What is Terrace Farming? Its Importance for Environment

Terrace Farming is a common agriculture practice followed in mountain regions by creating terraces.

Terraces are horizontal human-made spaces created for the cultivation of crops on the slopes of hills and mountains. They are constructed to provide a wide range of surface areas for cultivation on hill slopes and to support farming for the long term.what is Terrace farming

Terracing helps in the reduction of water flow, soil erosion, and increases water holding capacity. It can create various micro-climates that protect crops from high winds and can increase the intensity of solar radiation on a field.

Terraces are classified under different categories :

  1. According to retaining walls: bench terraces and broad field bench terraces, check dams and cross-channel terraces, sloping field terraces.
  2. According to the differences in building materials: soil ridge terraces, stone dike terraces, grass ridge terraces, and soil–rock mixed terraces
  3. According to rainfall availability and climatic zones: dryland terraces and paddy terraces
  4. Based on purpose: agricultural terraces, afforestation terraces, orchard terraces, tea-garden terraces, rubber terraces, and mulberry terraces
  5. As per specific location: hill slope terraces and channel terraces.


1. Terrace farming boosts water Conservation and runoff reduction:

Terraces act as many micro-watersheds across the whole slope. Therefore, it directly reshapes the micro-topography of hill slopes. These factors enhance the efficiency of rainwater harvesting by changing hydrological pathways. Even, Practice of terrace farming increases soil roughness and creates voids so that water droplets penetrate. Thus, it increases water holding capacity and soil moisture.

2. Soil conservation and Control of Soil Erosion:

Terracing weakens rainfall-runoff effects by reducing the water velocity and total amount of debris flow. This leads to an increase in biomass and surface cover. Terraces have embankments or ridges which increases the efficiency of soil conservation

3. Improve land productivity and soil fertility:

Due to the reduction in soil erosion and having high water holding capacity, terrace farming improves soil fertility and land productivity

Example: In rice terraces, Irrigation is designed not only for supplying water to paddy crops but has various other purposes as well. In addition to the protection of terraced paddy fields, the unique practice of year-round irrigation plays many essential roles, including storing water, maintaining favorable soil conditions for rice growth and providing a habitat for various edible aquatic animals.

4. Ensure food security and crop yield:

Water scarcity and soil erosion are the problems for the mountain. Terrace farming ensures food security and increases crop yield by water and soil conservation. Thus it reduces soil erosion. In terrace farming, the interaction between water and fertilizer increase results in high yield.

5. Enhances biodiversity and helps in ecosystem restoration and enhances biodiversity:

The practice of Terrace farming in mountains or another region where standard cultivation not possible plays an additional measure that benefits ecosystem restoration and enhancing biodiversity.

6. Enriches recreational options by creating aesthetic landscapes:

Many terraces practices in the world classified as “cultural landscape” heritages (UNESCO, 2008). Cultural landscapes, defined as “distinctive geographical areas or unique properties that represent the combined work of nature and man” by the World Heritage Committee.

Challenges in terrace farming:

A) Improper management of terraces:

As the population increases, human-made houses in between terraces harm terrace farming activities.

B) Lack of knowledge for creating terrace:

Terrace construction on hilly slopes needs proper experience and knowledge. As experts in this field decrease day by day there appears a gap of knowledge in terrace farming from the older generation to the younger generation

C) Terrace abandonment:

As industrialization and urbanization increase, the young generation of mountain and hilly regions attract to cities. This results in terrace abandonment.

Examples of Crops grown by Terrace farming:

  • Maize ( Zea mays)
  • Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
  • Rice ( Oryza sativa)
  • Potato ( Solanum tuberosum)
  • Apple ( Malus Domestica)
  • Plum ( Prunus domestics)
  • Kodo ( Paspalum Scrobiculatum)

List of few terraces recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites

Terrace nameCountryAgeTypeCurrent stateServices
Wachau vineyard
Viticulture, sightseeing
Bahai Faith
Israel8th to 10th centuryDryland
Tourism, runoff-retention
Cinque Terre
Italy8th centuryStonewalled terracesPartially
Viticulture, olive groves
Douro vineyard
Portugal18 th centuryVineyard
Viticulture, tourism
Machu Picchu
Peru13th to 14th
AbandonedPotato cultivation,
climate regulation,
Serra de
Spain13th centuryStonewall
Orchards, vegetable
gardens, olive groves

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  1. I live in lincoln county tn. I see terraces here around the river. And miles away from the river .. I believe these to have been made by the American Indians.. I have purchased a drone to take photos of these spectacular formations.. I am very interested to find out as much info as possible .if theres anyway someone could help educate me about these formations.. and the people that created them.. please contact me at the email provided. I am willing to share photos of what intrigues me. Thank you


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