A €1.2bn bullet for farm productivity
IMPROVING base nutrient levels in Irish soils would increase dry matter production by up 3-4 tonnes/ha and boost total farm output by the equivalent of more than €1.2bn annually.
A three-tonne increase in dry matter output would be worth around €300/ha for drystock farmers and over €550/ha for dairy farmers.
By averaging this level of improvement across the State’s four million hectares of grazing and tillage ground, the overall lift in output would equate to over €1.2bn annually.
Soil analysis in recent years has shown that over 80pc of Irish farms are low in phosphorous or potassium, or require lime to balance soil pH, Mark Plunkett of Teagasc has pointed out
The Terra Soil study will quantify the level of nutrient deficiency at a national level for the first time, as well as identifying areas which are low in particular trace elements.
Over the last 40 years, the application of lime on Irish farms has decreased dramatically.
Irish farmers applied an average of 1.7 million tonnes of lime in the 1970s to control soil acidity and improve the productivity of grassland and tillage ground.
However, it is estimated that application levels have halved in last four decades, and between two-thirds and half of all tillage and grazing ground is now believed to be below the optimum pH level.
This pH problem, along with low levels of potassium and phosphorous, is viewed as a major limiting factor to the productivity of Irish soils and is a serious impediment to achieving production targets for the industry.