The president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), David Brown, has described the opening of the soil nutrient health scheme as “a major milestone” and encouraged farmers in the first of four zones to apply as soon as possible.

The scheme, delivered by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), is being rolled out in stages over the next four years. Farmers in Zone 1 (the south east) have been written to by AFBI, outlining details of how to apply. Soil testing on these farms is to be undertaken this winter.

“The data retrieved from the scheme will provide farmers with vital information on soil nutrient levels for each field on their farm, as well as an estimate of the amount of carbon stored in their soils, hedgerows and trees,” said Brown.

He added that the UFU has received assurances from DAERA that this information will not be used to regulate farmers. But he pointed out that DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has decided that taking part in the scheme will be a requirement for future agriculture support payments.

“This soil scheme has the potential to revolutionise the way we manage our land and soils as a region, helping us understand more precisely what is happening on our farms. We look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on the environment and the NI farming industry in coming years,” said Brown.

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