Terrace cultivation, a strategic farming method, gives farmers greater control over water flow and soil erosion, allowing them to maximize land use in hilly areas without sacrificing crop quality. Discover the history and advantages of terrace farming.
What Is Terrace Farming?
Terrace farming is an agricultural practice used by farmers on steep slopes, hilly terrain, and at higher elevations. Terrace farmers build successive layers of flat areas on mountain sides or other terrains with steep inclines to improve soil conservation and runoff water control. These levels resemble staircase steps and create more visible segments of arable land while causing no harm to the surrounding ecosystem.
Because growing crops on steep slopes can be difficult, terrace farming converts the topography into better agricultural land. Creating terrace fields is time-consuming, but the crop yield is well worth it. Soil erosion worsens without terraces, and water flows to the hill's base, carrying nutrients and seeds. Farmers can control water conservation and feed their crops more evenly with level terraces.
A Brief History of Terrace Farming
Terrace farming has been practiced since ancient times. Mesopotamian ziggurats, with their tiered levels, exemplify the shape of terrace farming, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon also used bench terraces (flat areas with nearly vertical sides) to produce fertile soil. Terrace farming was practiced by Andes farmers in South America, as well as the Incas at Machu Picchu in Peru.
Tiered rice paddies are now a common sight throughout Southeast Asia, including Vietnam and Indonesia. The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 as a result of the locals' versatile use of this farming technique in their rice fields.
How Does Terrace Farming Work?
Terrace farming involves flattening the slopes of mountainsides in order to convert steep land into flat, arable space. Water runoff on hillsides is intense, and the velocity of the runoff can increase as snow or rainfall accelerates down the incline. In severe weather, such runoff can cause dangerous mudslides.
Water carries topsoil (and soil nutrients) down the mountain, causing faster land erosion and greater soil saturation at the base. Terrace farming prevents this. One of the major advantages of terrace farming is that it creates tiers of flat land on a mountain to prevent mudslides and to hold water in controlled amounts at each level. This makes crop care easier and increases their chances of survival.
4 Advantages of Terrace Farming
Terrace farming is a popular method of growing culinary herbs, legumes, rice, and other grains. The following are some of the benefits of terrace farming:
1. Increased land productivity: Without terrace farming, much of a hillside would be unfit for farming. Terrace farming improves the fertility of these areas.
2. Improved food security: Terracing allows farmers to have more control over the land they cultivate and the water they receive. This improves food security by ensuring more secure growing conditions.
3. Increased crop yield: While runoff can reach the base of a mountain, terraces keep the water from moving beyond a single layer. This makes better use of the water and increases crop production.
4. Soil erosion prevention: Rainfall carries soil with it, causing erosion. Terrace farming reduces erosion by slowing runoff and trapping it in individual layers along the incline.
3 Disadvantages of Terrace Farming
Terrace cultivation converts steep slopes into arable land, but there are some drawbacks to this farming method. Some disadvantages are:
1. Extensive labor: Terraces are difficult to build. They take a lot of time and effort to make properly, and because of the steep inclines involved, farmers can't always rely on heavy machinery to help them out.
2. Reliance on precision: Terraces can hold the right amount of water when properly constructed, but if not, they can hold excess water. Vegetation can be harmed by oversaturation. Sloped land areas may also lose water if they are not completely flat.
3. Maintenance requirements: Farmers must take care to ensure that the soil on their terraces is healthy and fertile. Failure to do so can result in infertile land and dead crops.