County Down Farmer commends Soil Sampling Scheme

Date published: 20 July 2023

Area of Expertise:

David Hall from Glebe Farm, Rathfriland is one of the beneficiaries of the Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS) having participated in Zone 1 of the soil sampling programme.

David Hall, Glebe Farm, Rathfriland

David runs a diverse enterprise on his 75-acre organic farm, including a herd of Stabiliser beef cattle and 12,000 laying hens, and explains why he thinks participation in the scheme has benefitted his business.

“It is good for farmers to have a base level to work from on the status of their soil. If we don’t know where we are starting from, we don’t know where we are going. Benchmarking is key. The Scheme was straightforward to register for online and the analysis it provides for soil nutrients and runoff risk is something that farmers need to keep on top of”. 

This £37 million DAERA-funded project is being delivered by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and is open to all 27,000 farm businesses in Northern Ireland, with a potential for up to 700,000 fields to be sampled by the end of the project in 2026. The aim of the four-year scheme is to improve sustainability and efficiency in the farming sector. 

This year, Zone 2 of the scheme is inviting registrations from farm businesses across Fermanagh, the west of County Armagh and South Tyrone by the 31 August deadline. All farm businesses in the Zone 2 area are strongly encouraged to apply and benefit from all the scheme offers. They will also be required to participate if they wish to receive future funding such as the new Farm Sustainability Payment, which can be a crucial income for farms.

Farmers only have to register, with all the sampling and analysis being done for them over the coming winter period. Farm businesses are being urged to take the first available opportunity to register and not leave it until the last minute, as this can greatly help with planning for the collection of samples via RPS the soil sample collection contractor.

Dr Rachel Cassidy, Scientific Lead at AFBI commented:
“The Soil Nutrient Health Scheme will provide farmers with important information on soil nutrient and pH levels for each field on their farm. Farmers will also receive maps showing areas at high risk of runoff and nutrient loss to watercourses and a first baseline estimate of the amount of carbon stored in their soils, hedgerows and trees. 

This information will help them more accurately match nutrient applications to crop needs, thereby increasing efficiency while also reducing the farm’s environmental footprint”.

To date over 6,000 farmers in Zone 1 have received soil analysis results for their farms, including pH, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and sulphur, together with crop specific lime and fertiliser recommendations. Farmers can view all their results and farm maps online through the Government Gateway portal.

For more information visit

A video clip featuring David Hall filmed at his farm can be viewed at

T: 028 90255212  E:

Notes to editors: 

AFBI’s Vision is “Scientific excellence delivering impactful and sustainable outcomes for society, economy and the natural environment”.

AFBI’s Purpose is “To deliver trusted, independent research, statutory and surveillance science and expert advice that addresses local and global challenges, informs government policy and industry decision making, and underpins a sustainable agri-food industry and the natural and marine environments”.

AFBI’s core areas:

  • Leading improvements in the agri-food industry to enhance its sustainability.
  • Protecting animal, plant and human health.
  • Enhancing the natural and marine environment.

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