The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has contracted the Irish Soil Expert Consortium (ISEC), that will see approximately 90,000 soil samples taken and analysed over the course of 2024. 

The sampling will be undertaken as part of phase 2 of the Department’s Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme.  This Programme will provide valuable information to farmers to inform decisions that promote the health of their soils and is aimed at putting soil health, soil fertility and soil carbon at the very centre of our future agricultural model.

ISEC, which consists exclusively of Irish organisations, was formed to ensure the successful and reliable delivery of this project, utilising the state of the art resources of several organisations who have a strong history of working in Irish agriculture. The consortium is made up of National Co-op Farm Relief Services (FRS), Dairygold, Teagasc, Southern Scientific Services Limited and FBA Laboratories (FBA).

Soil sampling will begin this week and will be supported by a team of approximately 100 personnel, with as many as 80 of those collecting the samples on farms around the country. Farmers will be provided with results that will allow them to implement sustainable soil management practices and improve soil health on their farms. Sample results will then be delivered over periods ranging from 10 days to 6 to 9 months, depending on the nature of the tests completed and to which programme tier those tests apply. 

A central helpdesk located in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary will be available to assist farmers with their queries. 

Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett commented: “Ninety-five per cent of the food we eat starts with the soil and it is important that we help farmers to focus on improving the physical, chemical and biological properties of their soils so they can continue to produce high quality nutritional food and deliver other ecosystems services. Over the course of the coming year, the soil sample results will allow farmers make more informed decisions regarding soil management on their farms and create more profitable and sustainable farming enterprises. We are delighted to be working with a group that has such extensive experience of Irish farming and which is supported by a strong team of samplers and other personnel around the country, as well as state of the art technology.”

Representatives of the organisations that make up ISEC also welcomed the new partnership.  Chairman of ISEC, Michael Cronin said, “We are delighted to be working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to bring this soil sampling programme to Irish farmers. Over the next year we expect to see 90k soil samples taken, all with the view of providing Irish farms with greater insight on the health of their soil. We believe this is a service which will greatly benefit the Irish farming community and we look forward to seeing its impact on farms in every corner of the country.”

Colin Donnery, Group CEO of FRS said, “We are honoured to be partnering with the Department on the delivery of this important programme. The quality of land in this country has always been what has allowed Irish farming to develop such high standards. Our aim with this soil sampling programme will be to help farmers improve the quality of that land even further, for the betterment of their farms and for the betterment of Irish farming as a whole.”

Seamus O’Mahony of Dairygold said, “We felt this was an essential programme which needed the input of those who understand Irish farming, who know how to work with farmers on a day to day basis and who have a track record of supporting Irish farming. That is why the consortium consists of organisations with the expertise and proven capacity to deliver. We are delighted to be involved in this partnership and to help ensure farmers in every corner of the country will be able to utilise this programme in the year ahead.”

Pat Murphy of Teagasc said, “As part of our engagement in this programme, Teagasc team members will assist with the soil sampling programme and project management. We will also be providing ongoing training to ensure the sampling team is operating at the highest level, as well as delivering an additional layer of oversight on the testing operations, further ensuring the quality of the service provided to those farmers who participate in this vital programme.”

Michael Murphy of Southern Scientific Services Limited said, “We are honoured to be involved in this consortium and to be working on a programme that we are passionate about. We strongly believe that by applying scientific analysis to evaluating their soil, farmers will be able to make data driven decisions which will enhance their ability to farm effectively. We look forward to providing our services and helping to further the soil analysis of farms all over Ireland.”

Conor Butler of FBA Laboratories said, “These days it is so important for farms to operate efficiently and effectively. Farmers need to maximise the resources at their disposal and the most important resource of all is their land. This programme uses scientific expertise to ensure that farmers can understand what their land needs and what it doesn’t. We are proud to be involved in the consortium and to be working on a programme that we expect will make a really positive contribution to Irish farming,” Mr. Butler concluded. 

Pictured at the announcement that Irish Soil Expert Consortium (ISEC) will undertake analysis of approximately 90,000 soil samples from Irish farms over the next year on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine were Minister for State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett along with representatives from the organisations who make up ISEC (left to right) Colin Donnery of FRS, Seamus O’Mahony of Dairygold, Minister Hackett, Pat Murphy of Teagasc, Michael Murphy of Southern Scientific Services Limited, ISEC Chairman, Michael Cronin and Karen Kenny of FBA Laboratories.

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