Ofčí statek Brníčko

Construction of contour trenches (swales)


Ofčí statek Brníčko

Case Study Contents

About Farm

Farm Name

Ofčí statek Brníčko

Year of foundation



Šumperk, Olomouc

Farm area/size of the organisation:

44 ha

Number of workers:

Maximum 5 workers, even though the number varies during the season

Farm main activity:


Climate and soil characteristics

The farm is located at an altitude of 330 m above sea level in a slightly undulating upland. The area has a typical mild climate with rainfall ranging from 700-1000 mm.

Measure Information

Description of the measure

On the grassy slope, shallow ditches with dimensions of 10 m in width and 100 m in length were dug with a single-row plough in the direction of the contour lines at 10 m distance to harvest rainwater in the soil.

Objective of the measure

The aim of the measure is to retain the water during heavy rainfall, its infiltration into the soil and reduction of the runoff from the site.

Justification of the choice

The measure was chosen by the author mainly due to his willingness to try new techniques, good experience from abroad and, from the technical point of view, due to the relatively easy implementation.

Where did You get information of the measure from?

The farmer was inspired mainly by the web and his own experience while travelling to Australia, New Zealand, and other foreign countries.

Description of the situation before the measure implementation

Before the measure implementation, water was drained rapidly from the land and the pasture was drying out much faster.


Stakeholders involved

Friends and family.

Description of stakeholders’ role

They helped the farmer to implement the measure.

Implementation phase

Description of the survey done for the implementation

The pre-implementation survey was carried out only by the farmer. Since he is the owner of the farm and knows his property very well, a slow walk around the site during heavy rainfall events was sufficient to assess the suitable location for measure implementation.

Materials used

  • Single-row plough,
  • 50 cm trench stakes (200 pieces),
  • precise GPS (+/- 3 cm),
  • tennis court lining trolley,
  • tractor.

Costs for the implementation

Fuel, remuneration for friends who lent the equipment, small expenses for the above-mentioned necessary material.

Implementation / building

The ditches have to be dug out when the pasture – slope – is grazed and dry.

Required maintenance operations

The measure does not require special maintenance, only an occasional inspection is needed to check the condition.

Recommended knowledge / skills / training / courses / education desired before starting the measure implementation

The author’s practical experience abroad, his knowledge of foreign languages when searching the information on the Internet and his personal sensitivity to the surrounding landscape helped him with the implementation of the measure.


Better pasture with sufficient level of moisture provides better quality forage for grazing cattle.
After the swale construction, the water spring was restored, water was significantly retained in the pasture, biodiversity increased, and the site returned to the original “wilder” state of nature.
The farmer needs to communicate more frequently with neighbours and people from the surrounding area and explain why he is introducing such measures.
Since the author introduced the measure at his own expense, without subsidies or projects, he faces increased interest from the inspection authorities (SZIF, Czech State Agricultural Intervention Fund – accredited paying agency administrating subsidies).


Innovation elements

Contour tranches are not a common measure in the Czech Republic, the author is one of the few in the country who decided to apply this measure on his property.

Key element for success

The key element for success was the increased infiltration of water into the soil, the increase in groundwater and the subsequent restoration of the spring under the dugout ditches.


Physical constraints

When working with tractors in the pastures, it is necessary to ride along the contour, not from the top to the bottom.

Technological constraints

Machinery used for pasture maintenance must not have a span of more than 10 m in order to pass between ditches.

Acceptance constraints

The constraint on adoption is the increased interest of the inspection authorities and the resulting potential problems and concerns for the farmer who would like to apply a similar measure.

Proposed solutions to above constraints

According to the author, the solution to the above-mentioned problems is mainly personal determination and courage.

Lesson learned

Farmers’ experiences

The farmer has a positive experience. The measure works very well, the rainwater is retained and does not run off anymore. When talking with neighbours, the author’s experience is that younger neighbours do not understand why such measures are undertaken and older villagers, on the other hand, remember that such contour tranches were common before.


“Go for it!”

Measure sustainability

Environmental sustainability

The measure is highly environmentally sustainable; in addition to an increased amount of retained water, it increases biodiversity and provides other ecosystem services.

Economical sustainability

The measure is economically sustainable, the only necessary cost is its maintenance with the plough every few years.

Transfer of the measure

Replicability conditions required

The necessary condition is mainly the willingness of farmers to change their way of thinking.

Additional Required Conditions for spreading the measure

According to the author, a necessary condition for a wider introduction of similar measures in the Czech Republic is a change in the way of farming and the end of “the industrial abuse of the landscape”.

Raising awareness and the availability of information from farmers who already have experience with such measures are essential for the introduction of the measure in other countries.

Conclusion remarks

Swales (contour trenches) are a simple and relatively affordable measure to increase water retention in the agricultural landscape and stabilize the water regime in the pasture.

Future plans

In the future, the author plans to extend the swales to all the sloping pastures on his farm and spread awareness in the near and far surroundings. He would like to convince other farmers of the need for a change of mindset and a different perspective on farming.

Open problems

The author sees the issue in the reluctance of farmers to accept and apply new knowledge and suggestions.


For the necessary wider application of the measures, the author recommends the involvement of the educational system.

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