% Bare earth (basal cover)

Basal ground cover is a measure of the proportion of the ground that is exposed to the sun, wind and rain – which is an indication of your soil’s risk of erosion and drought.

Basal cover refers to the proportion of the ground covered by plants going into the soil, rather than ground only covered by canopy or foliage (foliar cover). This means you only measure ground cover when there is plant matter going into the ground, so we use a line transect and a stick for our recording.

What to record


  • A choice of options for what your stick hits along a transect:
    • Bare soil
    • Forbs (broadleaves & herbs)
    • Grasses
    • Ground litter
    • Legumes
    • Undesirables

Equipment


  • Electric fence post / stick
  • Optional: 60m measuring tape or 60m length of rope

How to do the test

1.¬†If using a 60m measuring tape / rope, leave one side of the tape at the relevant sample location you’re recording at, and walk the other end in a straight line away from your sample point. Otherwise, follow the next steps by moving in an approximate line away from your sample point.

2. Walk along your line transect, sticking your post into the ground every 2 feet (or 60cm).

3. Look at where the post goes into the ground, and record in the dropdown list whether your stick hits bare soil, forbs, ground litter, grasses or legumes each time.

N.B. You should only record the result as one of the plant options if your post is touching the stem of the plant going into the soil – i.e. not a leaf or outer stem covering bare soil.

4. Continue with these steps as you move along your transect, or as far as your field borders will allow you to. Ideally you should do 100 of these readings along your transect, so it’s a good test to enlist some help with!