Like many other farmers in the country, I availed of the Department of Agriculture’s soil sampling programme last year and, again, like many farmers who availed of it, I thought the results that came back were somewhat high for my farm.

I had taken samples myself two years previous to the Department scheme and, at that time, everything was an index to an index and a half lower.

I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but I have to say I was, and suppose I still am, a little skeptical that there was a hidden agenda there to try to get farmers to use a little less fertiliser, as if the price wasn’t enough to do that.

However, I do hope I’m wrong and that this is not the case.

More samples

Anyway, my index 3 and 4 soils were not going to allow me to spread a lot of chemical phosphorous (P), so I decided to take more samples this year again and see what came back.

A friend of mine did the same and found that most of his samples came back at least an index lower that the Department's, so I was expecting the same from my own results, but, to my surprise, there was very little difference in both sets of results.

So, was my conspiracy theory wrong? Now I’m left wondering, is this good news or bad?

I’ve spent years building up my phosphorous and potassium indices

On one hand, I won’t be able to spread as much P as I normally would. I’ve spent years building up my P and potassium (K) indices and, rightly or wrongly, I am reluctant to reduce the levels I spread, as I don’t want to let them slip.

But, on the other hand, reducing the level of P and K being spread will obviously save money and spreading something that’s not needed is obviously a ludicrous thing to do, from a business and environmental point of view.

So, I’m going to assume that these results are correct and work from there.

Liming scheme

I’ve also applied for the new liming scheme this past week - a very good and useful scheme that will provide a financial contribution of €16/t of lime spread to participating farmers.

And, as we all know, to make maximum use out of chemical fertiliser, soil pH needs to be optimum, ideally 6.3pH or above.

Going by the amount of samples that we are receiving at the minute, it would appear that every farmer in the country, never mind Inishowen, is soil sampling this year.

I was speaking to our lab last week and they were telling me that they can process around 600 samples a day, but one day in February they received 6,500 samples and this was not a one off.

They are receiving thousands of samples every day. So, if anyone is planning on taking samples this year and has not yet done so, it’s time to get on the ball.