Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has launched a new €10 million soil sampling and analysis pilot programme.
The programme aims to put soil carbon, soil health and fertility at the “very centre” of Ireland’s future agricultural model.
Minister McConalogue said, “Our farmers know that a healthy soil is the basis for all farming, be it livestock, tillage or horticulture.”
“Detailed knowledge about soils on our farms will increase economic and environmental sustainability.”
“In addition to soil fertility and soil pathogen assessment, the programme will measure baseline soil carbon levels which will guide future actions to support carbon farming.”
“It will also provide the basis for the next generation of soil-specific nutrient management advice and underpin targeted fertiliser and organic manure applications (right nutrient type, right application rate, right time & right place) across all farming systems in Ireland.”
How will the soil sampling and analysis programme work?
He said the sampling programme will provide the farmer with critical information to make farm management decisions, from improving nutrient use efficiency to soil carbon levels in Ireland’s soils.
“The incentive for the farmer is to receive comprehensive soil analysis reports with next-generation data which, with advisory support, will be used as a soil management tool on the farm.”
“The farmer does not receive a monetary payment; however, the soil sampling programme, at field scale, will provide the basis for the next generation of soil-specific nutrient management advice and underpin targeted fertiliser and organic manure applications across all farming systems in Ireland.”
Advisors will be up-skilled to assist farmers in translating the results of the programme into meaningful guidance.
In this way, he added, the pilot programme will realise the potential of managing soils on Irish farms.
There is a limit on the number of samples that can be taken per participating farm of 16 samples, the equivalent of 64 ha. The DAFM said this limit is in place to ensure maximum uptake in terms of geographic region and farming system across the country.
Preserve and regenerate soil
Minister Pippa Hackett , with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity, also welcomed the pilot programme and stated, “Soil health is vital for our very existence.”
“The more we know about it, the better informed we are to make the decisions necessary to preserve and regenerate it.”
“I am looking forward to seeing the results and how we can further develop the sampling programme to examine other aspects of soil health, such as soil biology, in the future.”
Minister Martin Heydon, who has responsibility for Research and Development, added, “This investment builds on our recent investment of €2 million in a national soil carbon observatory, a significant research project to better understand carbon in our soils.”
“These investments build our capacity to deliver an important climate contribution from the sector in the years ahead.”
“I would encourage all farmers to avail of this initiative and work with their advisors to tailor their management practices in light of the important information these samples will deliver.”