To level or not to level


For a field that primarily is irrigated by drip irrigation and rainfall, is it worth doing leveling or bench terracing?

Especially when one wants to create contour trenches to harvest rain water in sandy soil and assuming the plan is to grow say, brinjal, tomato and creeper vegetables, is leveling essential?

Calculate the cost. It is not necessary. If you have your own machinery, then its just cost of diesel. Also, there is big demand of sand in construction, one can easily fetch 100 Rs@ trolley of sand, if close to city. Govt also give up to 75% subsidies for leveling the fields sometime. So don’t hurry until you are planning to grow paddy or so in coming season.

Thanks kisaan.

How about if we go for rainfed maize? do you think we could plough across the slope and manage a decent crop?

Flattening will just make it look good, but does not do any good for the soil, in fact when you remove the top soil, it does more harm than good.

What are the problem that you may face if its untouched, fix only those issue, If you are facing any issue like water logging its worth fixing only those area.

My feel is that for drip irrigation you can use the gradiance in a good way, my field is does have elevation of about 30ft, i plan to use it for gravity fed irrigation.

Usually vegetables will be grown on raised beds,  practice in your place may differ, for this levelling is not required.

For trench, could you get the software to find the contour lines?.  Did you try SketchUp?

levelling is not essential at places where u  get enough space for operations. gradient can be used for effective irrigation. contour bunding would enhace moisture retention,prevent soil errosion and increase cultivable area. all the technlogies can be utilized depending the local situation. generalisation would only be indcative and cannot be a recommendation

Thanks Hegde, I have about 12 m over 300m length of the 17 acres.
I will respond to you on the mapping farm topic on SketchUp.

Thanks all, I think the overall direction is to minimize leveling effort.
Let me plan accordingly, I will keep you posted.

This is realy an appropriate question which many want answers but hesitate to ask. well done Mr. Chandra.

Thanks kskarnic.

I have been thinking about this and was not sure where the swale or contour trench would fit in in terracing as in the picture.

Hi hegdegg,
  what do you mean by gravity fed irrigation ? Does that means in lay mans language to have trenches across slope, pour water at highest point and will reach other end using gravity  ?  As per by my limited knowledge drip irrigation needs motors to create pressure .

Why am asking this because soon I need to deal with a land with lot of slopes . Please provide some info keeping in mind that you have newbie person with no practical knowledge  asking this question .


I think if you have sufficient height/head (30 feet if I recollect right), you could use drip just with gravity, without a motor.

I think, we should be following as per the pic 1, this will let us have the Swale and all the benefit without even having the terrace,  If you have the terrace done already, you may want to have the trench as per pic 2, we may have to take care of the current too, if the water flows from high altitude, it will surely have the current and this may damage, so better to have trench on the other side rather than on the edge.

Do you also plan to have the pond constructed to catch the overflow from trench?

Hi Chandra,
    I do have more than 30 feets of slope for a piece of land. Will come back with more practical questions that I am going to face soon.
Thanks for the reply


Yeah your explanation is perfect with respect to gravity fed irrigation.  My response to the post was with respect to gravity fed drip irrigation.  Say if you have water tank at the highest point of your land where you have slope, you can have the drip connected to this tank that can work for most of your land.  This is like a overhead tank.

Pressure pump is not really required in all cases.  People from western ghats are very much used to this gravity fed irrigation.  Lots of them use it for sprinkler and drip irrigation. People generate electricity (pico-hydro) too with this.

Makes sense. I suspect having it at the end of the bench would have some issues too - that the water may break the bund towards the end of the bench and that a good amount of water will start evaporating from the side of the terrace. All in all, it appears trenching does not go too well with bench terracing unless there are other techniques.

In my land, a few acres has been terraced by the old owners but the rest remains a gradient - at this point and based on this topic and … discussion/msg1888/#msg1888, I am inclined not to go overboard with leveling.

I will probably go with swales this season and evaluate if there will be enough run off to fill a pond. The key question in my mind is if water harvesting and recharge will really work in practice as being discussed here: … ms/.  ;D

2.3 ft creates 1ps  says this link, important thing is to source the right emitters.

    this is what I had in my mind, have water tank at highest point in land and drip will be fed by this .
Link you have provided really gives all the technical details  needed.

Thanks a lot again for sharing such a wonderful info .
Best regards,

suggestion of sri.Hegde is quite opt both about trenching and using gradients for irrigation.