people interested in using his technology.
Harry Whittington OAM : Community Scientist
Edited extract from Why Salt? Harry Whittington OAM and WISALTS: Community Science in Action by Sally Paulin (2002)
Whittington published a 45 page booklet “A Battle for Survival Against Salt Encroachment at Springhill, Brookton, Western Australia” in July 1975 and in this he described the changes which had occurred on Springhill since it was first selected by his father in 1897. I have quoted extensively from this publication in the following pages in order to give an accurate picture of Whittington’s work and commitment to solving the problems of waterlogging and salinity faced by farmers in Australia.
“Very early in life, I came in contact with soil and water, saw the wonders, beauty and power of nature, watched the crystal clear creek which flowed gently throughout the year, change to a muddy, raging torrent in the winter and a dry sand bed in the summer. Saw a flourishing orchard transformed to dry tree stumps, the evergreen verges of native lucerne on the flats change to waterlogged, bare, barren soil which in time was covered with small white crystals shining in the sun. This white substance was called Sodium Chloride – just common salt to me.” (Whittington, 1975 p1)
The government in the late 1890’s was trying to encourage the wine industry in Western Australia and a Government Land Grant of 5 acres (Avon Location 2522) formed part of his father’s property. This land was expressly for the purpose of planting grape vines, an early example of conditional land grants, later versions of which were to require extensive clearing of large tracts of land. The homestead was located close to this vineyard and clearing of the property commenced in 1902, spreading outwards from the house across the valley floor and then over the surrounding slopes. At this time, the farm produced excellent cereal crops and had ample fresh water for both animals and humans. Abundant gardens, both winter and summer thrived on the natural water runoff and the permanent creek, which ran all the year round.
By the 1930’s the creek “had filled with sand and water was not visible on the surface”. There was no longer any seepage from the banks of the creek during the summer months and in the winter it became “a raging torrent of muddy water” (Whittington,1975, p9). Erosion on the slopes had increased and some “rills” (furrows) were over three metres deep. Large areas of the property which had previously been so fertile, now produced little, water holes had dried up or become salty and the valley floor had become waterlogged and unusable.
The farm had originally followed a rotation of crop, fallow, crop, fallow. Sheep were used to eat the weeds off the fallow and thus the rotation changed to crop, pasture, fallow, crop. As sheep numbers increased due to rising wool prices, oats were sown in the wheat stubble for feed during the winter months. Once the sheep had grazed the paddock, it was cultivated at least twice to ensure few weeds survived and to reduce the seed bed down to a fine tilth, prior to seeding. This method enabled farmers to dryseed in periods when rainfall was low and still obtain good germination.
Whittington (1975, p7) describes how “most fields were divided into lands for ploughing. A “land” was a strip or area approximately 40 metres wide, running the longest way of the field”. These lands more often than not ran up and down the slope to make the job of the horse pulled plough easier. This style of ploughing and cultivating the soil caused most of the soil erosion and gullying to be found on farms throughout the state as “the fine tilth” was easily washed away by rain down to the valley floors where it remained waterlogged and if it ever dried out, set like concrete due to its fine consistency.
“This method of cultivation was acknowledged by all, and any farmer who did not follow the established pattern was regarded as a lazy farmer who was said to be lucky if he produced a good crop” (Whittington,1975, p7)
Whittington also suggests that this method of cultivation, first by horse drawn ploughs and later by tractors, encouraged compaction of the underlying ground. He called this compaction “the plough sole” or “hardpan”. As the fine top soil was washed away, the coarser grains remained in place and gradually hardened, thus preventing water from trickling down through the subsoil as it had when the land was vegetated by deep rooting native plants. Cereal crops such as wheat and oats were shallow rooted and did not penetrate the “plough sole”. They survived on surface water and when that water was not available, the crops failed. Whittington states (1975, p9) that shortly after clearing of natural bush
“there was an increase in the number of shallow fresh-water soaks which gave a reasonable supply until early summer. Some lasted until mid-summer and then dried out. It can be assumed that these shallow, short-period supplies were perched water tables, caused by the eradication of the vegetation”.
These supplies soon disappeared, however, with increased cropping and stocking.
As salt encroachment and waterlogging increased in the valley floor, the Springhill homestead fell victim to its insidious march – “I remember Harry and Lal saying that when they were sitting in their sitting room they could hear the plaster falling off the walls” (Conacher, 2000) - by 1958 it was not habitable and had to be finally demolished in 1963.
Figure 1. shows the level of salt encroachment mapped by Harry Whittington on Springhill between 1935 and 1946. Note the location of the homestead (by the well in Lot 4534), right in the middle of the salt affected landscape.
Figure 1. A map of salt encroachment on the Springhill property at Brookton, Western Australia from “A Battle for Survival Against Salt Encroachment at Springhill, Brookton, Western Australia” July 1975 (p10)
Location No 9326 (11 acres) was a Government Water Reserve which showed signs of salt damage by 1938. This had increased dramatically to the point where in 1946 it was at the epicentre of the salt damaged land on Springhill.
By 1946, the amount of land degraded by salt on Springhill had severely reduced pasture area requiring a cut in numbers of sheep stocked, wool quality was affected due to the poor quality of feed and yields from crops growing on the slopes had also diminished “below the point of profitability” (Whittington, 1975, p11).
Whittington turned to the Department of Agriculture for advice and their officers suggested planting salt tolerant trees such as salt river gums and tamerisk and supplied seed and plants for grasses (paspalum vaginatum and tall wheat grass) and bushy salt tolerant shrubs. They described his problems as evidence of a “rising salt water table” (Whittington, 1975, p11).
Despite persevering with these suggestions over the next few years, Whittington found that the only plants to flourish were the tamerisks planted along the edge of the old creek. The “salt tolerant” grasses died from lack of moisture or from being permanently waterlogged. He soon realised that
“Departmental policy was one of tolerating the problem, accepting the fact that once land had become salt affected, it could not be restored to fertility again, and that to grow any type of salt-tolerant grass or tree on the area was as much as could be achieved” (Whittington, 1975 p12).
This was the case in 1946 and, many would argue, is still the case now in 2000!
As natural fresh water supplies dried up on the property by 1951, he had to build dams to harvest water that had once been in abundance. This was after only 50 years of farm production.
Whittington had an inquiring mind and was willing to try any possible solution to improve his property. He sought out knowledge and information from Department officers, scientists and farm groups as to the best way to improve the profitability of his farm. John Whittington (2000) has said of his father that he judged solutions according to their chances of commercial success and, at the beginning, did not appear to have the more holistic outlook that he developed as he learned more about the soil and how it worked in later years.
Having tried the solutions he had been offered by the Department of Agriculture, he was dissatisfied with their advice and would not consider simply fencing off the problem and hoping it would go away.
Concerned by the decrease in production on the property, he arranged for soil tests between 1948-50 which showed that 55-60% of the superphosphate which he was applying was being leached out of the soil by water. To counter this he would have to increase the rate of application by at least two and a half times (Whittington 1975, p12), a process which would have been prohibitively expensive with little assurance of major improvements. There was also the question of a diminished supply of water.
Around this time, Whittington had seen a film produced by the Allis Chalmers Tractor Corporation, which depicted engineering work being carried out in the Tennessee Valley in the USA to control erosion around dams being constructed for hydro-electric power plants. This work was carried out by the Soil Conservation Authority, a body set up by Congress in 1933 on the recommendation of Dr Hugh Bennett, US Director of Agriculture. America’s agricultural output was based on large scale production and they too had encountered problems with both water and wind erosion of the soil and leaching by sub-surface throughflow [i]. Whittington requested more information from the US Department of Agriculture, much of which he admitted was “over my head” (Whittington, 1975, p13), but he could identify similarities with the problems he was experiencing at Springhill (water erosion on the slopes, leaching of the soil by throughflows and waterlogging of the valley flats).
The US Department of Agriculture information described how the sub-soil strata could become sealed or impermeable allowing surface water to flow downslope at a fast rate leaving the valley wet after rain. The speed of the water downslope encouraged gullies to form and subsequent loss of usable topsoil. The build up of ‘fine soil particles’(washed down from the slopes) on the valley floor effectively sealed off subsoil drainage and this coupled with the slower movement of the sub-surface throughflows effectively created waterlogging in the valley floor. Surface water was too slow moving to run away quickly in creeks or streams and could only be evaporated by the sun and wind. This permanent dampness of the soil reduced the oxygen available to soil organisms which in turn inhibited plant growth (Whittington 1975, p14).
Armed with this new knowledge, Whittington conferred with Lyn Lightfoot who was then Commissioner of Soil Conservation, WA Department of Agriculture. Lightfoot recommended putting in “pasture furrows” but Whittington did not agree and “decided to return home and set out to find whether I had a seepage problem, or a rising salt water table” (Whittington, 1975,p15).
The term “rising salt water table” was discussed by Teakle and Burvill in their 1945 publication “Management of Salt Lands in Western Australia”. It was to become the fail-safe diagnosis of many scientists and Department of Agriculture officers over the next 55 years. Put simply, the theory behind a rising salt water table is that as the landscape has been cleared of natural bush and planted to crops and pastures, the water that had been utilised by the deep rooted plants and trees was now trickling down at a faster rate (or recharging) into underground water aquifers. These aquifers were thus increasing in volume because the excess water was not being used and the water was escaping back to the surface under the subsequently increased pressure bringing the layer of salt that is naturally present in the sub-soil to the surface and causing salinity.
THE EXPERIMENTThis could be said to be the point where Harry Whittington, farmer, became Harry Whittington, scientist. He knew from personal experience that growing salt tolerant vegetation was not the answer so in order to find a solution to the problems he faced at Springhill, he set out to find out the cause.
Block No 4534 was the first block to show signs of a salt problem back in 1935 so he marked out the block in a grid 20 metres apart.
“At every intersection I planned to drill a hole to the dry clay, or until I could go no deeper, or I found an area connected to an underground water supply” (Whittington, 1975 p15).
Each intersection was marked with a numbered peg. With a specially designed tool, he extracted soil samples from under the salt scald. The sample holes were all hand drilled, a labour intensive operation but one which yielded surprising results. Some holes only had to go to a depth of 60 cms, a few to 3 metres and one to 6 metres to find dry clay. From these drilling results they could construct an accurate cross section of the land in that block.
Cross Section of Avon Location 4534 from “A Battle for Survival Against Salt Encroachment at Springhill, Brookton, Western Australia” July 1975, p17
One of the most telling discoveries was that they did not find one place within the block where no dry clay existed below the waterlogged surface soils. Therefore, they felt that the waterlogging could not have been caused by a rising water table.
In order to ascertain where the water was actually coming from, Whittington and his team conducted similar drilling work up and across the slope. They found that as they moved up the slope the seepage (throughflow) was “very general” until the slope gradient increased. At a distance of 300 metres up the slope from the valley floor, the throughflow
“was not so general but tended to follow the lower levels of subsoil. This pattern persisted until testing had reached three quarters of the distance up the slope, when it became evident that the throughflow was returning to a general spread across the slope and at four-fifths of the way it was not clearly visible if the water was flowing (or seeping)” (Whittington 1975 p19).
To determine what was happening to the water at the top of the slope they dug a hole 1.1 metres in diameter and 45 centimetres down they struck a layer of fine impermeable clay to 2.2 metres depth. Below this was a layer of granite which they blasted with dynamite to remove another 60cms and then drilled with a pneumatic drill a further 120 cms into the rock. A small amount of water had come into the hole from the top of the clay after the opening winter rains. This water was pumped out and the hole was full of water again after 72 hours, there having been no further rain or visible water on the surface. This pattern was repeated, filling and emptying, over the winter with the same results. The water level reduced in November and, by December, only a very small amount of water trickled into the hole (Whittington 1975 p19).
They could follow this pattern of subsurface drying all the way down the slope coming up to summer. However, another such hole within 300 metres of the valley floor “never became dry at any time of the year” (Whittington 1975 p19). He observed that the water never came up from the bottom but rather came down from the clay subsoil.
To test the validity of what he had found out, and to counter the theory that the water was coming up through the fine clay under pressure from the rising water table and accumulating in the coarse top soil, four more holes (20cm diameter) were dug three metres down into the dry fine clay. A pipe was placed in the centre of each hole. These pipes had been modified at the base in order to seal off the water coming in from the ground around the pipe and a loose tin cap was fitted to the top. Water could only enter the pipe from underneath. The four holes were constantly monitored during the winter of 1950. Whittington found that water rose to the surface in the hole around the pipe and the level remained constant until summer. However, there was never any water inside the pipe itself. (Whittingham 1975, p20). Thus Whittington was convinced that the water was coming from subsurface throughflows.
WHERE DID THE SALT COME FROM? In the water cycle, rain clouds are formed over the sea drawing up salt along with the moisture. These clouds are subject to various atmospheric pressures which allow them to drop their moisture over the land. Soluble salts form part of this rain and are a vital part of the minerals needed for good plant growth. As the rain goes further inland, the volume of salt reduces and thus, according to a report printed in May 1955 by Mr S T Smith, Department of Agriculture WA (quoted in Whittington, 1975, p21) the following salt levels had been measured :
Perth 543 milligrams of salt per litre
Brookton 57 milligrams of salt per litre
Merredin 50 milligrams of salt per litre
Whittington calculated this would work out at about 1.25 kilograms of salt per hectare for every 25 mm of rain at Brookton. With an average rainfall of 425 mm at Springhill, this would roughly approximate 21 kilograms of soluble salt per hectare per year (Whittington 1975 p21).
Prior to clearing and in the early years of farming, this soluble or cyclic salt was part of the natural life cycle replacing salt taken from the ground by plants and was necessary to promote healthy growth. However, once this cycle was upset by changing the flow of water over the landscape, then the whole natural cycle was threatened. Whittington maintained that by clearing the land and allowing rainwater to run off in an uncontrolled manner, the soil on the slopes would not retain adequate amounts of salt required for healthy plant growth and instead, the water would carry a concentrated amount of salt to the valley floor where it became toxic and inhibited natural growth. (Whittington, 1975 p21).
To ascertain the amount of salt that existed in the soil at Springhill, he took a series of samples with the following results (taken from Whittington 1975, p22):
Block Numbers9459, 9157
7cms below surface300-320
Salt content measured in parts per million.He notes that “alkaline soils would normally have between 300 and 400 parts per million of salt” (Whittington, 1975 p22).
In the world of science, theories have to be proved using accurate records of before and after, and experiments have to be carried out in such a way to ensure that the result is valid. Thus, it is important to note that Harry Whittington was very careful to ensure all his inquiries and experiments were carried out with accurate measurements and observations and adequate sampling to ensure validity. This was probably influenced by the nature of the scientific literature which he obtained to assist with his project, but also because he was anxious to ensure that his conclusions were correct and could be replicated.
He had anecdotal knowledge of the changes on Springhill from the time when it was native bush, when it was first cleared and down the ensuing years until it reached its “barely viable” state in the 1950’s. He had personally witnessed the changes in the flow and availability of fresh water, the gradual waterlogging and subsequent salinisation of the valley floor and the dramatic changes for the worse in both crop, pasture and sheep production.
From his test boring, he concluded that due to changes in vegetation and the subsequent formation of a plough-sole, fresh water recharge of the underground aquifers from rainfall on the slopes was not taking place, therefore fresh water wells had dried up and water was no longer available to vegetation during the dry months.
The eroded gullies were a direct consequence of the unimpeded run-off of surface water. The surface water ran-off the slopes fairly quickly and drained away via natural waterways. However, it did wash the “fines” down to the flats where they contributed to blocking percolation pathways for water through the finer clay subsoil and down to the aquifers. He therefore deduced that the waterlogging was caused by sub-surface throughflows, which continuously seeped into the valley flats ensuring that it remained permanently wet or “waterlogged” (Whittington 1975, p23-4).
These tests took place over three years and in 1951, Whittington again approached Mr Lightfoot, the Commissioner for Soil with his results and proposals for combating the erosion and waterlogging problem. Lightfoot continued to recommend pasture furrows and salt tolerant plants as much cheaper and more likely to succeed than Whittington’s proposals. He offered Department of Agriculture assistance with planning and installing pasture furrows which Whittington accepted
“for two reasons :
- The Department of Agriculture would be involved;
- Departmental officers would be able to observe the futility of furrows in this situation” (Whittington 1975 p27).
“catchment area (hill slope) which would not be influenced by run-off or throughflows from another section. It was also necessary to have an area which had a critical erosion problem including salt land encroachment”(Whittington 1975, p27).
The eastern side of Block 5781 was thus selected and in 1952, after testing had been carried out by Whittington to ensure that the same subsurface conditions applied to this block as applied to previously tested areas on the property, the area was surveyed and planned by Mr J E Watson, a Field Adviser, Soil Conservation Service in the Department of Agriculture WA and pasture furrows installed (Whittington, 1975, p27).
The Department had loaned a special plough to create the furrows which were installed about 8 metres apart. As Whittington had assumed, after the first rain all the furrows “had washed out” (Whittington, 1975, p27). The furrows were reploughed several times over the season as they washed out after only 5mm of rain and even more topsoil was lost.
By October 1952, Whittington was convinced that furrows were not at all effective on controlling erosion or the salt encroachment problem. He determined to put his own theories into practice and with the help of a sympathetic bank manager obtained a loan. The Department agreed to assist with the planning on Block 5781 and in 1953 Joe Watson surveyed some banks
“around the top of the hill and a grade line just beyond the timber, then a few lines across the slope of the hill for guide lines when working the paddock in the future… This was as far as the Department was prepared to go, as its officers did not agree with my ideas” (Whittington, 1975, p28).
The surveyed paddock contained eleven deep gullies ranging in depth from 1 – 3 metres, which Whittington also hoped to repair as part of his work. As there was no further assistance available from the Department, Whittington and a sympathetic friend used a bulldozer to construct the first interceptor banks.
“Neither of us had any experience and we didn’t know what we were looking for, but we thought that the ‘dozer had to cut below the plough sole” (Whittington, 1975, p28).
HW standing in one of the gullies in Block 5781
THE RESULTSThese first banks “did stop the downward rush of the surface run-off; they also collected a lot of top soil, but they did not stop the seepage” (Whittington, 1975, p28). But valuable lessons had been learned.
- Should be constructed as near as possible to the top of a slope, preferably above the point where water begins to congregate and form rivulets.
- Should be spaced at intervals, that the rain falling on the area between the banks will not be of sufficient volume to develop run-off energy, powerful enough to move valuable top soil down in the nearest bank.
- Should be sufficiently close that the capacity of a normally constructed interceptor bank would be capable of holding the water which would fall on the area between the banks in an average rain. Where the watershed is very high, it is an economic advantage to build additional banks of a normal capacity, rather than increase the capacity of a lesser number.
- Should be constructed – sub-soil permitting – where the depth of top soil is at its shallowest, provided that other requirements have been met.
- Should be dug to a depth at least below the formation of the plough sole. It may be more effective if the build-up section was removed as well.”(Whittington, 1975, p30).
valley flats and consequent salt-encroachment. “The longer water can be held where it falls, the more beneficial it will be” (Whittington, 1975, p30). He often quoted his father’s remark that the only way to stop the waterlogging was to build a concrete wall around the tops of the hills.
Whittington used these experiences together with results from extensive soil testing and rainfall measurements to formulate a theory that for “every three metres drop in elevation, an interceptor bank should be constructed” (Whittington, 1975, p32). This would vary according to the country, sub-soil makeup, average rainfall etc but it was a useful guide. If the gap between banks was too large, then the efficacy of the banks was reduced.
575 millimetres of rain fell at Brookton between February and November, 1955. This was one of the wettest years on record but unlike the pasture furrows, the interceptor banks stood up to the test well and previously waterlogged and saline areas were beginning to dry out despite the rain. Having controlled the surface run-off and the throughflow, Whittington proceeded to fill gullies caused by erosion and construct interceptor banks over much of the affected land on his property.
In 1961, he designed tests to measure the amount of water being lost through surface run-off and sub-surface throughflow combined with surface run-off (Whittington, 1975, p33). He thought that these measurements would correlate with the dramatic loss of superphosphate recorded by the tests carried out by Cumming Smith, Mount Lyell and Farmer’s Fertiliser Co over the period 1948 -1950. He constructed a grade line across Block 4991 which would discharge into the creek through the Fresh Water Reserve No 9326. The level and flow of the water was measured just before it entered the creek. He found that the “highest recording of surface run-off was 9% of the rainfall – nothing to be alarmed about” (Whittington 1975, p34). However on deepening the grade line into the sub-surface clay, the flow of water which passed through the instruments was 65% of the total fall of rain. This result was confirmed by further tests and provided a clear illustration of the fact that without controlling the surface run-off and sub-surface throughflows, “55-60% of applied super was lost to the area and lost for production”. Superphosphate was an expensive outlay for farmers and much money was being wasted if such large quantities were simply being washed away.
By 1966, he could see considerable improvements on Springhill with previously waterlogged areas in the valley flats drying out and germinating pasture. Wattle trees and sheoaks had started to grow again in the Fresh Water Reserve. On a badly waterlogged area on Block 4534, he constructed interceptor banks across the valley flat which were dug down to 15 cms below the surface and were open at one end, delivering run-off to an old creek. By controlling the water in this fashion, the degraded topsoil was encouraged to hold enough water for germination to take place while the excess water ran away into the creek (Whittington, 1975, p36).
Whittington’s theory was that water held back by the interceptor banks would be utilised by the soil to assist with plant growth and that excess would slowly percolate down through the soil structure to recharge underground aquifers. He felt that this theory was well illustrated by the discovery in the summer of 1969/70 that water was once again seeping into the old creek in Block 4321, just as it had when he was a child. 1969 was a drought year and many farmers had to cart water for the first time. The discovery of this recharged aquifer prompted him to build a small reservoir in the creek and install a pump, which provided 13.5 kilolitres of water each day during that summer (Whittington, 1975, p36). This supply was further enhanced in 1971 by the placement of two windmills in this reservoir enabling 20.5 kilolitres to be pumped out daily – providing vital water for stock in dry summers.
In October 1972, Whittington was approached by the Department of Agriculture who were “conducting a lightning survey on the rising salt water table” (Whittington, 1975, p38) for permission to bore a test hole in the old salt area at Springhill. He had not drilled in this area for twenty-two years and was interested to see the results.
“After drilling through the surface soil where moisture was encountered, they drilled to a depth of 8 metres in hard, dry clays. At that depth the drill encountered a very hard layer, and after persevering with it for some time, the drill broke through into the water bearing strata (underground reservoir – aquifer) at 8.5 metres. Mr Clive Malcolm who was in charge of the operation, declined to penetrate to the bottom of the aquifer as he felt that it was bottomless. After a lot of persuasion, he agreed to sink a second test hole. The equipment was moved 6.7 metres and the second hole commenced. At 2.7 metres, the hole was abandoned as it was too hard for the rotary tungsten drill to penetrate.
In the first test hole, water rose to the surface fairly rapidly , and contained 400 grains of salt per gallon. After the mud cleared from the hole, the water cleared considerably and as it flowed, the salt content lessened.
What the Departmental Salt Survey team had found was that the old underground reservoir which had gone dry some 40 years ago was now refilled with water. What in theory had been calculated could happen was now an established fact. Water was in the underground reservoir, and it could be harnessed to supply the water requirements of the farm” (Whittington, 1975, p38).
A bore hole was sunk 4 metres away from these test holes in 1973. The drill broke through the ceiling of the aquifer at 8.5 metres and reached the floor at 14.9 metres. Whittington suggests that the water that caused the waterlogging of the top soil could not be connected with this underground supply as the area would not have regenerated as successfully as it had once the top soil had been dried out (Whittington, 1975, p39). A windmill erected over this bore hole together with the other windmills effectively provided a drought-proof water supply for the property.
Whittington had sold part of the farm to finance the construction of interceptor banks over the whole property and in so doing created a profitable and well managed farm. The waterlogged and salt affected areas did show improvement and they gradually began to carry effective crops and pastures. More importantly, the salt affected areas reduced in size.
In order to best negotiate the interceptor banks, all work was done on the contour. This in turn reduced fuel costs and wear and tear on machines. Fertiliser was still part of his farm management but because the banks controlled the flow of water, they also controlled the run-off and waste of expensive fertilisers too. As a result, Whittington found that he could use less fertiliser to achieve vastly improved production results.
He experimented with minimal till methods, which maintained humus in the soil and provided a more conducive climate for the correct balance of soil animals to thrive and rehabilitate the soil. He made contact with several scientists specialising in the area of soil animals and the effects of waterlogging on plants. From them he learned of the importance of these creatures to the natural balance of the soil and incorporated this new knowledge into the whole Whittington Interceptor Bank concept. From the need to do something to save his own farm, he had created a sustainable farming technology which would benefit many others and ensured that true environmental awareness became an important feature of many farmers’ lives.
[i] ‘throughflow’ describes the movement of water close to the surface of the soil. The water percolates downslope through ‘pipes’ or channels created by deep rooting plants. Cereals are shallow rooting and would not intercept any of this throughflow thus allowing it to flow freely downslope under the surface to the valley floor.