contour-farmingBy Alexis Dunnum, NFU Intern

As stated in the NFU Climate Column on extreme precipitation, “Projected increases in heavy precipitation combined with milder winters is expected to increase total runoff and peak stream flow during the winter and spring, which may increase the magnitude or frequency of flooding.” With heavy rainfall likely to occur more often, contour farming may be a solution to lessen the severity of heavy precipitation.

According to NRCS, contour farming is generally used on sloping land where tillage, planting, and cultivation are used to grow annual crops. In a properly designed contour farming system the tillage furrows intercept runoff and allow more moisture to infiltrate into the soil.

By planting across the slope, rather than up and down a hill, the contour ridges slow or stop the downhill flow of water. Water is then held in between these contours, thus reducing water erosion and increasing soil moisture.

This farming technique is most effective on slopes between 2 and 10 percent. Contour farming’s effects on annual soil loss rates vary with slope steepness; however, typically soil loss rates are reduced by half when the slope is between 4 and 7 percent.

Conservation benefits may include, but are not limited to reduced sheet and rill erosion, reduced transport of sediment, other solids and the contaminants attached to them, and increased water infiltration.

Are you a farmer that practices contour farming? How has this practice worked for you? Let us know in the comments section!

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