ABP Food Group is now offering a soil sampling service to all its farmer suppliers, both Advantage Beef Programme members and non-advantage members.

Soil core samplers (as shown in the photo above) will be available for farmer-suppliers to borrow at each of ABP’s seven sites across Ireland.

Farmers can collect soil samples from their fields and return the soil sampler and the labelled samples to their nearest ABP site.

From January 1, 2023, soil sampling is compulsory for farms with a grassland stocking rate above 130kg nitrogen (N)/ha and all arable farms.

The soil samples will be tested at a soil-testing laboratory and a discount rate is available in some areas of the country.

Soil sampling

Speaking to Agriland, ABP’s Advantage Beef Programme Farm Liaison Team leader Amie Coonan said: “Now is the time to consider soil sampling your farm. The ideal time to soil sample is from October to February.”

Soil samples should be taken three months after the last application of slurry or chemical phosphorus (P) or potassium (K).

“Research from the ABP Demo Farm has shown the benefits of soil sampling in optimising soil fertility and soil health,” Coonan continued.

“Soil samples provide valuable information on what fields require lime and what fields require additional P and K fertiliser.

“The information obtained from a soil analysis can help farmers to lower their fertiliser inputs, target slurry at the fields which need it most, and increase grass growth, which will improve the carbon sequestration of your soil.

“Recent Teagasc figures indicate that only 16% of soils are at the optimum pH, P and K levels.”

“Therefore, it is very important to start by taking soil samples of your farm, to baseline your farm and put a plan in place. If you don’t measure, you can’t manage.”

Coonan added that ABP’s Advantage Beef Programme farm liaison officers “are available to offer specialised fertiliser and lime advice based on a farmers’ soil-sample results”.

How to take a soil sample

While many farmers will be familiar with taking soil samples, others may not be. Below are a few tips on how to take an accurate soil sample.

Aim to take one sample for every 5-10ac of the farm. The maximum area for a soil sample should be no greater than 20ac.

Fields and paddocks that have received the same treatment should be kept together for sampling.

Each sample should be taken from an area that has:

  • The same slurry/fertiliser applications;
  • Been reseeded at same time;
  • Has received lime at same time;
  • Was cut for silage together.

The sample should be taken from the field or paddock by walking the area in a ‘W’ shape across a field. This ensures a representative sample is taken.

Avoid sampling around gates, water troughs, machinery lines, ditches or where a trough was placed in the field, as these areas could distort the sample.

Each sample should be a full box of the soil corer or 20 cores. Ensure the sampler is taking full 10cm cores to ensure an accurate analysis is achieved.

If the ground is too wet, the soil sampler may not take full samples. In this case, farmers should wait for ground to dry out before sampling.

A food/freezer bag can be used to store the collected soil samples. Each bag should be labelled with the field name in permanent marker. Farmers should also put their own name on the sample to avoid the risk of the sample being misplaced in the laboratory.

Farmers who have any further questions should contact a member of the Advantage Beef Programme farm liaison team, using any of the numbers below:

More information on the Advantage Beef Programme is available here.