Cross Compliance: Guide to Cross Compliance in England 2015 (GCCE 2015 v1)

GAEC 4: Minimum soil cover

You must have a minimum soil cover.

What you must do

You must take all reasonable steps to protect soil by having a minimum soil cover unless there is an agronomic justification for not doing so, or where establishing a cover would conflict with requirements under GAEC 5. Minimum soil cover must be provided by any of the following:

  • vegetative cover from all types of crop, grass and herbaceous forage
  • cover crops and leguminous and nitrogen fixing crops (green manures)
  • game cover and crops planted for biodiversity
  • trees, coppice, fruit crops, hops, nursery crops, vines
  • overwintered stubble from combinable crops
  • other stubbles and crop residues such as vegetable, maize and sugar beet.

Acceptable agronomic reasons for not providing cover include:

  • the land is being prepared as a seedbed, and the land is sown within 14 days of preparation, where weather conditions allow
  • managed land used for pest, disease and weed control including for example, land that has been cultivated or ploughed to prevent weeds going to seed.
  • land used for the installation and maintenance of field drains
  • areas created for agri-environment schemes or greening, or for the purpose of establishing habitat conditions beneficial to biodiversity or wildlife
  • the land is heathland to which restoration techniques are being applied
  • heather and grass burning (see GAEC 6)
  • land used for outdoor pig or poultry production or overwintered livestock where it is not reasonably practicable to maintain cover due to the actions of the animals
  • land where the action of frost on the land over winter is used to break down the soil naturally to create a seedbed for spring cropping
  • peatland that is bare for historic reasons
  • land which is bare for the purposes of removing turf for non-fuel purposes.

For other reasons not listed here, contact RPA to apply for a derogation.

Other guidance

There is more guidance online – search for ‘Cross compliance: soil protection standards’ at This guidance is also available on paper from the RPA .

Contact RPA for information about soil cover derogations which may be available.


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