Soil Nutrient Health Scheme

Area of Expertise:

The Soil Nutrient Health Scheme is the largest baseline soil sampling programme ever undertaken. It is being managed by AFBI and due to the scale and complexity of the scheme, it is being rolled out on a zonal basis with all the zones completed by 2026. All farmers will be given the opportunity to join the scheme.


SNHS Zonal Map  
View the SNHS Maps Zones 1-4 

Zone 2 Sampling 
SNHS Sampler
Soil Sampling in Zone 1

Sampling commenced on 25 October 2023 in zone 2 and as of February 2024 there have been approximately 70k fields sampled. 
The main sampling period runs from November - February.
Zone 2 covers the remainder of farms in Co Armagh, South Tyrone, which were not included in Zone 1, and all of Co Fermanagh.  Registration for Zone 2 has closed and eligible farmers will be notified of Zone 3 registrations opening in the summer 2024. 

 

See where the samplers are working currently view the Sampler Location Map 

Farmers with queries can contact RPS T: 028 96928388 or the AFBI SNHS Helpdesk T: 028 90 255212.
View the Zone 2 flyer -  to find out more.

Zone 2 update: Farmers registered with SNHS who have not yet been sampled and are concerned, should contact RPS, the sampling contractors. They should inform RPS if and when they are planning to spread slurry & fertiliser and in what fields to assist with the soil sampling schedule and ensure samples are not collected from such fields.
Please contact: 028 96928388 afbi@rpsgroup.com

Any field that has nutrients applied from 1st Feb, will be sampled from Autumn 2024.  If fields are already registered for the Scheme and are unsampled this season, there is no need to re-register them, they will be sampled at the first opportunity next season.

Zone 1 Training Update

CAFRE Training
Zone 1 Training by CAFRE is  available to all participating farmers in zone 1 who have received their analysis report. A series of 3 on farm events took place during September 2023, focussing on using the results and finding out about the training available. Training is available online, however there are only a few face-to-face spaces available which must be booked in advance.  A number of webinars will also be available to book in advance, dates forthcoming.  The training will assist with understanding nutrient management, the role of carbon and completing a nutrient management plan, for more information please visit CAFRE Training.   


Soil Sampling

SNHS sampler
Sampling in Zone 1
Sampling in Zone 1 over the 2022/23 period, throughout County Down and parts of Counties Armagh and Antrim  
sampled and analysed in excess of 132,700 fields by the beginning of September 2023. This is unprecedented and dwarfs the numbers taken as part of any previous national soil sampling programme.

Watch the video below to find out more about the sampling process.

SNHS Benefits

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.

Zone 1 case studies



Carbon Research - LiDAR

LiDAR Flight
Capturing LiDAR Data

LiDAR image

A high-resolution LiDAR scan of Northern Ireland will provide a basis of modelling activities to estimate above ground biomass held in trees, woodlands and the 120,000 km of hedgerows in the region.
SNHS is also gathering information on rates of soil C sequestration in grassland fields on selected commercial farms and along undisturbed field boundaries on different soil types in Northern Ireland (involving radio-carbon dating and soil microbiological assessments). Ongoing research will investigate how fungal and bacterial communities are affected by management and elucidatemechanisms and processes governing changes in soil C storage in grassland and hedgerow soils. Information arising from this research will be used to update the UK soil C inventory, and to identify management strategies which enhance C capture by soil and above ground biomass.

Contacts and Further Information

If you would like any further information please contact our office by telephone (028 90 255 212) or SNHS@afbini.gov.uk.

DAERA have provided further information and FAQs on the scheme

Read More: 
Soil Nutrient Health Scheme flyer 
Soil Nutrient Health Scheme overview
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