What is Contour Farming? Its Meaning, Importance and Benefits

04 Jun 2023
What is Contour Farming? Its Meaning, Importance and Benefits
Contour farming in India is being practiced since ancient times. By shaping the land's contours to follow its natural curves, farmers create miniature terraces that retain water and prevent erosion. This sustainable practice improves soil health, enhances crop yields, and conserves precious resources, all while safeguarding the environment.

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Contour farming is defined as the practice of planting crops in a way that follows the contours of a slope. This method helps to reduce soil erosion by preventing water from flowing off the field, thus keeping it in place on your land. Contour farming can benefit small-scale and large-scale producers by allowing them to use less fertilizer while maintaining productivity. Go through this blog to explore what is contour cultivation, its importance, and its benefits.

What is Contour Farming?

Contour farming plants crops in a way that follows the natural contours of the land. In this type of farming, row patterns are farmed around a hill instead of going up and down.

Contour cultivation follows the contours of the land, which creates a natural barrier that slows down water overflow and helps to retain soil moisture. Contour farming has several techniques, including ridge tillage, strip cropping, terracing, contour bunds, and contour ploughing.

The method is used to reduce soil erosion by preventing water from flowing off the field. Contour cultivation helps to conserve soil and water, control erosion, and increase crop yields.

The benefits of contour farming, such as improved soil fertility and water retention, make it a popular and effective technique for agriculture.

What is the Process of Contour Farming?

Soil erosion and water runoff are two significant problems that farmers face, particularly in areas with sloping terrain. Contour cultivation helps prevent soil erosion, reduce water runoff, reduce soil loss, preserve soil fertility, and conserve water resources. Here are the steps to follow for contour farming:

Evaluation of the Land

Contour farming is most effective on sloping land. You can determine the slope of your land through the measurement of the rise of the land.

Determination of Contour Lines

After evaluating the slope of the land, you can determine the contour lines. A contour line is known to connect points on the ground that are at the same elevation. You can determine the contour lines using a topographic map or by walking the land and noting elevation changes.

Marking Contour Lines

Once you have determined the contour lines, mark them on the land using flags. You can also use a string or hose to mark the contour lines.


Use a plough to create furrows along the contour lines. The furrows should be shallow and should follow the contour of the land. It helps to slow down water runoff and retain soil moisture.

Planting Crops

Plant your crops perpendicular to the furrows. This helps to create a barrier that prevents water runoff and helps to retain moisture in the soil.

Maintenance of the Field

To ensure the effectiveness of contour cultivation, it is essential to maintain the contour lines. Regularly check for erosion and make adjustments as needed to prevent soil loss.

Importance of Contour Farming

Contour cultivation is particularly useful in hilly or sloping terrain, where soil erosion and loss of topsoil can be a major problem. Soil erosion occurs when the topsoil is washed away by water or wind, leaving behind infertile subsoil. This can lead to reduced soil fertility, decreased crop yields, and even land degradation.

Water runoff occurs when rainfall or irrigation water runs off the land surface, carrying away soil, nutrients, and other pollutants. This can lead to soil and water pollution and contribute to flooding downstream.

Contour cropping is an effective technique to address these problems because it helps to slow down water runoff and prevent soil erosion. It also reduces soil erosion by 50%.

Contour cropping creates parallel rows on a hillside to follow the contours of the land. This allows rainwater to flow along these rows instead of washing away topsoil as traditional row planting methods would.

Benefits of Contour Farming

Contour agriculture is a system of crop management that aims to improve soil fertility. It goes on to increase the crop yields of your land. It also reduces costs for you by lowering the dependence on irrigation and fertilizers. The following are the primary benefits of contour cultivation:

Water conservation

Contour agriculture helps in retaining moisture in the soil, which reduces the need for irrigation and conserves water resources. You will be less reliant on additional water sources to irrigate the land.

Improved soil fertility

Contour cropping allows water to penetrate deeper into the ground where it is needed most by the roots of crops. It helps keep them healthy while also improving their ability to uptake nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Contour farming can increase crop yields due to improved retention of soil moisture and reduced erosion.

Soil conservation

Contour cropping helps to reduce soil erosion, which allows the soil to absorb water and nutrients. This helps to preserve soil fertility and productivity. Contour ridges help prevent erosion by slowing down runoff from rain. This means less soil ends up in streams or rivers, which can cause flooding. Contour planting can help to reduce soil compaction, which improves soil aeration and water infiltration.

Improved drainage

Contour farming can improve drainage by slowing down water runoff and allowing more water to infiltrate the soil. It leads to improved fertility of the land over time because it provides more organic matter and nutrients to be absorbed into the ground instead of washing away with rainwater or being carried away by wind currents. Improved drainage results in higher productivity levels while reducing costs associated with fertilizers or other inputs needed for healthy crop growth.

Limitations of Contour Farming

While contour farming has many advantages, there are also some potential limitations to consider. There are some precautions that you need to take while practising contour planting.

  • Creating furrows along the contour lines and planting crops perpendicular to the furrows can be more time-consuming and labour-intensive.
  • Contour farming is most effective on sloping land with a gradient. It may not be suitable for flat or highly sloped terrain.
  • The furrows created by contour farming can act as channels for water runoff. This can increase erosion at the ends of rows where water runoff is concentrated.
  • Contour farming requires precision in planting, cultivating, and maintaining the contour lines. Any deviation from the contour line can lead to reduced effectiveness of the technique.
  • Contour farming may result in nutrient loss due to the increased water retention in the soil. Nutrients may leach from the soil or become locked up, reducing plant growth and yield.
  • Contour ridges help trap moisture but also reduce sunlight penetration into the plant canopy. Therefore, if these ridges are too high, then they may not allow enough sunlight needed by plants at lower elevations where most crops grow best.


By reducing compaction and improving soil structure, contour farming can increase water infiltration rate, allowing more water to reach plant roots and recharge groundwater supplies. However, there are some limitations of contour farming as well. It requires specialized equipment, which can be expensive and time-consuming to maintain.

In addition, because of the need for precise planting and cultivation techniques, it may be difficult for some farmers with little experience in contour farming to get started without help from an expert. The bottom line is that there are many benefits to using this farming method, but you must also consider its limitations before choosing it as your preferred choice for crop production.

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