Accurately identifying the key parameters within soils, through soil testing, is crucially important for farmers and growers.

It is an approach that allows them develop relevant fertiliser plans that meet the needs of their crops in full.

The current epsiode of the Tillage Edge podcast, teases out this issue in detail, with a key focus on the need for regular soil testing.

Soil testing

There are many different types of soil test that Irish farmers can purchase. But there is only one method that is recognised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). This is the ‘Morgan’s P’ option.

However, whichever method farmers choose to use, regular testing is necessary. The validity of the testing procedure for Irish soils is, obviously, significant.

But equally important is knowing what to do with the results when they get back to farm level.

Senior environmental research scientist with Teagasc, Dr. Karen Daly, discussed these matters on the podcast.

The focus of her work is the investigation of soils’ interaction with the environment and with crops.

“I have concentrated a lot on nutrients like phosphorous, assessing different ways of measuring phosphorous and how it interacts with water and plants,” she explained.

“More recently, I have looked at new methods of soil analysis and how to capture as much data as possible courtesy of these techniques.”

According to Daly, a new ‘Soil Health Law’ should be enshrined in legislation during 2023. The European Commission has already started speaking to individual member states, including Ireland.

“These discussions have been centred on issues pertaining to what a soil health law might look like,” Daly stated.

“The commission is intent on developing a legislative model that looks like a directive. So, in this context, it would mirror the existing Water Framework Directive.

“So, it will detail what a healthy soil might look like. The EU wants all soils across Europe to have a healthy status by 2050,” she added.

“This will involve monitoring and measuring. For any soils that are not healthy, a programme of remediation measures will follow.”

The period ahead will see the term ’healthy soil’ defined by Brussels.

“In the first instance, it will be about getting the basics right. So it’s a case of looking at soil chemistry, soil physics and some of the soil biology,” Daly added.

“Some of this will be measurable, some will be immeasurable. But as we look to the future, a much more holistic perspective will be taken of soils.”