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Solution: Contour Farming & Stripcropping

Contour Farming & Stripcropping:  Tilling and planting across the slope following the contours of the land, and breaking the field into alternating bands of row crops and hay or small grains.

 

How it Works

Photo of stripcropping.

Farming on the contour creates small ridges that slow runoff water. In stripcropping, the small grain or hay strips slow runoff water, allowing infiltration and filtering sediment. Farming on the contour rather than up and down reduces fuel consumption and is easier on equipment.

Planning

  • Longer, steeper slopes may require stripcropping rather than just contour farming.
  • Irregular slopes may require more than one key contour line.
  • Row crop strips need to be roughly the same width as hay or small grains; consider how many acres of row crops you need. Remember, hay strips will rotate to row crops over time.
  • Rotating strips from corn to legumes allows corn to use the nitrogen added to the soil by the legumes.
  • Consider whether herbicide carryover will be a problem.
  • Replace end rows with grass or legumes, which will reduce erosion and make it easier to turn equipment.
  • Use grass waterways where runoff is concentrated.
  • Strip width will depend on slope, equipment and management.

Maintenance

  • Keep strip widths consistent from year to year.
  • In contour farming, establish a narrow, permanent strip of grass along each key contour line to avoid having to lay out new key lines every year.

Questions?  Ask a Conservationist!