Free soil sampling and analysis service launched

Taking a soil sample
Taking a soil sample

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) has launched a free soil sampling and analysis scheme, which is available to all farmers in Northern Ireland.

The scheme, which is funded under the EU’s Exceptional Adjustment Aid (EAA) Package, is supported by the Ulster Farmers’ Union and CAFRE and will be open for registration from Wednesday, May 31, to noon Monday, June 19. The scheme will include soil sample collection and analysis on a field by field basis for participating farms.

To be eligible farmers must have a DAERA Farm Business ID number and be a livestock farmer registered in Northern Ireland. The scheme will be administered by AFBI and farmers should register for it at the following link (

By participating in the scheme farmers will receive detailed information on their soils to help optimise nutrient management (i.e. N, P and K) in line with crop requirements. Using this information will enable farmers to target the application of slurry, manure and chemical fertiliser more accurately. In turn this will help to maximise crop yields, improve soil fertility and increase farm profitability (for example by reducing the need for expensive fertiliser nutrients in fields already well supplied with P or K), while also reducing the potential for negative impacts on water quality.

With all sampling undertaken by trained field teams and analysis at fully accredited soil laboratories, the scheme guarantees a quality assessment of soil fertility to participants.

The scheme will have two components. The first component is a Northern Ireland - wide scheme, known as the “Open Scheme”, to which all livestock farmers in Northern Ireland are eligible to apply. The second component, the “Catchment Scheme”, will be targeted at farmers within specific geographical areas of the Upper Bann river catchment. If the scheme is over-subscribed, AFBI will prioritise applications in specific sub-catchments in Upper Bann, followed by a random selection of verified applicants.

In total up to a maximum of 20,000 fields will be sampled across Northern Ireland, with sampling scheduled to take place between November 2017 and February 2018, during the closed period for manure application.

As noted above, farmers must register online by noon on 19th June, 2017 and further correspondence will be sent to potential participants selected by AFBI for the targeted ‘Catchment Scheme’ within the Upper Bann catchment.

Applicants will be notified by AFBI of the success of their involvement by 31st July 2017.