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Contour Buffer Strips

Contour Buffer Strips:  Strips of grass or other permanent vegetation in a contoured field that help trap sediment or nutrients; similar to contour stripcropping except that the grass strips are narrower.

How it Works

Photo of contour buffer strips.

Because the buffer strips are established on the contour, runoff flows slowly and evenly across the grass strip, reducing sheet and rill erosion.  The vegetation can also provide habitat for small birds and animals.  In some cases buffer strips might be an inexpensive substitute for terraces.

Planning

  • 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.

Maintenance

  • 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.

Questions?  Ask a Conservationist!