The prospect of paying over €600/t for fertiliser during the upcoming spring means soil sampling has never been more important.

Late December to early January is a good time to test soil. There will have been an adequate interval from autumn slurry applications and cattle grazing, which can distort sample results.

Take soil cores every 10 to 15 steps, walking in a zig-zag or random direction. Either use a soil corer or a spade to sample from the top 3in to 4in of clay.

Place all soil cores in a bucket as you walk the field.

When finished, mix the soil cores thoroughly and fill a sample bag, then label it with the field name.

Sample area

As a rule, the maximum area to include in one sample is 10 acres. For larger fields, you will need to take multiple samples from within the same field.

For smaller fields measuring one to two acres, they can be doubled up as a single sample, provided soils are similar and the swards get the same fertiliser treatments each year.

Once you get soil results back, you can target lime to fields with low pH levels and slurry to fields with low P and K. Chemical nitrogen can then be applied to balance out nutrients from slurry.

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