5-year soil-sampling project worth €1 million launched

Terra Soil – a significant collaborative research project – has been launched today by Geographical Survey Ireland (GSI) and Teagasc.

The project was announced by the Department of Communications, Environment and Climate Action today (Wednesday, September 19).

As part of Geological Survey Ireland’s Tellus Programme, Terra Soil is the first Smart Agriculture research output from Tellus Product Development, which aims to unlock the potential of Tellus data to provide value-added, user-focused outputs for the benefit of the economy and society.

Over a five-year period, the €1 million Terra Soil project will bring together Geological Survey Ireland’s geological data and knowledge and Teagasc’s soils and agronomic expertise.

This will “provide the agricultural sector with high-quality agri-environmental information about Ireland’s soil to better inform the sector, support sustainable agriculture and protect Ireland’s environment”, according to the department.

To do this, the project is tasked with analysing some 10,000 soil samples, which have been collected as part of the Tellus Programme, for available nutrients, metals and trace elements, coupled with a spectral library to predict texture class and particle size.

These new datasets will be combined with Tellus geochemical information and will be mapped regionally to produce data products for the agricultural and wider community, giving greater insights into Ireland’s soil fertility, crop and animal health, land drainage, nutrient management and farm economics.

Terra Soil mapped products will be freely available and will describe the quality of Irish soils to inform how this resource is managed to improve the sustainability of Irish agriculture.

On the announcement of the Terra Soil launch, Minister of State for Natural Resources Sean Kyne said: “Soil is a critical natural resource which underpins our agri-food sector and this work will enable its improved assessment and management, while also ensuring its potential for sustainable use is maximised within the sector.”

Terra Soil will analyse two Tellus soil sample types, upper soil (5-30cm depth) and deeper soil (35-50cm depth), for a range of agricultural properties relating to soil fertility, crop and animal health, land drainage, nutrient management and farm economics.

A key expected output of the project will be an available phosphorus dataset, which combined with existing Tellus data on soil metals, pH and organic matter content, will provide a rich, unique and world-class database for agronomy in Ireland.

This new data will support better farming efficiencies by allowing farmers to make more targeted and science-based decisions, which will result in smarter agriculture, less environmental impacts and less wasted resources.

Dr. Frank O’Mara, director of research with Teagasc, said: “We know that by analysing our soil, we can get meaningful data which will greatly benefit the farming community to help them manage soil as an important natural resource.

“Our farming community will be better informed to make better decisions, which will hopefully positively impact crop yield, land fertility, the environment and farming costs.”