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Conservation Choices: Field Border

Field Border

Field BorderWhat it is

A strip of perennial vegetation, primarily introduced or native grasses, established at the edge or around the perimeter of a field.

How it helps

  • Field borders control sheet, rill, gully and wind erosion at the edges of a field where end rows would run up and down hill.
  • They provide wildlife and pollinators food and cover.
  • They provide a turning point for farm equipment.
  • Vegetation filters runoff to improve water quality.
  • Grass and legume strips may be harvested in some cases.

Planning ahead

  • Will the width be wide enough to turn your equipment?

Tech Notes

  • Field borders must be a minimum of 30 feet wide, and wide enough to turn farm equipment – normally this is twice the width of equipment used.
  • To provide wildlife benefits, field borders should be 30-40 feet wide.
  • Seed with perennial grasses, legumes or a mixture of the two.
  • Seeding may be completed during the spring period, March 1 to May 15, or during the late summer seeding period, Aug. 1 to Sept. 15.
  • Seeding period for warm season grasses is April 1 to July 1.
  • Borders need to be seeded or left in place when a meadow field is plowed.
  • Drill seed across the slope, not up and down, if possible to help control erosion.
  • Drill grass and legume seed uniformly over the strip 1/4” to 1/2” deep or broadcast uniformly over the field border. Harrow and cultpack to establish good seed to soil contact.


  • Delay mowing until Aug. 1 to protect nesting birds.
  • Maintain desired vegetation and plant vigor by liming, fertilizing, mowing, disking, burning, and controlling noxious weeds to ensure effectiveness of the border.
  • Shut off farm chemical sprayers when turning on field borders.
  • Shape and re-seed border areas damaged by storms, animals, chemicals, tillage or equipment traffic.

Iowa Practice Standard

Iowa Job Sheet