AFBI Launches Soil Testing and Training Initiative for the Colebrooke & Strule Catchment Areas

Date published: 03 July 2018

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On the 6th July, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) launched the ‘Colebrooke & Strule Soil Testing and Training Initiative’.

Soil samples will be collected by trained operators using GPS tracking devices, to ensure accuracy of field locations and to record sampling patterns.

This is a free soil sampling and analysis and training initiative, open to all farmers within designated sub-catchments in the Colebrooke and Strule river systems of Fermanagh and Tyrone (Figure 1). The Initiative aims to build on the success of the EAA Soil Sampling and Analysis Scheme, which AFBI delivered in 2017/18, part of which was targeted at a group of sub-catchments in Upper Bann in the east of the province. The current target sub-catchments in Colebrooke and Strule were chosen because of their westerly locations, their good spread of farming intensities, and the availability of water quality and field topographical data.  These data will assist AFBI in disentangling the factors influencing nutrient loss to water, and in identifying strategies for enhancing soil fertility and grass production, whilst simultaneously improving water quality.

Fig 1:Map showing locations of sub-catchments in Colebrooke and Strule targeted for soil sampling in this year’s soil testing and training initiative. Sub-catchments in Upper Bann, sampled in 2017-18 in the EAA Soil Sampling and Analysis Scheme also shown
Fig 1:Map showing locations of sub-catchments in Colebrooke and Strule targeted for soil sampling in this year’s soil testing and training initiative. Sub-catchments in Upper Bann, sampled in 2017-18 in the EAA Soil Sampling and Analysis Scheme also shown
The Initiative, which is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), and supported by the Ulster Farmers Union and CAFRE, opened for online registration on Friday 6th July and will remain open until noon on Friday 17th August 2018. To be eligible, farmers must have a DAERA Farm Business ID number and the land to be sampled must be within the designated areas. The Initiative will be administered by AFBI and farmers can register and find additional information on the Initiative HERE

A maximum of 10,000 fields will be sampled in this initiative on a first-come-first-served basis and so early registration is recommended. Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application within eight weeks of receipt of their registration. All data will be held securely by AFBI, and will not be released in any form that would identify an individual farm.

By participating in the Initiative, farmers will receive detailed information on their soils to help optimise nutrient management (i.e. pH, P, K, Mg) 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 grass and 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 (Figure 2) and analysis carried out at fully accredited soil laboratories, the Initiative  guarantees a quality assessment of soil fertility to all participants.

Training available

Successful applicants will receive an invitation from the College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to attend two locally based training workshops during the Initiative.

The training workshops aim to help successful applicants understand the valuable information their soil analysis reports contain on the nutrient status of their soils and how they can be used to:

  • Plan lime, manure and chemical fertiliser applications;
  • Produce high quality grass and forage crops;
  • Improve and maintain soil fertility;
  • Save money on chemical fertilisers;
  • Improve water quality by reducing the risk of nutrient loss.

Training is a valuable component of the Initiative and so it is important that successful applicants attend.

For further information, contact Aisling Cooney at 028 90 255610, or email info@afbini.gov.uk

Notes to editors: 

AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.

AFBI's Vision “Advancing the Local and Global Agri-Food Sectors Through Scientific Excellence”.

All media enquiries to AFBI Press Office

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