Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., along with Minister of State with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, and Minister of State with responsibility for Research & Development, Farm Safety, and New Market Development, Martin Heydon T.D., unveiled Phase 2 of the Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme following the Budget 2024 announcement.
Minister McConalogue expressed his excitement for this initiative, which continues the comprehensive soil analysis programme launched as an initial pilot. The pilot programme involved over 90,000 soil samples and engaged 7,500 farmers, making it the most extensive of its kind in the country. Phase 2 aims to build upon this success by providing valuable insights to farmers to make informed decisions that enhance soil health. Nutrient management and soil health are key to achieving both economic and environmental sustainability in farming, aligning with government commitments in the Programme for Government.
This programme focuses on placing soil health, fertility, and carbon management at the core of our future agricultural model and has the potential to collect an additional 90,000 soil samples from farms across the nation. Moreover, it will play a vital role in enhancing surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) on both national and regional levels, particularly by screening for ESBL E. coli. This effort contributes to a better understanding of the role of soil in AMR dissemination and aids in the development of strategies to address AMR within a One Health perspective.
Minister of State, Pippa Hackett, welcomed the programme and highlighted the importance of soils, describing them as complex ecosystems with essential functions. This initiative will raise farmer awareness and understanding of their soils, enabling them to make more precise management decisions for their holdings. Minister Hackett stressed that 95% of the food we consume originates from the soil, underscoring the need for farmers to continually enhance the physical, chemical, and biological properties of their soils to produce high-quality nutritional food and deliver other ecosystem services.
Minister Martin Heydon added that this investment builds upon previous research calls related to soils and expressed his satisfaction with the continued development of national surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance in soils, including testing for ESBL-producing E. coli in the Program.
The Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme is open to farmers throughout the nation, and the complete eligibility criteria can be accessed in the Terms and Conditions. To submit applications, please visit www.agfood.ie for detailed information. The initial closing date for farmer applications under the program was October 30, 2023, but it has been extended to November 10, 2023.