The first full set of detailed reports from DAERA’s innovative £37 million Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS) are due to be posted out to Zone 1 farm businesses next week.
The individual analysis provides farm businesses with important information to help manage soil nutrients and farm carbon as well as allowing them to access some future farm support funding schemes.
Dave Foster, Director of DAERA’s Natural Environment Policy Division, said over 6,000 farmers in Zone 1 will receive soil analysis results for each of their individual fields. Zone 1 includes fields in County Down and parts of Counties Antrim and Armagh.
“Thanks to our Soil Nutrient Health Scheme, farmers will have key information on soil nutrient levels for pH, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg) and sulphur (S), together with crop specific lime and fertiliser recommendations, for each field on their farm. A baseline estimate of carbon stored in their soils, hedgerows and trees will also be provided.
“As well as supporting farmers in fighting climate change and meeting the requirements of the Nutrients Action Programme, all this information will help them to increase efficiency and reduce excess run-off into watercourses as they can more accurately match nutrient applications to crop need,” he explained.
Interim reports were posted earlier in 2023, but now a full set of results including Loss on Ignition (Lol) analysis will be provided for the first time. Loss on Ignition analysis will provide farm businesses with the organic matter content in their soils which AFBI can then use to estimate the carbon stored in soils on farm. Measuring soil organic carbon is important as it can help to inform effective land management, it contributes to the productivity of soils because it benefits soil structure, nutrient cycling and water retention.
AFBI will use LoI together with estimates of carbon in above ground biomass (trees, hedges etc) to provide whole-farm carbon storage values which may be required as we move towards the Net Zero target.
It is hoped the scheme, which is delivered by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), will see a total of some 700,000 fields on 24,000 farms being tested.
The next step for farm businesses is to use their soil analysis results to help them complete the CAFRE SNHS online training which will help them to understand their soil analysis results and develop a nutrient management plan.
Mr Foster stressed that participation in the SNHS will be a requirement for entry into some future farm support schemes, and urged those farmers in the next eligible zone to take part when they are invited to do so.
“We are strongly encouraging all farm businesses to apply for the scheme once it is open in your area and benefit from all it has to offer including future funding such as the new Farm Sustainability Payment and Farming with Nature Package which can be crucial income for farms,” he added.
The online training is available on the CAFRE website.
Notes to editors:
- The SNHS was launched in May 2022 with a 91% uptake of the scheme.
- Interim reports were posted earlier in 2023, but now a full set of results including Loss on Ignition analysis will be provided for the first time. Loss on Ignition analysis will provide farm businesses with their soil organic matter content in their soils which AFBI can then use to estimate the carbon stored in soils on farm.
- Zone 2 opened earlier this year for farm businesses across Fermanagh, the west of County Armagh and South Tyrone.
- Zone 3 (North West) will open in 24/25 and Zone 4 (North East) will follow in 25/26.
- All analysis is carried out at a laboratory fully accredited to national analytical (UKAS) standards.
- 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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