Contour Farming, Types, Benefits in India

Contour farming is an agricultural practice designed to prevent soil erosion on hilly or sloping land. The primary objective is to slow down the flow of water across the slope to minimize soil erosion and improve water retention. This method involves cultivating along the contour lines of the land creating terraces or ridges that follow the natural topography of the terrain

Key principles and techniques of contour farming include

  • Contour Plowing > Plowing across the slope rather than up and down helps to create ridges and furrows that act as barriers to water flow. This reduces the speed of water runoff and allows it to be absorbed by the soil.
  • Terracing > Constructing terraces involves building level steps or platforms along the contour lines of the land. Terraces help to break the slope of the land into more manageable sections reducing the risk of soil erosion.
  • Cover Crops > Planting cover crops such as grasses or legumes along the contour lines helps to anchor the soil and reduce the impact of raindrops on the ground.
  • Strip Cropping > Alternating strips of different crops along the contour lines can be effective in preventing soil erosion. This arrangement helps break the path of water runoff and reduces the concentration of flowing water.
  • Water Bars > Constructing water bars across slopes helps to divert water away from its natural flow and reduces the potential for erosion. These are typically small barriers made of soil or other materials.
  • Check Dams > Building check dams across gullies or watercourses helps to slow down the movement of water preventing it from gaining enough momentum to erode the soil.

Contour farming offers several benefits including

  • Soil Conservation > The primary purpose of contour farming is to prevent soil erosion and retain soil on the slopes.
  • Water Conservation > By slowing down water runoff and promoting absorption, contour farming helps conserve water and reduce the risk of drought.
  • Improved Crop Yields > Conserving soil and water contributes to better soil fertility and improved crop yields over time.
  • Reduced Sedimentation > Contour farming helps prevent sedimentation in rivers and streams which can have adverse effects on water quality and aquatic ecosystems.

Contour farming is particularly important in regions with hilly or sloping terrain where soil erosion is a significant concern. It is an effective and sustainable practice that promotes environmental conservation and helps maintain the long-term productivity of agricultural land.

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Types of Contour Farming

Types of Contour Farming

Contour farming encompasses various techniques and methods that can be adapted to different landscapes and agricultural needs. The choice of contour farming types depends on factors such as the slope of the land soil type climate and the specific goals of the farmer. Here are some common types of contour farming

Contour Plowing

  • Description > Plowing along the contour lines of the land creating ridges and furrows.
  • Purpose > Slows down water runoff and allows water to be absorbed by the soil reducing erosion.


  • Description > Constructing level steps or platforms along the contour lines to create terraces.
  • Purpose > Reduces slope length minimizes water runoff and prevents soil erosion. Terraces also provide flat areas for cultivation.

Contour Strip Cropping

  • Description > Planting different crops in strips along the contour lines.
  • Purpose > Breaks the flow of water and reduces erosion. The alternating strips provide a variety of crops and enhance biodiversity.

Cover Cropping

  • Description > Planting cover crops such as grasses or legumes along the contour lines.
  • Purpose > Protects the soil from erosion improves soil structure and adds organic matter

Water Bars

  • Description > Constructing small barriers perpendicular to the slope to divert water.
  • Purpose > Redirects water away from its natural flow reducing erosion. Water bars are often used on trails and pathways.

Check Dams

  • Description > Building dams across gullies or watercourses to slow down water flow.
  • Purpose > Prevents gully erosion and sedimentation reducing the transport of soil and pollutants downstream.

Grassed Waterways

  • Description > Establishing grass strips along natural watercourses.
  • Purpose > Helps to control water flow reducing soil erosion and preventing gully formation.

Contour Buffer Strips

  • Description > Planting strips of grass or other vegetation along the contour lines.
  • Purpose > Acts as a buffer to slow down water flow reducing soil erosion and protecting adjacent crops.

Ridge and Furrow Systems

  • Description > Creating alternating ridges and furrows along the contour lines.
  • Purpose > Enhances water infiltration reduces runoff and provides improved drainage for crops.

Alley Cropping

  • Description > Planting crops between rows of trees or shrubs along contour lines.
  • Purpose > Combines contour farming with agroforestry providing erosion control improved soil fertility and additional products from the trees.

The selection of a specific contour farming type or a combination of techniques depends on the local conditions the objectives of the farmer and the crops being cultivated. Effective contour farming practices contribute to sustainable agriculture by minimizing soil erosion preserving soil fertility and promoting environmental conservation.

Benefits of Contour Farming

Benefits of Contour Farming

Contour farming offers several benefits making it a valuable and sustainable agricultural practice. These benefits contribute to improved soil health increased water efficiency and overall environmental conservation. Here are some key advantages of contour farming

Soil Erosion Control

  • Description > Contour farming effectively reduces soil erosion by slowing down water runoff and preventing the loss of topsoil
  • Benefits > Preserving the topsoil is crucial for maintaining soil fertility and ensuring long term productivity. Contour farming minimizes the impact of rainwater preventing gully erosion and sedimentation.

Water Conservation

  • Description > By slowing down water runoff and promoting better water infiltration contour farming helps conserve water.
  • Benefits > Improved water retention in the soil supports crop growth reduces the risk of drought and contributes to overall water efficiency in agricultural systems.

Enhanced Soil Fertility

  • Description > The prevention of soil erosion and the addition of organic matter through cover crops contribute to improved soil fertility.
  • Benefits > Fertile soil is essential for healthy plant growth and increased crop yields. Contour farming practices help maintain and enhance soil fertility over time.

Increased Crop Yields

  • Description > Contour farming positive effects on soil health water availability and erosion control can lead to higher crop yields.
  • Benefits > Farmers practicing contour farming may experience increased agricultural productivity contributing to food security and economic sustainability.

Biodiversity Promotion

  • Description > Contour strip cropping and other techniques that incorporate diverse vegetation promote biodiversity.
  • Benefits > A variety of crops and cover plants create habitats for different organisms contributing to a more balanced and resilient ecosystem. Biodiversity can also help with pest control.

Reduced Sedimentation in Water Bodies

  • Description > Contour farming prevents sediment runoff into rivers and streams.
  • Benefits > Reduced sedimentation helps maintain water quality and protects aquatic ecosystems. It also decreases the need for costly sediment control measures downstream.

Weed Control

  • Description > Cover crops and other contour farming practices help control weeds.
  • Benefits > Reduced weed growth minimizes competition for nutrients and water benefiting the main crops. This can lead to decreased reliance on herbicides.

Mitigation of Climate Change Impact

  • Description > Contour farming contributes to climate change mitigation by enhancing carbon sequestration in the soil.
  • Benefits > Improved soil structure and organic matter content enhance carbon storage reducing the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Stabilization of Sloping Land

  • Description > Terracing and other contour farming practices help stabilize sloping or hilly land.
  • Benefits > Stabilized slopes prevent landslides and other forms of land degradation protecting both the agricultural land and surrounding ecosystems.

Long term Sustainability

  • Description > Contour farming is a sustainable agricultural practice that can be implemented over the long term.
  • Benefits > By preventing soil erosion and conserving resources contour farming supports the long term viability of agricultural lands, contributing to the sustainability of farming operations.

In summary contours farming provides a holistic approach to sustainable agriculture addressing soil conservation water management and ecosystem health. The combination of these benefits makes contour farming an important practice for maintaining productive and resilient agricultural systems.

Contour Farming Examples

Contour farming is an agricultural practice that involves cultivating crops along the natural contours of the land instead of straight up and down the slope. This helps to reduce soil erosion and conserve water as the furrows and ridges created by the tillage act as mini dams that slow down runoff and allow water to soak into the soil.

Here are some examples of contour farming

  • Contour plowing > This is the most common type of contour farming, and it involves plowing the land in curved lines that follow the contours of the slope.
  • Contour strip cropping > This practice involves planting different crops in alternating strips that follow the contours of the land. This helps to break up the flow of water and prevent erosion, and it can also improve soil fertility by adding nitrogen to the soil.
  • Contour terracing > This is a more intensive form of contour farming that involves building terraces on the slope. The terraces act as steps that hold water and soil in place and they can be used to grow crops on even the steepest slopes.

Contours farming can be used to grow a wide variety of crops including corn soybeans wheat vegetables and fruits. It is especially beneficial in areas with hilly or sloping land where soil erosion is a major concern.

Here are some additional benefits of contours farming

  • Improved soil quality > Contour farming helps to prevent soil erosion which can lead to soil degradation. By keeping soil in place contour farming can help to improve soil quality and fertility.
  • Increased crop yields > By conserving water and preventing erosion contour farming can help to increase crop yields.
  • Reduced pollution > Contour farming can help to reduce pollution by preventing soil and nutrients from running off into waterways.

If you are interested in learning more about contours farmings, you can contact your local extension office or the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

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