Soil fertility improvements represent the single most significant area where farmers can save money on input costs, according to the Smart Farming programme’s results for last year.

The Smart Farming initiative is an IFA-led project which seeks to increase farm profitability and improve input efficiency on farms.

Farmers participating in the programme are provided with a free soil test, an input efficiency assessment and a cost-saving report tailored to their individual farm.

“Farmers taking the Smart Farming challenge in 2020 identified potential savings of €1,624 or €25/ha by implementing measures to improve soil fertility," said IFA environment chair and Smart Farming head Paul O’Brien.

Fertility advice

Approximately 90% of Irish soils have sub-optimal fertility. The causes of this reduced fertility can be related to inadequate nutrient content, such as phosphorous and potassium, or in poor soil pH.

“Soil is one of the most important assets on any farm. Better soil fertility can support increased production, improve farm incomes and enhance environmental performance on farms,” O’Brien explained.

The Smart Farming project’s main soil fertility advice includes:

  • The regular sampling of soils.
  • Correcting soil pH.
  • Creating a farm nutrient management plan.
  • Using low emission slurry spreading (LESS).
  • Switching to protected urea to reduce gaseous losses.
  • Sustainability

    While farmers undertaking assessments for Smart Farming may be doing so to improve farm profitability, better resource efficiency on farms is beneficial to the sustainability of their enterprises.

    The smarter use of inputs into farming systems can improve water quality, benefit biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.