ABSTRACT In some rural properties of Brazil, soil and water conservation practices are partially or inappropriately implemented, intensifying soil erosion, even in no-tillage (NT) areas. This study aimed to check the farmer’s understanding of conservation agriculture (CA) and assess whether they are using practices appropriate to soil conservation. A basin in the state of Paraná, in Southern Brazil, was selected. Surveys were conducted based on a structured questionnaire and in-person interviews of 234 farmers. Among these farmers, 67 % do not understand CA pillars adequately, and 68 % stated they have been using NT for over 12 years. However, 58 % stated that they carried out some kind of soil preparation. Furthermore, some of the farmers only partially implemented CA, adopting a low level of crop diversification. The main problems pointed out by the farmers to justify simplifying the CA approach were soil compaction, low production of plant biomass and resistance of weeds to herbicides. Most farmers in the study do not have enough knowledge of the pillars of CA. As a result, there is little diversification in crop rotation, and the soil is continually disturbed with chiseling. Furthermore, although most farmers use terracing, they drive sprayers crossing terraces and following the slope, a practice that can impair the capacity of terraces to control surface water runoff. These practices do not contribute to soil and water conservation and endanger the sustainability of agricultural production systems.