Rain-Driven Erosion:
How to Prevent Farmland Runoff
Table of Contents
What are these methods?
What is best for you?
Pros & Cons
A few key points to keep in mind

A Simple Introduction

The basic principle behind preventing any erosion is find a way to lessen the impact of the cause, such as rain and wind.  For prevention of rain-driven erosion, it is important to anchor the dirt down, such as with grass, or prevent water from collecting and picking up dirt as it flows down slope.  A common way to prevent this is contour ploughing.

Crop Erosion Prevention     Grassland Erosion Prevention
images with permission by Dr. J. Floor Anthoni

What is...

         Making slopes into steps so that rain cannot run down a hill carrying soil off. 
When building terraces, it is important to stabilize the slope. 
                -The easiest way to do this is to plant grass.  If there is enough rock around it may be possible to construct a wall out of them.

Contour Ploughing-
          Similar to terracing, except that it follows the contours of a hill more closely than terracing, possibly even encircling a hill top
          The contours are not wide like terraces.  It is more like planting along the contours, so the hill slope remains.
          The experiment link in the table below show some pictures of contour ploughing

Riparian Fencing-
          Having fencing along stream/river banks prevents animals from walking along the edge and loosening the soil to be more easily washed away
                -This can also be done with vegetation (riparian vegetation; this also shields the banks from erosion)

Retirement Fencing-
             Closing off areas, or retiring them, allows for seedlings to grow and the ground to recover if it needs to

Debris Dams-
             Small barriers, spaced closely together, in steep gullies will catch soil, preventing it from continuing downstream.  Click here and scroll down to see a drawing

Most of these are pretty self explanatory, but here is a little
extra information, help and some "how to's" with a few topics...

Site Home
A how to site on how to terrace, but not for very large operations
Natural Resources Conservation Service

Building retaining Walls for terraces

How to build a terrace garden http://www.greenpatio.com/terrace.shtml Green Patio
Contour Ploughing
A little more information about contour ploughing

Thames Web

Field Lay-out and methods (PDF)
Food & Agriculture Org. of the United States
Riparian Fencing
What is it and how it helps control erosion
Riparian Recovery Initiative
Tunnel Erosion
A problem that untreated may cause issues.  How to spot it and what to do
Very Long Site Address
Dept. of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia
for it all
Another erosion site (not just rain) and with more details
A few sketches showing tests explaining the best ways to prevent runoff
Texas Farm Bureau
Drawings of correct and incorrect ways to go about erosion prevention
Another Long Address
One More Long Address

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (New Zealand)

What is best for you?

The method you use is basically already determined by the problem you have,
whether it be losing soil on the farmland itself or losing soil to stream and rivers.

 If your problem is in your fields, and you do not have any major contour ploughing will probably best.
It is a very effective and common method of farming on hills.

Terracing will be a good method for large operations if you are able to afford the costs. 
Remember to grass the backs of each terrace to prevent erosion here.

If your erosion issues are around streams, grassing the water ways and riparian vegetation may be suitable.
Use riparian fencing if cattle or other animals are causing the soil to fall away into the stream/river.


Terracing/Contour Plowing
Prevents water from running down hills
Increased water infiltration
Increased root development
May become expensive
May require heavy equipment
May hinder more modern (automatic) farming practices
Grassed Waterways
When dry furrows flood, grass anchors hold down sediment at base and along sides
Simple to apply and maintain
Seeds may be washed away before they can grow roots, or may be eaten unless covered
Riparian Fencing
Prevents animals from coming too close to water ways and losing soil
May require more occasional up-keep than other method
Uphill Planting
Prevents too much water from washing out sediment below
Easy to apply and maintain
May require lots of planting

A few key points to keep in mind...
  • Make sure the vegetation you choose to use is able to survive in the location and that it will not begin to spread excessively and take over local wild life or your farmland
  • No matter what method you choose, it is imperative that you keep up maintenance.  A simple and occasional check-up on fences, trees, grass, etc. will suffice.  If the method is not cared for, it will only last temporarily and will become a waste of time and money, and may also become a future burden

Page Created By: Adam Blankenbicker
Michigan Technological University
Houghton, MI 49931
Created on March 01, 2005
Last Updated on April 24, 2005