Soil fertility shown to vary hugely across the country

The Soil Fertility Atlas of Ireland for 2014 details the fertility status of Irish soils by county and by farm enterprise

Offaly had the best soil fertility nationally in 2014, based on test results, with 19% of soils tested having good overall fertility.

However, it is clear that farmers in each county need to act on improving soil fertility. In the long term, declining soil nutrients will severely hamper our grass-based and tillage production. Leitrim had the worst soil fertility in 2014 with 1% of soils tested having good overall fertility.

The Soil Fertility Atlas of Ireland for 2014 details the fertility status of Irish soils by county and by farm enterprise, based on results of soil analysis carried out by Teagasc.

After Offaly, Kilkenny had the next best soil fertility, with 17% of soils tested having good overall fertility, followed by Carlow (16%), Laois (15%) and Louth (15%). Sligo had the second worst soil-fertility with just 4% of soils with good overall fertility followed by Kerry (5%); and Mayo, Longford and Donegal, all with 6% of soils having good overall fertility.

Cork

Only 12% of soils tested achieved good overall fertility in 2014 which was a slight improvement. 29% of soils have a pH of greater than 6.2 (nationally 35%).

The dramatic falls in soil P and K which took place between 2008 and 2012 were halted, with small improvements. 48% of samples were below optimum soil P (Index 1 or 2). This figure was 31% in 2008. 23% of soils are at very low P levels (Index 1) (10% in 2008). 47% of soils are at K index 1or 2.

There is no significant difference between dairy and drystock farms in terms of fertility. Low pH is a significant issue on both dairy and drystock with only 27% and 25% respectively exceeding a pH of 6.2. Soil fertility of tillage farms is better than on grassland farms for P, K and pH, 57% had pH in excess of 6.2.

Kerry

Only 5% of soils tested achieved good overall fertility in 2014 with only 19% of soils having a pH of greater than 6.2. 56% of samples were below optimum soil P (Index 1 or 2). This figure was 29% in 2008. One in three soils are at very low P levels (Index 1) (9% in 2009). 2/3 of soils are at K index 1 or 2. Soil K levels have stabilised having fallen between 2010 and 2013. Just 5% of dairy samples achieved good overall status. Only 20% of samples are above soil pH 6.2, 56% of samples are either low or very low for P and 65% of dairy samples are either low or very low for K. Only 4% of drystock samples reach good overall fertility with 55% of drystock samples either low or very low for P and 67 % of samples at index 1 or 2 for K. Only 14% of drystock sampled were above pH 6.2.

Limerick

10% of soils tested achieved good overall fertility in 2014. 33% of soils have a pH of greater than 6.2 representing a gradual increase since 2007. There has been a steady fall in soil P since 2007. Some 55% of samples were below optimum soil P (Index 1 or 2) the figure was 30% in 2007. 55% of soils are at K index 1 or 2. Soil K index declined from 2007 to 2011 but has increased gradually since then.

10% of dairy samples achieved good overall status. 36% of dairy samples had a pH greater than 6.2. Soil pH in drystock farms is lower with 25% above 6.2. 53% of dairy samples are either low or very low for P with levels continuing to decline. 56% of dairy samples are either low or very low for K. 8% of drystock samples reached good overall fertility. 59% of drystock samples are either low or very low for P. 53% of dry stock are at index 1 or 2 for K.

Tipperary

15% of soils tested achieved good overall fertility in 2014 a steady rise since 2012. 43% of soils have a pH of greater than 6.2. There has been a gradual improvement since 2008.

Soil P levels decreased steadily in samples between 2007 and 2012 but have increased since then. A sharp increase has been noted in index 4 samples, still, 47% of samples were below optimum soil P (Index 1 or 2) with 21% of soils at very low P levels (Index 1). 46% of soils are at K index 1 or 2.

Some 13% of dairy samples achieved good overall status. 45% of dairy samples are either low or very low for P and K. Some 13% of drystock samples reach good overall fertility. Some 51% of drystock samples are either low or very low for P. The falls have been more gradual than on dairy farms. Some 50% of drystock are at index 1 or 2 for K.

P levels in tillage samples fell between 2007 and 2012 but have improved since then. K levels in tillage samples have improved gradually from a low base with 58% at index 3 or 4. 61% of tillage samples have a pH > 6.2.

Waterford

Some 11% of soils tested achieved good overall fertility in 2014. Soil fertility has improved a little in the last three years. 44% of soils have a pH of greater than 6.2. There has been a steady improvement since 2007.

The dramatic falls in soil P which took place between 2009 and 2011 was halted with small improvements since then. Some 63% of samples were below optimum soil P (Index 1 or 2). 36% of soils are at very low P levels (Index 1). 59% of soils are at K index 1 or 2.

Some 9% of dairy samples achieved good overall status with 42% of soils having a pH of greater than 6.2, a gradual improvement since 2007 on both dairy and drystock farms. At 68%, more than 2/3 of dairy samples are either low or very low for P. Some 63% of dairy samples are either low or very low for K

Some 54% of drystock samples are either low or very low for P. This has been fairly stable since 2007. Some 61% of drystock are at index 1or 2 for K.

Clare

Just 7% of soils tested had good overall fertility in 2014. Only 22% of soils have a pH of greater than 6.2. Some 60% of samples were below optimum soil P (Index 1 or 2). This figure was 42% in 2009. Almost 1/3 of soils are at very low P (Index 1) (16% in 2008). 45% of soils are at K index 1 or 2.

Only 6% of dairy samples had good overall status. Soil P and K levels on dairy farms appear to be still falling but at a slower rate than up to 2012.

On drystock farms P levels are lower than on dairy farms while K levels are higher on drystock farms. Only 7% of drystock samples are at good overall fertility status.

Low pH was seen for all enterprises.


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