Soil sampling on farms is to begin this week as part of phase two of the soil sampling and analysis programme.

Approximately 90,000 soil samples will be collected and analysed on farms this year as part of the programme.

The Department of Agriculture has contracted the Irish Soil Expert Consortium (ISEC) to undertake this work.

The ISEC was formed to ensure the delivery of the soil sampling programme.

The consortium is made up of Farm Relief Services (FRS), Dairygold, Teagasc, Southern Scientific Services Limited and FBA Laboratories (FBA).

Team of 100 people

A team of around 100 people will support the programme, with up to 80 of those collecting soil samples on farms around the country.

Farmers will be provided with results that should allow them to implement management practices and improve soil health on their farms.

Sample results will be delivered over periods ranging from 10 days to six to nine months, depending on the nature of the tests completed and to which programme tier those tests apply.

A central helpdesk will be located in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, to deal with farmers’ queries.

Greater insight

ISEC chair Michael Cronin said the programme will give farmers a greater insight into the health of their soil.

“We believe this is a service which will greatly benefit the Irish farming community and we look forward to seeing its impact on farms in every corner of the country,” he said.

Minister of State for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett said the soil sample results will allow farmers to make more informed decisions regarding soil management on their farms, therefore creating more profitable and sustainable farmings.

“Ninety-five percent of the food we eat starts with the soil and it is important that we help farmers to focus on improving the physical, chemical and biological properties of their soils so they can continue to produce high-quality nutritional food and deliver other ecosystem services,” she said.

The soil sampling and analysis programme closed for applications in November.

The programme offers free soil sampling, with a maximum of 16 samples collected on farms.