Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, Andrew Muir, has announced that registrations for Zone 3 of the Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS) will open next month.

Registrations will begin on June 24 and close again on August 31, 2024. Zone 3 of the scheme covers north Tyrone and Co. Derry.

Participation in the SNHS will be a requirement to receive payments under future farm support schemes, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has said.

This conditionality requires that farmers participate in the SNHS and complete the training when it is offered.

Speaking during a visit to Balmoral Show, Minister Muir said: “I strongly encourage all eligible farm businesses in the north west to register for this groundbreaking scheme.

“At this mid-point in the scheme we have seen a very positive response in Zones 1 and 2, with over 90% of farms registered and over 280,000 fields tested for soil nutrients.”

All farmers in the SNHS receive information on soil nutrient levels for each field as well as maps of hotspots for nutrient run-off during rainfall events and an estimate of the amount of carbon stored in their soils, hedgerows, and trees.

“There are significant benefits of the scheme as the results can help increase farm productivity and reduce the impact of agriculture on the water environment,” Muir said.

“Each farmer in the scheme is offered online training through the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

“This provides information on interpreting results and preparing a nutrient management plan. This is a crucial step towards maximising the nutrient potential of our soils and protecting our environment.”

Farmers who are eligible in Zone 3 will be contacted by the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in the coming weeks with details about how to register online.