Steeply sloped cropland with a series of terraces. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
No-till corn planting on terraced land. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
A grassed back-slope terrace in a field of soybeans. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
A terrace temporarily holding water. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
A terrace is an earthen embankment, ridge or ridge-and-channel built across a slope (on the contour) to intercept runoff water and reduce soil erosion. Terraces are usually built in a series parallel to one another, with each terrace collecting excess water from the area above. Terraces can be designed to channel excess water into grass waterways or direct it underground to drainage tile and a stable outlet.
There are three main types of terraces. Broad-based terraces are designed to be entirely farmed; they are generally suitable for long, uniform gentle slopes of up to 6% or so. Grassed back-slope terraces are designed to be farmed on the front slope of the ridge but the back slope is graded to a steep pitch and grassed; they are generally suitable on slopes up to 15%. With narrow-based terraces, the entire ridge is grassed instead of just the back slope, and both sides of the ridge are steeply pitched; the narrow ridges require only a small part of the field to be removed from production.
Why install terraces on your land?
Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District