Initial trends from Northern Ireland’s Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS) are now available with the data on sulphur (S) of key interest.

The results available up to this point relate to soils sampled and analysed in Co. Down.

Specifically, they point to soil sulphur levels being at adequate, or above adequate, levels in many cases.

This runs counter to the advice given by many agronomists and fertiliser industry representatives up to this point, to the effect that most Irish soils are S deficient.

Sulphur update

An update on the SNHS was provided by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) at a recent farmers’ meeting, held in Ballynahinch.

Many of those in attendance confirmed receipt of test results from soil samples taken from their own farms.

Some expressed surprise at the high pH values confirmed by way of the SNHS process. One farmer confirmed that four of his fields flagged up with a soil pH value well in excess of 7.0.

He went on to make the point that previous testing of the same land had come back with pH values well below these figures.

CAFRE is confirming that some fields have been soil tested subsequent to slurry and other manures being spread. In these cases, the farmers in question can ask to have the fields re-sampled later in the year.

However, CAFRE is also making the points that a light covering of slurry should make little or no difference to the soil analyses generated from affected fields.


SNHS was opened by Northern Ireland’s then agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, in March 2022.

The publicly funded scheme, which is worth up to £45 million and managed by the Agri-Food and Biosciences (AFBI), aims to create a unique baseline on soil nutrient status for Northern Ireland’s agricultural land.

Four testing zones have been identified. This will allow every field in the north to be soil tested.

Soil sampling has been continuing since November of last year for farmers in Zone 1, comprising all of Co. Down and parts of counties Armagh and Antrim.

Lowland farms were prioritised during the slurry spreading closed period. The focus of the soil testing work will switch to upland areas over the coming weeks.

CAFRE recognises that there are still fields yet to be tested in specific areas, after the ending of the slurry spreading closed period.

This is due to a number of factors, including the unsuitable weather conditions for soil sampling encountered prior to last Christmas.