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close this bookResource Management for Upland Areas in Southeast Asia - An Information Kit (IIRR, 1995, 207 p.)
close this folder3. Soil and water conservation approaches
View the documentIntroduction to soil and water conservation approaches
View the documentBench terraces
View the documentComposting
View the documentContour tillage/planting
View the documentCover crops
View the documentCrop rotation
View the documentDiversion ditches
View the documentDrop structures
View the documentGrass strips
View the documentHedgerows
View the documentMinimum tilIage/zero tillage
View the documentMulching
View the documentRidge terraces
View the documentShifting cultivation
View the documentSoil barriers
View the documentSoil traps
View the documentWater harvesting

Contour tillage/planting

Contour tillage or planting is practiced on sloping lands to reduce soil erosion and surface runoff. A contour is an imaginary line connecting points of equal elevation on the ground surface, perpendicular to the direction of slope. Structures and plants are established along the contour lines following the configuration of the ground.

Contour planting may involve construction of soil traps, bench terraces or bunds, or the establishment of hedgerows. Contour tillage is being promoted in the Southeast Asian region for sustainable upland farming. Different combination of crops can be planted following different pattems. The SALT system practiced in the Philippines is a good example of contour farming.


Reduces runoff and soil erosion.

Reduces nutrient loss.

Cultivation is faster if using draft animals or machinery since the equipment moves along the same elevation.


Improperly laid-out contour lines can increase the risk of soil erosion.
Labor-intensive maintenance.
Needs special skills to determine contour lines.

Factors affecting adoption


Increased productivity and soil condition are attractive.
Trapping water in the furrows increases infiltration and production


In some marginal lands, laws do not allow the construction of engineering structures, so contour planting is an appropriate alternative.

In some areas, people find it easier to cultivate the soil up and down the slope using hand tools.