AFBI Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS)

Area of Expertise:

AFBI NI Soil Sampling Scheme Launched

Following the launch on 22nd March of the Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS) by Minister for Environment Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots, AFBI is preparing for its phased rollout across Northern Ireland in 2022.

Due to the scale and complexity of the scheme, it will be rolled out on a zonal basis starting in the south east in autumn 2022, with the next three zones completed by 2026.

SHNS zonal map
SHNS zonal map
The SNHS is one of the most comprehensive regional soil nutrient sampling schemes to be undertaken anywhere in the world.

With the potential to sample approximately 700,000 fields it will provide the farmers of Northern Ireland with:

  1. Detailed information on the nutrient status of their soils
  2. Runoff risk maps for  nutrient loss to waterbodies for each field sampled
  3. Estimates of carbon stored in their soils and as above ground biomass for each farm
  4. Training on the interpretation of soil nutrient reports and generation of farm nutrient plans (provided by CAFRE).

This information will allow farmers to optimize the application of crop nutrients to their soils and help increase farm profitability. This will result in a reduction in nutrient loss to waterbodies thereby contributing to achieving the targets of the Nutrient Action Programme.  It will also provide a baseline assessment of farm carbon stocks in soils and hedgerow and contribute to the transition to Net Zero farming in Northern Ireland.

Work has already started on the collection of LiDAR topographic data for the development of runoff risk maps and estimates of above ground biomass. In addition, there is a body of work taking place within the Basalt region of NI, assessing fertiliser recommendations, nutrient interactions and grass nutrient uptake specific to Basalt soils.

These research components will inform the advice provided to farmers arising from the on-farm soil sampling starting in autumn 2022.

AFBI are currently linking with soil sampling and soil analysis partners, and will contact farmers in Zone 1 from April 2022 onward inviting them to register for this free scheme. All farmers will be given the opportunity to join the scheme on a voluntary basis.

Soil sampling will start in December 2022, and when the farm has been sampled and the soil reports received, each farmer will be invited to participate in CAFRE online training and nutrient management planning. 

DAERA have provided further information and FAQs on the scheme

If you would like any further information please contact our office by telephone (028 90 255212) or by email (SNHS@afbini.gov.uk).