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Terrace Maintenance

Terrace Maintenance

by Martin Gugelman, Civil Engineering Technician
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Scott City, Kansas

So you are planning to install some terraces on your land. You have undoubtedly thought through who is going to survey, design, and construct the terraces. Terraces can be a significant investment in your property that can increase its value as well as save valuable topsoil. Now it is time to put some thought into a maintenance plan to keep your investment functioning properly. A good maintenance plan will prevent deterioration of the terraces and prolong their life span.

Minimum recommendations for this plan are as follows:

  • Inspect the channel, ridge, and blocks at least in the spring and fall after harvest.
  • Inspect for damage after all heavy rainstorms.
  • Remove obstructions such as debris or sediment to maintain capacity.
  • Inspect and repair any livestock trails where fields have been pastured.
  • Inspect and repair any rodent damage to prevent settling and washouts.

Farming operations should be performed parallel with the terraces to avoid decreasing the height of the ridge. A moldboard plow or other implement can be used periodically to move the sediment from the channel to the ridge and prolong the life of the terrace; care should be taken when doing this not to shorten the slopes, making them less farmable.

If your terraces have level channels, care should be taken to avoid driving in the channels during wet conditions so as not to compact the soil surface. If you suspect that the channels are sealed and not allowing infiltration of the water, you can deep chisel or rip them to correct this.

If your terraces have graded channels, erosion or sedimentation may occur at the waterway outlet and should be corrected. For terraces with pipe outlets, the intake riser and outlet should be cleared of sediment and other debris.

When you prepare and follow a good maintenance plan, your terraces should perform well for the planned life span and possibly much longer.

For more information about maintenance of terraces or natural resources conservation, please contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office or conservation district office. The office is located at your local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

This article is also available in Microsoft Word format.

Terrace Maintenance (DOC; 58 KB)