- 5 year, €1M research project to provide valuable agri-environmental soil data for Ireland's agricultural sector
- New project brings together GSI and Teagasc expertise to help improve management of nutrients and trace elements in soil
Today, Geological Survey Ireland and Teagasc have announced the start of a significant collaborative research project called Terra Soil. Terra Soil is the first research collaboration between Teagasc and GSI that brings together long standing traditions of soils, agronomy, geology and geochemical expertise of both organisations. As part of Geological Survey Ireland's Tellus Programme, Terra Soil is the first Smart Agriculture research output from Tellus Product Development, which aims to unlock the potential of Tellus data to provide value-added, user-focused outputs for the benefit of the economy and society.
Over a 5-year period, the €1M Terra Soil will bring together Geological Survey Ireland's geological data and knowledge and Teagasc's soils and agronomic expertise to provide the agricultural sector with high quality, agri-environmental information about Ireland's soil to better inform the sector, support sustainable agriculture and protect Ireland's environment. To do this, the project is tasked with analysing some 10,000 soil samples, which have been collected as part of the Tellus Programme, for available nutrients, metals and trace elements, coupled with a spectral library to predict texture class and particle size. These new datasets will be combined with Tellus geochemical information and will be mapped regionally to produce data products for the agricultural and wider community, giving greater insights into Ireland's soil fertility, crop and animal health, land drainage, nutrient management and farm economics. Terra Soil mapped products will be freely available and will describe the quality of Irish soils to inform how this unique resource is managed to improve the sustainability of Irish agriculture.
On the announcement of the Terra Soil launch, Minister of State for Natural Resources Seán Kyne T.D. said, "I'm delighted to see the commencement of this project of national importance, which will see the provision of scientific data informing key agricultural policy, such as Food Wise 2025, as well as supporting farmers at a local level through new advice. Soil is a critical natural resource which underpins our agri-food sector and this work will enable its improved assessment and management, while also ensuring its potential for sustainable use is maximised within the sector."
Terra Soil will analyse two Tellus soil sample types, upper soil (5-30cm depth) and deeper soil (35-50cm depth), for a range of agricultural properties relating to soil fertility, crop and animal health, land drainage, nutrient management and farm economics. A key expected output of the project will be an available phosphorus dataset, which combined with existing Tellus data on soil metals, pH and organic matter content, will provide a rich, unique and world-class database for agronomy in Ireland. This new data will support better farming efficiencies by allowing farmers to make more targeted and science-based decisions, which will result in smarter agriculture, less environmental impacts and less wasted resources.
Director of Geological Survey Ireland, Koen Verbruggen, notes, "Geological data underpins many aspects of our economy, not least agriculture, and this collaboration with Teagasc combines geoscience and agronomic expertise in order to drive maximum value from national-scale geological mapping programmes, such as the award-winning Tellus survey. I am delighted to see this real-world applied geoscience project from our flagship Tellus programme, which will give back to society in a big way."
Dr. Frank O'Mara, Director of Research with Teagasc, highlights, "Terra Soil will provide great insights into Ireland's soil. This new resource is exciting because of the extent and depth of analysis. We know that by analysing our soil, we can get meaningful data which will greatly benefit the farming community to help them manage soil as an important natural resource. Our farming community will be better informed to make better decisions, which will hopefully positively impact crop yield, land fertility, the environment and farming costs."
For more information on the project please visit the Terra Soil project page.
Notes for Editors
- Geological Survey Ireland is the National Earth Science Agency. It is responsible for providing geological advice and information, and for the acquisition of data for this purpose. Geological Survey Ireland produces a range of products including maps, reports and databases and acts as a knowledge centre and project partner in all aspects of Irish geology. Geological Survey Ireland is a division of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment. www.gsi.ie.
- The Tellus Survey is a national geophysics and geochemistry mapping programme undertaken by Geological Survey Ireland and funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Tellus involves two types of surveying – airborne geophysical surveying using a low-flying aircraft and ground-based geochemical surveying of soil, stream water and stream sediment. Terra Soil will be using soil samples collected as part of the Tellus ground-based surveying. To date, Tellus surveying has been completed in Northern Ireland (2004–2008) and the border region of Ireland (2011–2013). Tellus airborne surveying has been completed in the north midlands region of Ireland (2014–2015), the eastern midlands region (2015), and most recently the west of Ireland (2016 -2017). For more information, visit www.tellus.ie.
- 'Tellus' was the Roman goddess of the earth, also called Terra Mater.
- Tellus has established a Product Development work stream in order to derive value-added products based on geoscience data for the benefit of the economy and society. Based on feedback from data users and driven by government policy objectives, product development is undertaken under five main themes: Mineral Prospectivity, Smart Agriculture, Environment and Health, Climate Action and Education. Terra Soil is the first official output from the Smart Agriculture Tellus Product Development theme. Click here for more information on the Tellus Product Development work.
- Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority of Ireland, is the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities. For more information, visit www.teagasc.ie.
- Teagasc and Geological Survey Ireland have a long and productive collaboration which goes back to the production of the National Soil Survey of Ireland by An Foras Talúntais (AFT, Teagasc's predecessor) in the 1980s. This has continued in recent years with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2016, which will allow continued cooperation on areas of mutual interest, such as soil geochemistry.