For participation in Tranche 1 of the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES), having a valid soil sample result is essential.

Having these results, or having a soil sample exemption form is required for all participants in ACRES Tranche 1, and they must be uploaded on the ACRES online system by May 15, 2024.

The prohibited application period for chemical fertiliser and slurry is an ideal opportunity to have soil samples taken for the whole farm, according to Teagasc advisor, Eamonn Dempsey.

Dempsey said at least one analysis per every 5ha of land up to 40ha is required, and that the maximum area for any individual soil sample is 5ha.

However, the number of soil samples to be taken if in derogation should be discussed with your advisor.

If you have selected soil sampling as an action for the Eco-Scheme in your 2023 Basic Income Support Scheme (BISS) application, these samples may be submitted for ACRES if they meet the requirements regarding submission date, soil sample area etc.

Commonage lands must not receive chemical nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P) in ACRES, and there is no requirement to soil sample these lands.

Privately owned mountain land and rough grazing not in receipt of applied chemical or organic fertiliser may be exempt from soil sampling.

A declaration outlining why these lands have not been sampled must be submitted by an approved ACRES advisor by May 15, 2024.

Taking a soil sample

Dempsey said the “quality of the fertiliser plan is dependent on soil samples being taken correctly,” which he added includes sampling to the correct depth of 10cm, and taking different samples from different soil and crop types.

Samples should be taken in a W pattern across the field. Any unusual spots such as gateways, troughs, feeding points, dung or urine patches, hedges or places where lime has been stored should be avoided.

At least 20 cores should be taken per sample, and avoid taking samples on saturated or extremely dry soils.

Dempsey said to ensure the soil sampling equipment is clean and free of rust or old soil residues to avoid contamination and that galvanized, bronze or brass corers should not be used as they can affect micro nutrient testing.

Valid soil samples

Only samples taken on or after January 1, 2022 will be considered valid for Tranche 1 participants.

Valid soil samples from other schemes e.g. soil sampling programme, Nitrates Derogation will be acceptable for ACRES, according to the Teagasc advisor.

Three to six months should be allowed between fertiliser P and K applications and taking fresh soil samples.

Dempsey said the soil sample results will allow the advisor and the farmer to tailor a fertiliser plan for the coming year to match the needs of the soil and the crop.