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Contour Stripcropping

Contour Stripcropping








Crop rotation and contour farming combined in strips of row crops planted on the contour and alternated with strips of forages or small grains.

How it works

Plantings are arranged so that strips of small grains or forages are alternated with strips of row crops. Not more than half of a field can be planted to row crops. Forages or small grains slow runoff, increase infiltration, trap sediment, and provide surface cover. Ridges formed by contoured rows slow water flow and reduce erosion. Rotating the strips from grain to legumes allows nutrient-needy crops to benefit from nitrogen added to the soil by legumes. This combines the beneficial effects of contouring and crop rotation.

How it helps

  • Can protect growing crops from wind damage
  • Reduces soil erosion and protects water quality
  • May reduce fertilizer costs
  • May include energy crops as forage plantings

Planning ahead

  • Do you have a use for hay?
  • Does your crop rotation allow for alternating row crops with small grains and forages?
  • Will herbicide carryover be a problem?

Technical notes

  • Row crops need to run parallel to each other and as close to the contour as possible. A 10% variance is allowed.
  • Strip widths are based on 10-year storm event values and slope length, with strips and row crops of equal width. Correction strips that vary in width may be needed.
  • Where contours are too sharp to keep machinery aligned, establish turn strips on ridge points wide enough to maneuver equipment.
  • Strip widths may be adjusted downward to accommodate your equipment width for even rounds.
  • Stripcropping is not as effective if crop strips become too wide, especially on steep slopes.


  • Keep strip widths consistent from year to year.
  • If hay crop fails or is winter-killed, a conservation planner may be able to help you make adjustments in the rotation schedule.