I have heard many people
speak of terracing sloped land
they want to grow crops on. Obviously how a patch of land is worked will greatly influence the "need" for terracing...
I have very gently sloped land. I don't know how sloped it is because I've never worried about it. If I had to guess maybe 1-2%? I use only hand tools and work on very small scales (aspiring to a whole one-half acre
!), so I can't see any need for them today.
But who knows where life will carry me... I don't imagine I'll be where I'm at for 20 years... so I'm interested in hearing other perspectives. I'm reading about a long-established homesteader in my area whose cultivated land he says averages 6% slope and upwards of 16% slope at the worst. He was concerned about erosion so he did a lot of terracing. He does occasionally use machines like a 2-wheel tractor
, but much of his work is all by hand. He also has a knack for overkill in certain endeavors...
I remember reading Edward Faulkner and him reporting that an agricultural researcher (or perhaps a soil scientist? It's been awhile...) reported an interesting observation from the Appalachian trail in areas where the winds and mountains collect, rather than disperse, the tree leaves; that litter is a major component of the soil. The report was that in torrential downpours, even on slopes of 45 degrees (100%!) there was zero runoff
Granted that's anecdotal and it was on land that was NOT being touched by human activity. But I've got the crazy idea that if you have a huge amount of organic matter in the soil and if you have a generous mulch
on top of that, then sloped areas carefully cropped and managed by hand are probably not as prone to erosion as we might think
. Of course
even if my crazy idea is on the right track there still must be an upper limit on slope. I haven't the foggiest what that might be and I haven't been able to find any data on it either.
Perhaps it's obvious by my asking that I haven't had the chance to take any permaculture
design courses :)
Anyone have any thoughts they'd care to share?