This article uses data from household- and plot-level surveys conducted in the highlands of the Tigray and Amhara regions of Ethiopia. We examine the contribution of sustainable land management (SLM) practices to net value of agricultural production in areas with low vs. high agricultural potential. A combination of parametric and non-parametric estimation techniques is used to check result robustness. Both techniques consistently predict that minimum tillage (MT) is superior to commercial fertilisers (CFs), as are farmers’ traditional practices (FTPs) without CFs, in enhancing crop productivity in the low agricultural potential areas. In the high agricultural potential areas, in contrast, use of CFs is superior to both MT and FTPs without CFs. The results are found to be insensitive to hidden bias. Our findings imply a need for careful agro-ecological targeting when developing, promoting and scaling up SLM practices.