DAERA opens latest phase of £37million soil scheme to farmers

Date published: 21 June 2023

The latest phase of DAERA’s £37million Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS) will open for registration on Monday 26 June 2023.


The aim of the four-year scheme, running from 2022 to 2026, is to improve sustainability and efficiency in the farming sector.  This year, Zone 2 of the scheme invites registrations from farm businesses across Fermanagh, the west of County Armagh and South Tyrone.

Project lead and DAERA’s Director of Natural Environment, Dave Foster explained: “The Soil Nutrient Health Scheme will provide farmers with important information on soil nutrient levels, for each field on their farm. Farmers will also receive a baseline estimate of the amount of carbon stored in their soils, hedgerows and trees. 

“This information will help them more accurately match nutrient applications to crop need, thereby increasing efficiency, reducing excess run-off to watercourses and improving their economic and environmental sustainability. It will also support them  in contributing to the climate change agenda established under the NI Climate Change Act.

“The scheme, which will be delivered by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) with 27,000 farms and up to 700,000 fields being sampled by the end of the project, he added.

To date over 6,000 farmers in Zone 1 have received soil analysis results for their farms, including pH, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg) and sulphur (S), together with crop specific lime and fertilizer recommendations.

“We are strongly encouraging all farm businesses in the Zone 2 area to apply for the scheme and benefit from all it offers and also because they will be required to participate if they wish to receive future funding such as the new Farm Sustainability Payment which can be crucial income for farms,” continued Mr Foster.

From Monday 26 June farmers can register at DAERA online services using their Government Gateway Account. The closing date is 31 August 2023.

As well as being able to view results online farmers will have access to mapping identifying areas within the farm which could be prone to nutrient run-off to watercourses.  Another key benefit of participation is access to the CAFRE SNHS training which provides advice on the interpretation of the analysis reports, preparation of nutrient management plans and the role of carbon on farms.

Scheme guidance (including maps of the specific sampling zones and opening times) is now available on the DAERA website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Soil Nutrient Health Scheme was first opened to farmers in Zone 1, (County Down and parts of Counties Antrim and Armagh), in May 2022. There was a 91% uptake in the scheme.
  2. Zone 3 (North West) will open in 24/25 and Zone 4 (North East) will follow in 25/26.
  3. The roll-out of the SNHS scheme continues with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) working closely with the 3 main contractors for the soil collection (RPS Group), analysis (Cawood/NRM) and Lidar work (Field Group).  
  4. All analysis is carried out at a laboratory fully accredited to national analytical (UKAS) standards.
  5. AFBI is an arms-length body of DAERA delivering research and development, diagnostic and analytical testing, emergency response capability and expert scientific advice for DAERA and other government departments, public bodies and commercial companies in Northern Ireland, and further afield. The AFBI SNHS Admin team can be contacted on 02890 255212 or via email at SNHS@afbini.gov.uk
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  7. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office: pressoffice.group@daera-ni.gov.uk  Tel: 028 90 524619.
  8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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