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Major Areas :: Dryland Agriculture :: Soil & Water Conservation Techniques
Agronomic Measures - Contour farming

Contour farming involves ploughing, planting and weeding along the contour, i.e, across the slope rather than up and down. Contour lines are lines that run across a (hill) slope such that the line stays at the same height and does not run uphill or downhill. As contour lines travel across a hillside, they will be close together on the steeper parts of the hill and further apart on the gentle parts of the slope.

Experiments show that contour farming alone can reduce soil erosion by as much as 50% on moderate slopes. However, for slopes steeper than 10%, other measures should be combined with contour farming to enhance its effectiveness.

Caution: If contour lines are incorrectly established, then they can actually increase the risk of erosion.

  • Contour ridges are used mainly in semi-arid areas to harvest water, and in higher rainfall areas for growing potatoes.

  • Trashlines made by laying crop residues or "trash" in lines along the contour. They slow down runoff and trap eroded soil, eventually forming terraces. However, the contour line can be destroyed by termites eating the trash.

  • Grass barrier strips planted along the contour. They are planted with fodder grass such as Napier, or are left with natural grass. They are effective soil conservation measures on soils that absorb water quickly, and on slopes as steep as 30%.

Contour farming is farming with row patterns that run nearly level around the hill not up and down the hill. Generally, as the rain falls, a lot off run off is generated which generally leads to soil erosion on its way downward. This removes the top fertile soil along with soil nutrients and plant seeds thus leading to scanty and uneven growth of crop. To avoid this simple practice of farming is done across the slope so that there are no steep slopes on the field.

Ridges and furrows thus formed act as continuous barrier to the free movement of water downwards thus provides more infiltration time. Hence, the removal of soil along with nutrients is checked to a greater extent leading to increment in soil fertility and crop yield.

Benefits :

  • Contouring can reduce soil erosion by as much as 50% from up and down hill farming
  • By reducing sediment and run off and increasing water infiltration
  • Contouring promotes better water quality
  • It gives 10-15% additional yield.

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