Terracing Farming Facts

In agriculture, a terrace is a flat piece of ground that is gradually slanted downward, like steps. It is designed to make farming more effective. This type of landscape design is referred to as terraced agriculture.

In the Philippine Cordilleras (hills and mountains), you will find the Rice Terraces. These have been around for 2,000 years.

Farming is done using “steps” built into the side of a hill or even a mountain.

Fresh crops are planted on each level. Nutrients in the soil are not washed away by rain, and they are absorbed into the next level.

This prevents an avalanche of water, which would destroy all crops on the hillsides, from entering the valley. In addition, they built aqueducts to carry water to each level.

The Inca people developed this idea in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1533 CE

Aqueducts built by the Incas are still in use today.

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Terraced farming is arguably the most well-known use of terraced agriculture. Rice needs a lot of water, and it’s best when the soil is flat and floodable.

But it’s hard to find a place with perfect topography for a big crop. 

Some farmers work together to level land, with the help of neighbors, because of the high cost of hiring equipment such as tractors. Less water is consumed by leveling the land, resulting in higher yields.

Terrace farming is the smarter way. At first, what appears to be unusable for rice cultivation is transformed into a perfect rice field with ease.

The use of terraces prevents erosion, which would occur if terraced steps were not used prior to turning a hillside into farmland.

Though the soil must be properly cared for and the terraces maintained, the hillside can be productive for a long time.

Rice terraces in the Philippine Cordilleras are one of the world’s first and most beautiful wonders and have been a major tourist attraction for years. They  were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995

The Mediterranean

Terraced Vineyard

It’s tough to farm around the Mediterranean because there are mountains and lots of hills. Terraced landscapes save soil and water because they maximize the use of sloping terrains.

The terraced landscape of the Mediterranean is a better example of how humans are responding to bad conditions.

Terrace farming is used to cultivate vineyards and olive and cork orchards. 

Terraced fields line the hillsides and steep slopes leading down to the coast; they produce some of the best foods and wines from the region.

Switzerland’s Lavaux region also utilizes terrace farming for its vineyards along Lake Geneva’s north coast that dates back to the 11th century.

South America

Machu Picchu Farming Terraces

The South American civilizations were using terrace farming to feed their huge populations long ago. 

Machu Picchu and its vicinity are indications of how the Incas learned agriculture.

Agricultural terraces have been around for thousands of years, but modern farming is using these concepts and techniques to produce more food with less water.

Terrace farming is also used by tea farmers. 

Landscapes created from these green crops are frequently a tourism destination.

How Does Terrace Farming Work?

Terracing entails building steps known as terraces onto the hillside or mountainside to augment farming with respect to the slope.

Rain flowed down the slope instead of taking the soil nutrients and plants with it. Not doing this correctly will cause a reduction in soil quality.

The water is channeled from one step to the next, so certain areas remain dry and the other areas remain wet.

Different crops can be grown at high altitudes other than rice, as rice doesn’t grow well there.

Different Types of Terracing

The purpose of graded terraces, also known as channel-type terraces, is to prevent the infiltration and runoff from the hillside from eroding the nearby land.

There are two main types those with constant slopes or those with variable slopes.

Water is preserved, and erosion is limited by level terraces. Rainfall is trapped and held in the soil profile during low to moderate rainfall areas.

A contour line is followed by the level terraces, and they are ideally suited for soil with good drainage.

What are the Advantages of Terrace Farming

A lot of thought goes into this type of farming.

It’s environmentally friendly.

Terracing has the advantage that rain does not wash away the nutrients of the soil. This leads to the healthy growth of crops.

Additionally, it prevents plants from being carried away by the heavy rain.

Farming in the mountains is made possible using this method, an essential agricultural technique.

In Asia, most places would have been unproductive if terrace farming had not been invented.

By converting the damp idle land to productive farms, terrace farming can help reduce food insecurity in the world.

It helps the crops and soil to retain their nutrients.

What are the Disadvantages of Terrace Farming

If not done correctly, it can lead to flooding in hilly areas when it rains, so it can be dangerous.

The rainy season in the hilly area causes an overflow of water, and occasionally this water can be dangerous enough to wash something with it.

Overflowing water can lead to dangerous water runoffs.

If unmanaged, terraces also raise the risk of mudslides.

Intensive labor during construction has also been cited as a significant disadvantage of terrace farming.

Because of leaching, terrace farming can reduce the quality of the soil.  Agriculturally, leaching occurs when water-soluble plant nutrients are extracted from the soil by rain.