He said the failure to organise timely soil sampling for those who were accepted into the programme means many applicants will miss out on the opportunity to participate in the programme.
“Due to delays in soil sampling, some farmers who were accepted in December have taken the decision to press ahead with lime and slurry applications, which makes sampling over the coming weeks pointless. Owing to the delays in implementation, many of the farmers who were initially accepted into the programme have been forced to complete soil sampling at their own expense.”
Only 7,800 farmers were accepted out of 15,800 applicants, which shows the programme is significantly underfunded.
“If the Dept is serious about encouraging farmers to embrace climate action, this is not the way to do it. At a time when fertiliser prices have reached unprecedented levels, the need for timely soil sampling has never been more important,” he said.
Rainfall in January has been below average and farmers are keen to take advantage of excellent ground conditions to get slurry and NPK fertilisers onto grass and arable crops. However, under the scheme it’s not advised to sample soils which have received fertiliser applications or slurry in the previous three months.
Paul O’Brien said it’s vital that the number of farms sampled and the flow of results increases significantly in the coming weeks so farmers will have soil analysis results available to make informed decisions around the purchase of fertilisers.
“Soil sampling and analysis will play an important future role in managing soils in an environmentally sustainable way; however, any future schemes must be better designed and have the practical realities of day-to-day farming in mind,” he said.