Vegetation strips (VS) along with conservation tillage, application of organic amendments and weed mulching improve crop yields by reducing run-off and topsoil erosion. To investigate these issues, an experiment was conducted under rainfed conditions using grass VS for four and a half years (June 2007 to October 2011) at Dehradun, Uttarakhand, in the Indian Himalayan region. VS were incorporated in the experimental plots (Entisols) in a randomized complete block design in permanent 100 × 20 m (2000 m2) plots with a 2% slope to evaluate the effects of vegetation strips on run-off, soil loss and crop yield. Three treatments were evaluated: (i) without VS with recommended NPK under conventional tillage, (ii) panicum as VS with recommended NPK under conventional tillage and (iii) palmarosa+ that consists of palmarosa as VS along with organic amendments (farmyard manure, vermicompost and poultry manure) and weed mulch under minimum tillage. The results show that soil loss and run-off were significantly lower (P < 0.05) in plots under palmarosa+ than without VS treatment. Mean soil loss of 3.4, 5.2 and 7.1 t/ha was recorded from palmarosa+, panicum and without VS treated plots, respectively. Mean run-off was 234, 356 and 428 mm from plots under palmarosa+, panicum and without VS, respectively. Maize yield was lower on the plots under palmarosa+ compared with panicum, but significantly higher (P < 0.05) than without a strip. The succeeding rainfed wheat yield was significantly greater in plots under palmarosa+ than in the initial years. The wheat yield equivalent was significantly higher in plots under palmarosa+ followed by panicum and without VS. Thus, vegetation strips are recommended for wider adoption to reduce run-off and soil loss and to increase crop yield. The long-term goal is to achieve a palmarosa+ system (palmarosa as a vegetation strip along with organic amendments, farmyard manure, vermicompost and poultry manure) and weed mulch under minimum tillage.