contour ploughing

What Is Contour Plowing: Protecting Our Soil and Harvests

Contour plowing is a farming technique that plays a vital role in safeguarding our soil and ensuring bountiful harvests.

By understanding and implementing this simple yet effective method, farmers can significantly reduce soil erosion on sloping lands.

This article aims to provide an in-depth exploration of contour plowing, explaining its benefits, the technique itself, and its impact on sustainable agriculture.

What is Contour Plowing?

Contour plowing, also called contour farming, involves plowing furrows along the natural curves and contour lines of sloping fields. Instead of plowing straight up and down the slopes, farmers follow the lay of the land. This technique works like a safeguard against erosion by preventing water from gaining excessive speed and washing away precious topsoil.

Preventing Soil Erosion:

Soil erosion is a pressing concern for farmers worldwide. When rainwater flows downhill, it gains momentum, becoming a force that can carry away fertile soil.

Contour plowing acts as a defense mechanism, effectively slowing down water movement and encouraging its absorption into the soil.

By plowing along the contour lines, farmers create mini-barriers that trap the water, giving it time to infiltrate the ground instead of running off and causing erosion.

Conserving Soil Moisture:

Water is crucial for the health and productivity of crops.

Contour plowing helps retain moisture in the soil. The furrows created by following the land’s contours create small terraces, which hold water like little reservoirs.

This way, moisture is available for plant roots to access, promoting healthy growth and reducing the need for excessive irrigation. Conserving soil moisture not only benefits crops but also contributes to water conservation efforts.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture:

Contour plowing plays a significant role in sustainable agriculture.

By preventing soil erosion, this technique helps preserve the soil’s fertility and structure. When topsoil is eroded, it takes away essential nutrients necessary for plant growth, leading to decreased crop yields.

Conserving the soil through contour plowing ensures that future generations can continue to cultivate the land and rely on its productivity.

Implementing Contour Plowing:

To implement contour plowing effectively, farmers need to identify the contour lines of their fields. This can be done by observing the natural curves and patterns of the land or using simple surveying tools. Once the contour lines are marked, the plowing can begin. Farmers should follow these steps:

  1. Start at the highest point of the field and plow along the contour lines.
  2. Maintain a consistent depth and width for the furrows.
  3. Avoid turning the soil too much, as excessive disturbance can disrupt its structure.
  4. Repeat the process across the entire field, ensuring that each furrow is level and follows the contour lines accurately.

When beginning contour plowing, it’s crucial to start at the highest point of the field. This allows the furrows to capture and slow down water as it moves downhill. Plowing along the contour lines ensures that the furrows act as mini-dams, preventing water from gaining excessive speed and causing erosion.

Maintaining a consistent depth and width for the furrows is essential for their effectiveness. The furrows should be deep enough to trap and hold water but not so deep that they create excessive disturbances in the soil.

Consistency in width helps maintain the integrity of the furrows and ensures that they can effectively capture and retain water.

It’s important to avoid turning the soil excessively during contour plowing. Overturning the soil can disrupt its structure and lead to compaction or loss of valuable organic matter. By minimizing soil disturbance, farmers can preserve the soil’s natural composition and promote its long-term health and fertility.

Repeat the contour plowing process across the entire field, ensuring that each furrow is level and accurately follows the contour lines.

Consistency in the placement of the furrows is crucial to create a continuous barrier against erosion. Each furrow should align with the contour lines to effectively slow down water movement and promote water infiltration into the soil.

By following these steps and implementing contour plowing correctly, farmers can maximize the erosion control benefits and preserve the health of their sloping fields. It’s important to note that the specific techniques may vary depending on the farm’s unique characteristics and the equipment available.

Incorporating Other Erosion Control Practices:

While contour plowing is an effective erosion control technique, combining it with other practices can enhance its benefits.

Farmers can use methods like planting cover crops, strip cropping, and terracing in conjunction with contour plowing. Cover crops help protect the soil during fallow periods, while strip cropping involves alternating rows of different crops to further impede water flow.

Terracing creates level platforms on steep slopes, forming steps that slow down water movement and encourage absorption.


Contour plowing is a valuable tool in the fight against soil erosion and the pursuit of sustainable agriculture.

By following the natural contours of the land, farmers can reduce runoff, conserve soil moisture, and maintain soil fertility.

Implementing contour plowing, along with other erosion control practices, ensures that our precious soil resources remain productive for generations to come. By adopting these techniques, we can protect our harvests, preserve the environment, and secure our agricultural future.