The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is believed to be considering the introduction of new ploughing regulations telling farmers what direction they must plough their fields in.

Thought to be prompted by an EU audit, the new cross-compliance rule that could be on the way dictates that any field with a slope of more than 15º must be ploughed horizontally by tillage farmers – should the ploughing take place after December 1.

This proposed change to the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) requirements would be implemented at the end of next year, should it go ahead.

Such a move would be dependent on the department specifying to farmers which sloped fields need to be ploughed in this manner, however.

Should a field not be suitable for horizontal ploughing on health and safety grounds, the land should be left until as close to sowing as possible before ploughing vertically – but until after January 1.


As it currently stands, Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions are made up of seven elements, according to the Department of Agriculture.

These are:
  • GAEC 1 – Establishment of buffer strips along watercourses;
  • GAEC 2 – Where use of water irrigation is subject to authorisation, compliance with authorisation procedure (non-applicable in Ireland);
  • GAEC 3 – Protection of ground water against pollution;
  • GAEC 4 – Minimum soil cover;
  • GAEC 5 – Minimum land management reflecting site specific conditions to limit erosion;
  • GAEC 6 – Maintenance of soil organic matter through appropriate practices;
  • GAEC 7 – Retention of landscape features – minimum level of maintenance.