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Cropland and Hayland Management Systems

The following conservation practices are commonly used on crop fields to reduce erosion, improve soil and water quality, improve plant health, and minimize off-site impacts from excess nutrients, pesticides and sediment.


  Vermont Stripcropping System







Vermont Strip Cropping System



This practice involves growing various crops on the same field in a planned sequence.  The rotation usually involves growing forage crops in rotation with various field crops.  Major benefits include: reduced runoff and erosion, increased organic matter, improved soil tilth, reduced pests, fewer chemicals needed, better moisture efficiency, higher yields, improved aesthetics and wildlife habitat. 


Contour farming is performed on sloping cropland by following the natural contours when tilling the soil, planting, and cultivating.  It also includes following established grades of terraces or diversions.  The purpose of this practice is to reduce erosion, control runoff water, and increase moisture infiltration.


This practice involves the establishment of narrow strips of permanent, herbaceous vegetative cover across the slope and alternated down the slope with parallel, wider cropped strips.  The practice is used to reduce sheet and rill erosion, to reduce transport of sediment and other water-borne contaminants downslope, or to enhance upland wildlife habitat.


This practice is performed by growing a crop of grass, small grain or legumes for seasonal protection from soil erosion, to add fertility and organic material to the soil, improve soil tilth, and increase infiltration and aeration of the soil.  Cover and green manure crops are grown on cropland, orchards, vineyards, and certain recreation and wildlife areas where seasonal benefits of a cover crop are needed.  These crops are usually plowed under or desiccated. 


A field border is a strip of perennial grass or shrubs established at or around the edge of a field.  Objectives include erosion protection, wildlife cover, forage, or pollution control.  The major purposes of a field border include the following: provide erosion protection by stabilizing the field edge(s), provide a buffering effect around the perimeter or at least one side of the field for improved water quality and other environmental benefits, provide wildlife food and cover, and provide a protected turn row or travel lane.


A filter strip is an area of vegetation, generally located at the lower edge of a field, established for the purpose of removing sediment, organic material, and other pollutants from runoff and wastewater.  Filter strips remove pollutants from runoff before the material enters a body of water.  They also serve as a buffer between water and the fields above the water so that pesticides and other chemicals are not applied directly adjacent or into the water body. 


A grassed waterway is a natural or constructed channel established in suitable vegetation for safe water disposal.  Grassed waterways are constructed to convey runoff from terraces, diversions, or other concentrated flow areas where erosion control is needed.  Grassed waterways are generally planted to perennial grass.


This practice involves managing the amount, timing and placement of plant nutrients, including commercial fertilizer and manure, to obtain optimum yields and minimize the risk of surface and groundwater pollution.  Nutrient management may be used on any area of land where plant nutrients are applied to enhance yields and maintain or improve chemical and biological condition of the soil.  The objective is to apply the proper amount of nutrients at the proper time to achieve the desired yield and minimize entry of nutrients into water supplies. 


This practice involves the establishment of adapted and/or compatible species, varieties, or cultivars of herbaceous species suitable for pasture, hay, or biomass production.  This practice applies to all lands suitable to the establishment of annual, biennial or perennial species for forage or biomass production. This practice does not apply to the establishment of annually planted and harvested food, fiber, or oilseed crops.  The purposes of the practice include: improve or maintain livestock nutrition and/or health, provide or increase forage supply during periods of low forage production, reduce soil erosion, produce feedstock for biofuel or energy production.


This practice is performed with the objective of managing weeds, insects and diseases to reduce adverse effects on plant growth, crop production, and natural resources.  It provides for a site-specific combination of pest prevention, pest avoidance, pest monitoring, and pest suppression strategies​.  The purpose of the practice is to establish a pest management program that is consistent with crop production goals and minimizes environmental and human impacts associated with application of pesticides. 


This practice is performed by managing the amount, orientation and distribution of crop and other plant residue on the soil surface year-round.  Crops are planted and grown in narrow slots or tilled strips established in the untilled seedbed of the previous crop.  The objective of this practice is to maintain most of the crop residue on the soil surface throughout the year.  The only tillage performed is a very narrow strip prepared by coulters, sweeps, or similar devices attached to the front of the planter.  Weeds and other pests are generally managed by using agriculture chemicals. 


This practice is performed by managing the amount, orientation, and distribution of crop and other plant residue on the soil surface year-round while limiting soil-disturbing activities used to grow and harvest crops in systems where the field surface is tilled prior to planting.  This practice applies to cropland.  This practice includes tillage methods commonly referred to as mulch tillage or conservation tillage where the entire soil surface may be disturbed by tillage operations such as chisel plowing, field cultivating, tandem disking, or vertical tillage.


The purpose of this practice is to establish crop rows of the appropriate direction,  grade, and length across the general slope of the field to provide: reduced soil erosion, more efficient use of moisture, reduced off-site impacts related to sediment, and increased water infiltration.  Row arrangement is a very economical conservation alternative often used as a primary component of cropland management systems. 


Growing crops in a systematic arrangement of strips across the general slope to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality. The strips are arranged so that a strip of grass or close growing crop is alternated with a clean tilled strip or strip with less protective cover. Field strip cropping is used to accomplish one or more of the following: reduce erosion and runoff, increase infiltration and soil water availability, improve water quality due to the filtering effect of grass strips and other protective cover, and improve wildlife habitat.


In addition to the conservation practices listed above, the following practices described in Erosion Control Systems and Riparian Area Management Systems, are commonly included within conservation plans to protect natural resources within or adjacent to cropland areas:


Lined Waterway or Outlet

Sediment Basin

Streambank and Shoreline Protection

Structure For Water Control

Underground Outlet

Riparian Forest Buffer


For additional information related to these conservation practices, visit the Vermont NRCS Conservation Practice Information web page.



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