Progressive bench terrace [China]

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  • Update:
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technologies_1522 - China

Completeness: 82%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Chen Yunming

Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, CAS and MWR


SLM specialist:

Liu Guobin

Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, CAS and MWR


SLM specialist:

Cao Qingyu


Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Northwest A&F University (NWAFU) - China

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Bench terraces are progressively expanded to form a fully developed terrace system in order to reduce runoff and soil erosion on medium- to high- angled loess slopes.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


n Miaowan Village, the technology is mainly applied to apple tree plantations. Tree seedlings are planted in rows every 4 m along the contour with a spacing of 2.5-3.5 m between rows. Trees are planted in pits 40 cm diameter and 3040 cm deep. Manure and/or fertilizer are applied and the seedlings are watered.

Around each tree, soil from the upper parts of the slope is removed and deposited below in order to extend the flat terrain. Over 5-10 years, the terraces become enlarged around each tree and form a terrace with the neighbouring trees along the contour, such that the slopes are transformed into level bench terraces. The fruit trees are located in the middle of the terrace. All the work is done manually using shovels.

Purpose of the Technology: The main purpose of this technology is to reduce runoff and soil erosion on the slope and to improve soil quality and soil moisture retention. It is a sustainable land use technology for small farmers because farmers can use their spare time to improve the land’s condition during the growth of the trees.

A major aim is to conserve water and reduce runoff. Soil erosion in this village is very severe and the soil erosion rate before amounted to 60-100 tonnes per hectare per year and was reduced practically to zero as a result of building the terraces. Slope gradients are very steep (around 20-35 degrees). The main income of local farmers is from orchards.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: The establishment phase thus takes 5-10 years. Afterwards maintenance inputs are restricted to repairing the terrace walls.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:

Miaowan Village, Xuejiagou Watershed


Boundary points of the Technology area: The technology is around the village.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • 10-50 years ago

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through land users' innovation
Comments (type of project, etc.):

It is a kind of traditional method.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
  • Tree and shrub cropping
Main crops (cash and food crops):

Main cash crops: Apple

Main food crop: potatoe


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): On moderate- to high-angled slopes, water loss and soil erosion are very high. Outside the protected canopy of the trees rainsplash impact during heavy storms is very severe. The local farmers clear all the wild grasses and shrubs, such as Korshinsk Peashrub, Artemisia scoparia, Leymus secalinus, Stipa bungeana, Lespedeza davurica etc. to reduce competition with the fruit trees. Consequently, the soil is bare and unprotected

3.3 Further information about land use

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

Longest growing period in days: 300Longest growing period from month to month: Mar - NovSecond longest growing period in days: 200Second longest growing period from month to month: Apr - Oct

3.4 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • cross-slope measure

3.5 Spread of the Technology


Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 2.55 m2.

The whole area of this watershed is about 7.5 Km^2. There are a lot of orchard, mostly apple, in this watershed. It is one of typical watershed with specially soil erosion problem despite the high plant coverage.

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

structural measures

structural measures

  • S11: Others

Main measures: structural measures

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
water degradation

water degradation

  • Ha: aridification

Main type of degradation addressed: Wt: loss of topsoil / surface erosion

Secondary types of degradation addressed: Ha: aridification

Main causes of degradation: Heavy / extreme rainfall (intensity/amounts) (Storm are strong in summer.), other natural causes (avalanches, volcanic eruptions, mud flows, highly susceptible natural resources, extreme topography, etc.) specify (orchards on steep slopes without conservation measures), poverty / wealth (to increase the yield and income of orchard.)

Secondary causes of degradation: deforestation / removal of natural vegetation (incl. forest fires) (There is no natural grass cover here.), droughts (Lack of water for the cash trees)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • reduce land degradation

Main goals: prevention of land degradation

Secondary goals: mitigation / reduction of land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology


Wang Fei, Yangling, Shaanxi Province, China

4.2 Technical specifications/ explanations of technical drawing

i: first year: planting of fruit trees along the contour in small pits
ii: after 3-4 years: a small terrace is built up around each tree (as the tree grows it needs more water, which is collected from the platform around the trees..
iii: after 5-8 years: terraces develop
iv: final stage: fully developed level bench terraces

Owing to the soil properties of loess, there is no need to separate surface and subsoil as there is little difference between them. Therefore, soil can be moved directly from upper to lower parts of the terrace without changing soil fertility.

Location: Miaowan Village, Xuejiagou Watershed. Ansai County, Shaanxi Province, China

Date: 2008-12-20

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate (It is easy to understand and implement.)

Main technical functions: control of concentrated runoff: retain / trap, reduced soil loss

Secondary technical functions: reduction of slope angle, increase of infiltration

Reshaping surface
Vertical interval between structures (m): 1
Spacing between structures (m): 2.5
Depth of ditches/pits/dams (m): 1..5
Width of ditches/pits/dams (m): 2.5
Length of ditches/pits/dams (m): 100-150

Construction material (earth): Using the earth of the same land.

Slope (which determines the spacing indicated above): 45%

If the original slope has changed as a result of the Technology, the slope today is: 2%

Lateral gradient along the structure: 2%

4.3 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify currency used for cost calculations:
  • US Dollars
Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.4 Establishment activities

Activity Type of measure Timing
1. Plant the young trees with small pits. Structural Before practice
2. The soils from the upper parts of the slope is shovelled away and deposited on the lower side of the trees Structural
3. Expand the pits into a large platform year by year. Structural
4. 3.4 years after planning the trees a level platform of 2 to 3 square meters around the trees is build. Structural
5. The platforms increase and the space between trees is change into terrace. Structural

4.5 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Planting trees Person/day 120.0 7.3 876.0 100.0
Labour Building pits Person/day 750.0 7.3 5475.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 6351.0

Duration of establishment phase: 60 month(s)

4.6 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Type of measure Timing/ frequency
1. Repair the bank of year-after-year terraced land Structural Annual after it formed

4.7 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Reparing of terraced land Person/day 15.0 14.6 219.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 219.0

Machinery/ tools: spade and hoe

The costs are calculated assuming a local wage rate of 14.2 US$/day.

4.8 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Slope is the most important factor. The steeper it is, the higher the cost. Labour was not considered as a cost before, but now it is expensive so that some local farmers do not use this technology.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

The mean annual rainfall in the basin is 515.2 mm in the duration from 1952 to 2000. The rainfall from May to Oct accounts for 446.8 mm, up to 86.7%; and that from Jun to Sep accounts for 367.6 mm

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: temperate. The accumulating time that temperature above 0 ℃ about 3800 hours, and that above 10 ℃ is more than 3200 hours
It is based on the classification sysytem only based on the rainfall

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Altitudinal zone 501-1,000 m a.s.l.: Most area is in this altitudinal zonation

Landforms: Based on 1:100 thousand scale landform map

Slopes on average: Based on 1:100 thousand scale landform map

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil depth on average: The depth of Loess varies from nearly 30 m to more than 100 m in Yanhe River Basin. The depth of soil is less than this but it could be nearly 10 meters in common

Soil texture (topsoil): Here are more than 50% soil particle are fine sand with size between 0.05 and 0.1 mm

Soil fertility very low: Lack of N, P and SOM

Topsoil organic matter: <0.5%

Soil drainage / infiltration good: The inflitration of Loess is very fast, but it is prone to sealing when flashing.

Soil water storage capacity low: It is easy to evaporation and drainage

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Availability of surface also poor/ none: Nearly all the branches of Yanhe are seasonal river

Availability of surface water medium: It is very stable in this region

Water quality (untreated): Good quality for there are few pollution sources

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium
Comments and further specifications on biodiversity:

It is very stable in this region

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • rich
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • women
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users

Difference in the involvement of women and men: No clear difference.

Population density: 50-100 persons/km2

Annual population growth: < 0.5%

30% of the land users are rich and own 30% of the land (Higher yield and income.).

Off-farm income specification: Only a few land users have implemented this measure because there are other market based activities that bring higher returns. Sometimes farmers have enough money to buy more fertilizer for the orchard.

Level of mechanization: nearly all the work is done by hand.

Market orientation of production system: It is on apple production base and this generates good income of local farmers

5.7 Average area of land owned or leased by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

0.054 ha per capita

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • state
  • communal/ village
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • open access (unorganized)

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Yield increasing by 16.7%

Income and costs

farm income

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Income increases by 1647 USD per ha.


Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

10% person days increases annually in the first 5 years

Socio-cultural impacts

situation of socially and economically disadvantaged groups

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Not excluding of the labour input of the local farmers themselves.

Livelihoods and human well-being


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff

Quantity before SLM:

60 mm/yr

Quantity after SLM:

<10 mm/yr

Comments/ specify:

no runoff in common


soil loss

Quantity before SLM:

60 t/yr/ha

Quantity after SLM:

10 t/yr/ha

Comments/ specify:

Soil erosion is well controlled

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

reliable and stable stream flows in dry season

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


downstream flooding

Quantity before SLM:

60 mm/yr

Quantity after SLM:

<10 mm/yr

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season Type of climatic change/ extreme How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
local windstorm not well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood not known

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
reduced growing period not known

The technology increases infiltration, reduces soil erosion by water and improves soil moisture retention to reduce the negative impact of extreme drought. However, it does not protect the soil well from wind erosion. Soil cover could be increased to protect against strong winds and reduce

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly positive

Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:



It is very cheap to maintain this measure. More trees could be planted on degraded land in future.

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 10-50%
If available, quantify (no. of households and/ or area covered):

65 households (15percent of the stated area)

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many have did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 90-100%

Comments on acceptance with external material support: There are no outside input to do sunch thing.

100% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

65 land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

Comments on spontaneous adoption: In this area, there are many other practices, such as reforestation, enclosure (to prevent grazing) and terrace construction.

There is a moderate trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: Even the local farmers know the benefits of progressive bench terraces, but with the increased labour costs, fewer people apply this technology.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Higher yield and income.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? If they have time, they wish to adopt this technology.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Establishing the technology over a long time. Local farmers have enough time to do it

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Show to land users that they have time and can spread to work over many years and fit the labour into the time they have available.
It can reduce water loss and soil erosion and prevent the degradation of land

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Give subsidy to the local farmers to reduce the sediment delivery into the downstream river.
It can increase soil moisture.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Makes people understand the importance of conserving water with such a technology.
Higher yield and income.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Share ideas through meeting in the field. Present this measure to more people and show them how to apply it and promote the technology to more farmers.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
It takes a lot of time to establish it. It is difficult to use it, because the people could balance the establishment costs and work at the labour market. If they can get some subsidy from government, they may adapt this measure.
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
It takes considerable time to establish and labour is more and more expensive so that farmers are looking for paid work Subsidy for farmers using this measure.

7. References and links

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Soil and water conservation records of Shaanxi Province. 2000. Shaanxi People's Press, Xi'an City, China

Available from where? Costs?

Library of ISWC, CAS

Links and modules

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