As we reflect on an unprecedented spring for input prices and decide on next steps for fertiliser and cropping decisions, this focus brings you to the BASE Ireland Soil Farmer of the Year’s farm to see what he’s doing differently and how those changes that have helped him reduce his nitrogen use on his grazing ground to 48 units per acre.

Throughout the articles we are reminded of the importance of soil pH, phosphorus and potassium levels, but Mark Armitage goes further than this and is trying to balance the nutrients in his soil to eventually have a positive effect on his animals’ health.

But before moving to these nutrients we must get the basics right and it is clear many farmers have been trying to do this as almost 450,000t more lime were spread in 2021, compared to 2020. This trend should continue as farmers try to counteract high fertiliser prices.

Lime can be spread at any time of the year and some top tips on lime use are included in the following pages.

Once lime is right it allows for legume crops to be maximised on farms. There is plenty of talk about clover and how everyone should plant it. Clover is easy to sow, but it isn’t easy to grow or maintain, again we have some advice for anyone reseeding in the coming weeks or availing of the Department of Agriculture’s schemes for red clover and multispecies swards.

All of those topics are on the very practical side of farming, making practical decisions that affect your farm inside the farm gate, but more and more in Irish agriculture it is the decisions outside of the farm gate that affect us most.

Irish farmers must play a role in shaping policies for agriculture or someone else will do it for you. However, when given the opportunity to partake in shaping regulations, many did not participate.

This is a new part of the job of a farmer and should be taken seriously.