Written answers

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Agriculture Schemes

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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183. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the delay in implementing the pilot soil sampling scheme; when the scheme will be completed; the impact the delay will have had on farmers who have spread lime, slurry or fertilizer; and the impact this will have on the scheme in 2022. [6891/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The pilot Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme is a substantial, innovative and very ambitious programme. Such comprehensive analysis at this scale has never been undertaken in Ireland before.

A contract was signed with an external service provider on the 19th October with sampling of farms commencing in November and due to continue over the winter and spring months, concluding towards the end of March.

I am fully aware of progress under this pilot through my Department's regular engagement with the service provider. I acknowledge progress has been behind expectation and must improve, however soil sampling and analysis is continuing and progress is accelerating and my Department is continuing to engage with the service provided to increase output.

Sampling has been slower than expected for a number of reasons including the Service Provider experiencing challenges recruiting soil samplers to deal with the scale of the project. Due to supply chain issues, the Service Provider also experienced delays sourcing certain items of specialist laboratory equipment. In addition, COVID-19 has impacted both sampling and analysis. My Officials have engaged with the Service Provider and progress has accelerated in recent weeks with significant increase in on-farm sampling in recent weeks.

The Letter of Approval issued to approved participants informed them that their Soil Sampling contract runs to 31 December 2022. Sampling will continue over the coming weeks and approved participants who don’t have their land sampled this spring will have a further opportunity to have samples taken in the autumn under the current Programme if they wish.

If a farmer has applied lime, slurry or fertiliser (other than straight nitrogen) they should advise the person who will be taking the samples when they make contact to arrange sampling. Even if nutrients have been applied to some fields, it may be possible to take soil samples in other fields on an approved participant’s farm.

As outlined in the Teagasc Publication, “Major and Micro Nutrient Advice for Productive Agricultural Crops,” land should not be sampled for 3 to 6 months after the last application of phosphorous and/or potassium. Where lime has been applied to correct soil pH, the advice is to allow a time lag of up to 2 years before soil sampling to determine lime requirements.

Funding has been allocated for a further Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme in 2022. This will be subject to a separate tender and will be informed by the learnings arising from the current pilot programme.


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