This is always the busy time of year for soil sampling, as farmers start thinking about the year ahead.

In order to get an accurate result, the sample needs to be taken a minimum of three months after the last application of slurry or chemical fertiliser.

But judging by the letter my lab sent me last week - basically saying that they are being inundated with samples and to expect delays with results - it would appear that this year is going to be even busier than usual.

After seeing the information that Martin McCullagh from Teagasc presented from the new nitrates action programme 2022-2025 at our dairy and calf rearing event in Inishowen Co-op last Tuesday night, I’m not really surprised.

Importing and exporting

There are several farmers in Inishowen exporting and importing slurry and it’s going to be vital from now on that both have up-to-date soil samples taken to make sure their farms are within the legal boundaries for both nitrogen and phosphate.

An up-to-date soil sample needs to have been taken in the past four years and one sample per five hectares is needed.

From 2023, all farmers above 130kg N/ha must take soil samples, if no up-to-date samples are available then it is assumed the farm is index 4 for P and no chemical P is allowed.

Also, less slurry can be imported or more slurry will have to be exported, depending on which scenario the farm is in.

The example given on the night was a 20ha farm with 10 cows and 50 ewes = 91kg organic N per hectare.

The P allowance for this farm is 7kg/ha or 140kg in total. If the farmer buys 4t of meal at 5kg of P per tonne and 2t of 18:6:12, which equals 120kg of P, then this farm is already at the 140kg P limit and cannot import any slurry at all because their P limit will be exceeded. P is the limiting factor and not the stock.

Be aware

Many farmers may not be aware of this and it could catch them out.

It is obviously going to put extra pressure on pig farms and heavily stocked dairy and beef farms that are currently in derogation and exporting slurry.

Currently, there are only four out of 27 member states with a derogation in place, so there is no guarantee that it will continue forever.

Just something for every farmer to be aware of for their own farm and not to get caught out on.

Finally, a big thank you to every one who attended our dairy and calf rearing event and made it such a great success.