Soils and environment of Northern Ireland


Sustainability has become the most influential concept guiding development in the 21st Century. Nothing is more fundamental to sustainable development than a knowledge of our soils and environment.

AFBI soil survey project

In Northern Ireland a diverse parent geology has been complicated by the effects of glaciation and climatic history to create a fantastic diversity of soils. The AFBI Soil Survey project is the only systematic study of the soils of Northern Ireland and has resulted in the production of a series of maps, books and extensive digital datasets.

The remarkable variety of soils in Northern Ireland reflects the varied character of the natural environment, which is the same as the soil-forming environment. All the elements of the soil-forming environment (so-called ‘soil-forming factors’) are expressed here over a wide range, and their interaction over the land area of Northern Ireland has produced an incredible diversity of soils.

Nutrient management and sustainable agriculture

Environmental research in AFBI addresses land and nutrient management issues to make appropriate and efficient use of resources, while protecting the environment. The integrated research effort covers the impact of nutrients used by agriculture on air, soil and water quality.

AFBI's expertise includes:

  • Managing soils for better crops
  • Managing soils to deliver multiple ecosystem services
  • Soil surveying
  • Assessing soil physical, chemical and biological properties
  • Plant analysis (major and trace elements, sward botanical composition)
  • Water analysis (both chemical and biological indicators of water quality)
  • Agri-environmental applications of Geographical Information Systems
  • Hydrological modelling of critical source areas for nutrient/sediment loss.
  • Groundwater resource management
  • Measuring nutrient losses to water and air
  • Nutrient management planning
  • 15N stable isotopes techniques to study nitrogen cycling processes including gaseous emissions
  • Experimental Plot Trials
    AFBI has considerable expertise in undertaking agronomic plot trials to study effects of fertiliser products, soil amendments (e.g. lime and soil conditioners) , slurry on yield and nutrient offtake by grass and arable crops, and effects on greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Soil Carbon Sequestration
  • Greenhouse Gas Analysis
  • Precision Agriculture techniques to improve nutrient use efficiency

AFBI research operates to ISO9001 standards and many analytical methods have United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accreditation.

For more information contact the Soils group  and read the  AFBI soils publication book reviews