What is terrace farming?
Terrace farming refers to the act of creating steps or terraces on mountain slopes to carry out farming activities. Each level consists of various crops being grown. The advantage is that rains do not wash away the nutrients altogether, but they are pushed down to the lower levels. These steps also prevent a free-flowing avalanche of water that might destroy all crops. In this system, aqueducts are created to carry water to each level.
States in India where Terrace farming takes place –
In India, terrace cultivation takes place in the states of Punjab, Meghalaya, Haryana, Plains of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal.
Benefits of terrace farming –
Terrace farming is a bit labor-intensive but is effective in maximizing the arable land area in variable terrains and also reduces soil erosion and water loss.
Ridges and channels are constructed on slopes as a practice
Terrace farming aims at preventing nutrient loss completely by passing in to on the next level below
They also prevent free-flowing avalanche of water that could destroy crops completely
Terrace farming reduces the length of the hill slope thereby reducing rill and sheet erosion and also the formation of gullies
Terrace farming makes it easier to cultivate on hill slopes which might otherwise not have been possible
If terrace farming is not cultivated, it can lead to infertile lands on slopes. Practicing terrace farming can transform the moist and unused land into productive fields for cultivation of crops
New varieties of crops can be grown on terraces that may not be possible on plains
Pictorial representation of terrace farming types.
Types of Terrace Farming –
Terrace farming is of two types, namely bench and ridge type terrace.
Bench terrace – bench terraces reduce the land slope. A bench terrace is a level or nearly level top and a step or vertical downhill face constructed along the contour of sloping land. Bench terracing consists of transforming the relatively steep land into a series of level or nearly level steps running across the slope. The steps are separated by almost vertical risers. Bench type terracing can further be subdivided into hill type, irrigated type and orchard type based on usage. It can also be classified as level, sloping inwards, sloping outwards, or California type based on slope.
Ridge Terrace – ridge terraces remove or retain water on slopes. Ridge type terrace is of two types, namely narrow-based and broad-based.
Narrow-based terraces –
Broad-based terraces – A broad-based terrace has a ridge 25 – 50 cm high with gentle slopes and a dish stopped channel along the upper side constructed to control erosion by diverting runoff at a non–erosive velocity. Broad-based terraces are further subdivided into a level or graded terraces.
Graded terrace – A graded terrace had a constant or variable grade along its length and used to convey excess runoff at safe velocity into a vegetated waterway or channel.
Level terrace – A level terrace followed the contour line, in control to a graded terrace and recommended in areas having permeable soil.
Crops, grown in terrace farming –
Terrace farming enables the land fertile but requires a lot of complicated engineering and design and is labor intensive. But it is worth the trouble than to leave slopes on hills and mountains uncultivated.
Some crops that are grown using terrace farming are – paddy, cereals, fruits, vegetables, flowers, medicinal plants, aromatic plants, dye plants, wheat, maize, rice, pulses, oilseeds, millets, buckwheat, saffron, black cumin, grain amaranth, spices, etc. The major fruit crops are apple, subtropical and temperate fruits including nuts and dry fruits.
Climatic conditions –
The summer crop season receives about 75% of the total annual rainfall, of which much goes to waste through runoff. The major rainfed cropping systems are maize-wheat, rice-wheat, and intercropped pulses and oilseeds in maize and wheat. Rice-wheat and vegetable-based crop sequences are dominant under irrigated conditions. Only one cropping season is feasible in the high-hill temperate zone where crops are grown during the summer. However, two short duration crops such as pea-buckwheat and pea-pea are possible in a single summer season in the high-hill dry-temperate zones.
Problems with terrace farming –
Undulating topography, small fragmented and scattered land holdings, with very limited use of inputs.
Soils are shallow and stony and subject to periodic water stress
The land is inaccessible, and infrastructure, communications and mobility are obstructed by different physical, climatic, biological and socioeconomic factors
Despite sufficient water resources, irrigation facilities are meager
Shortage of energy and labor
Natural hazards like intense rainstorms, hailstorms, floods, epidemic diseases, insects and an erratic monsoon
Farming in Hills
Crops predominantly grown in hills and mountains are cereals, wheat, maize, rice, pulses, oilseeds, millets, vegetables and fruit crops. In the higher hills, farmers also grow crops such as buckwheat, saffron, black cumin and grain amaranth. The major cropping systems are maize/wheat, rice/wheat, and the intercropping of pulses and oilseeds in maize and wheat. Monocultures are prevalent in the higher hills where farming is possible only in summer, but at lower attitudes, rotational farming is traditionally practiced, often a sequence of barley, peas and wheat.
Monocultures are prevalent in the higher hills where farming is only possible in summer, but at lower attitudes, rotational farming is traditional, often a sequence of barley, peas and wheat. Under irrigated conditions where rice cultivation is possible, it alternates with wheat. There are a large number of suitable alternative crops for marginal lands, for example, rajmash, black gram, rice bean, kulthi, amaranthus, chenopods, buckwheat, malting barley, or pro so, foxtail and finger millets. In the sub-humid zones rice, wheat, vegetables, potato, ginger, turmeric, garlic, etc. are grown. Under irrigated conditions, maize, rice, rapeseed, mustard, soybean, linseed, black gram and horse gram are the major crops.
A large number of fruits, vegetable, spices, medicinal and aromatic plants are grown with relative advantage in the region due to the climate. Crops like potato and pea are sown in April and harvested during September and October. In HP, potatoes, cabbages, turnips, Chinese cabbages, lettuces or pea are grown alone, or intercropped with potato. The major fruits grown are apple, apricot, walnut and citrus. Tea and hops are important commercial crops in the high lands of the western Himalaya.