Business news

Sustainability at the forefront of soil sampling scheme in Northern Ireland

Posted By: RPS Group

1st Jun 2022

In a first of its kind in the UK, global professional services firm RPS will support a large soil nutrient health scheme across Northern Ireland.

Being rolled out by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and managed by Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the four-year, £45 million project will see a collection of soil samples taken from all 700,000 of Northern Ireland’s agricultural fields.

RPS has been hired to undertake the sampling in what has been described as an “ambitious and transformative scheme” for Northern Ireland, by AFBI’s Director of Environment and Marine Sciences, Pieter-Jan Schön.

It builds on the mapping and data management expertise RPS demonstrated in a pilot scheme completed in the winter of 2017/18. This involved the collection of samples from 12,000 fields across the country over three months.

The scheme will enable efficient and sustainable crop production. Testing the soil will provide nutrient information and allow for estimations of carbon levels in soils, hedgerows and trees.

Not only will it help farmers improve nutrient applications, but it will also address environmental challenges, such as water quality run off. By doing so, farmers will have more specific details in the nutrients they require to optimise soil quality for agriculture.

Sampling will be set out over four regions across the whole of Northern Ireland. Every soil sample is analysed for soil nutrients (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulphur), soil pH and organic matter content.

The results are then sent to the farmer and training is offered through the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in tailoring fertiliser and nutrient application to each of the field’s requirements.

Donal Doyle, RPS Director – Resource Management, Consulting UK & Ireland, said: “This is an exciting project for Northern Ireland, and one RPS is proud to be part of in the next step for enhancing sustainability in the agricultural sector.

“Optimising the amount of nutrients being used by farmers will see greater efficiency in agriculture and improvement in environmental suitability. This scheme aims to create healthier soil and will be the foundation for leading environmental farming practice, as well as explore the role that agriculture can play in moving towards net zero carbon.”

Approximately 200 people will be recruited by RPS in the coming months to be soil samplers, collection drivers and a range of support staff with the main sampling period to commence in November 2022.

If you’re interested in becoming a soil sampler or want to find out more information, please contact Donal Doyle at donal.doyle@rpsgroup.com or +44 (0)2896949782.