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Contour Buffer Strips

Conservation Planner and farmer talking along a contour buffer stripsContour buffer strips are strips of grass or legumes in a contoured field, which help trap sediment and nutrients. Similar to stripcropping, buffers have more narrow grass/legume strips.

How it helps...

  • Vegetation provides cover and habitat for small birds and animals
  • The strips reduce erosion by slowing water flow and increasing water infiltration into soil
  • Grass strips improve water quality by reducing siltation and filtering nutrients and chemicals from runoff 


  • Soil Erosion
  • Water Quality
  • Wildlife


  • Other conservation measures such as residue management might be needed to reduce siltation of the grass strips.
  • Make sure that the acres planned for crop strips will meet your production goals.
  • Grass buffer strips must be at least 15 feet wide, and commonly make up 20% to 30% of the area of the slope.
  • Select a grass that yields high-quality hay if not cut until mid-summer.
  • Control weeds and brush in grass strips, and fertilize as needed based on soil test results.
  • Keep vegetation tall in spring to slow runoff.
  • Delay mowing until July 15 to protect ground-nesting birds.
  • Move the buffer up or down the slope as needed to re-establish vegetation.


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