Why Are Terraces Important?
For thousands of years people have used terraces to improve farming.
In some mountainous regions of the world, steep slopes are grooved with
terraces. Looking down from the side of a mountain, these terraces carve
beautifully formed patterns into the already lush landscape. This stair-step
pattern makes it possible for farmers to grow rice on the side of a mountain.
Rice Terraces, Batad, Banaue, The Philippines
Copyright: Photo © Reggie
In Iowa, gently rolling hills and flat lands allow over 90 percent of
the state to be farmed. Iowa's varied and beautiful landscape is shaped
by patterns best seen from an airplane. But the practice of contour
farming with terraces
and buffer strips
doesn't just make the landscape beautiful. It also helps save the soil.
farming is practiced, the rows of crops are planted around the side
of a sloping hill instead of up and down the hill. The rows of crops actually
help to slow the water down. Thus runoff from heavy rains that would otherwise
run quickly down the slope, flows gently between the rows to grassy buffer
strips. When the water reaches these grassy areas, it will not carry the
soil with it because the grass helps hold the soil in place.
Farmers as Artists
Most farmers are not thinking about an art project when they practice
contour farming. But just as mountain terraces form beautiful and artistic
shapes when seen from a distance, contour farming also creates interesting
and artistic patterns.
Grant Wood, one of Iowa's
most important artists, saw the Iowa landscape as art. In his famous painting
City Grant Wood placed pasturelands, cornfields, and hay fields on
the landscape to form a beautiful design. Of course, early contour farming, such as he portrayed in his art, didn't benefit from today's powerful machinery.
Take a Closer Look
- Was Grant Wood
thinking about soil conservation when he designed this painting?
- Can you find places in this painting where he might have "planted"
the rows a different direction?
- How about buffer strips?
- Should some terraces be added here or there?
My "Conservation Conscious" Painting
City as a model, create your own version of the painting. Include
terraces and buffer strips. Remember which direction crops should be planted
on the side of a hill.
Share your "Conservation Conscious" painting of Stone City
with your teacher and classmates.