Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has launched a programme aimed at improving soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility, which also provides farmers with comprehensive soil analysis reports.
The soil sampling and analysis programme launched by the Minister is a €10m investment, which aims to put soil carbon, soil health and fertility at the centre of our future agricultural model.
The purpose of this programme is to develop a baseline national data set at farm level for the following parameters:
There is a limit on the number of samples that can be taken per participating farm of 16 samples, the equivalent of 64ha.
This limit is in place to ensure maximum uptake in terms of geographic region and farming systems across the country.
Soil sampling will commence from October 2021.
Although there is no monetary payment for the farmer, the soil sampling programme 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 sectors.
The outputs of the programme will identify the stock of carbon at a farm level, thus providing the opportunity for protection and enhancement into the future.
Understanding the linkage of animal health and soil health, especially with the focus on soil pathogen assessment, provides farmers with the information to adapt strategies to minimise anti-microbial resistance (AMR).
Advisers will be upskilled to assist farmers in translating the results of the programme into meaningful guidance for farmers.
This will ensure farmers know the right nutrient type, the right application rate and when and where to apply fertiliser and organic manure.
Minister McConalogue commented: “Our soils will play an important role in meeting our water, air, climate and biodiversity targets of both the CAP and Green Deal.
“A healthy soil equals healthy crops and grass and this equals healthy livestock.
“Having knowledge about soils on our farms and using the knowledge to drive soil health will improve both the economic and environmental sustainability of farms,” he said.
Minister of State Pippa Hackett said: “Healthy soil is alive with biodiversity, which supports much of our wider ecosystem, and it can also sequester and store carbon.
"However, soil in Ireland is currently a net emitter of carbon; we need to reverse that, and this programme will help us to do that.”
Minister McConalogue emphasised: “Soil health and nutrient management are high on my Department’s priorities and feature strongly in commitments of the programme for government, therefore this pilot programme is an important first step in delivering on these. It is also in line with my Department’s action plan 2021.”