A Soil Health Conference preceded by a Royal Visit in N Ireland hosted by Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) welcomed His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester to its Hillsborough research farm on Friday 13th October 2023. His Royal Highness, patron of the British Society of Soil Science, was introduced to the AFBI staff including those working on EJP SOIL and leading the NI Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS).

Dr Suzanne Higgins (AFBI) explains the SNHS Scheme to HRH Duke of Gloucester.

The NI SNHS is a £37 million scheme that is being funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), and is one of the most comprehensive regional soil nutrient sampling schemes to be undertaken anywhere in the world. The Scheme, which is free to farmers, aims to soil sample ≈700,000 fields across NI over four years (2022-2026). AFBI staff delivered a number of short presentations, demonstrating field sampling methods, farm nutrient maps, nutrient management training, water quality monitoring and the use of novel techniques such as LiDAR for identifying nutrient runoff risk at the field level, and for capturing images of above ground biomass. 

Speaking after the visit, AFBI scientist and EJP Soil National Hub Representative (UK) Dr Suzanne Higgins commented “It was an honour to meet His Royal Highness. As Patron of the British Society of Soil Science, the Duke has a keen interest in soil and agriculture, and it was a privilege to host the visit ahead of the joint British Society of Soil Science and Soil Science Society of Ireland conference that will take place in Belfast in December”.

With an international reputation for soil science research, AFBI is committed to advancing scientific excellence within the local and global agri-food sector through high quality and locally relevant scientific research. This was recently showcased at the AFBI Soil Health Conference which was held on 26 October attended by over 200 delegates from policy, academia and industry. Overall, the conference provided a rich and diverse overview of current and emergent scientific developments within AFBI soil research programmes and from collaborators. 

Dr Suzanne Higgins provided an overview of research findings aligned with soil nutrient management and its relationship with pasture performance and water and air quality.  Delegates were updated on the breadth of work being undertaken by EJP Soil across the EU in this area, the synergies between projects and their relevance to local needs.

The joint British Society of Soil Science and Soil Science Society of Ireland conference is taking place in Belfast on 4-5 December.

View the programme.