The FWAG Southwest adviser teams are working with many farms to prepare for the SFI and Countryside Stewardship offer that is due to become available in summer 2024.

A key part of planning and reviewing agri-environment schemes is checking over soil testing. Standard soil test results, including pH, P, K Mg and organic matter, are required for many Countryside Stewardship options including GS2 Permanent grassland with very low inputs. These tests must be less than 5 years old. 

Additionally, while cross compliance is no longer in effect, every farming business must comply with the Farming Rules for Water under DEFRA’s statutory guidance. Under Farming Rules for Water, all farms should be incorporating soil analyses to help plan applications of organic manure and inorganic fertilizers. We are hearing increasing reports of Environment Agency inspections picking up on lack of soil test results.

If you already have standard soil testing results that do not include a test for organic matter, most soil test providers will offer an “organic matter only” testing service that you can use to top up your current samples.

The good news is that the Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI) can help towards the cost of soil sampling. The action SAM1, Assess soil, produce a soil management plan and test soil organic matter, pays £6 per hectare towards soil sampling and testing, and £97 per year towards a soil management plan that can be used to inform management decisions. SAM1 is also an easy action to use to make sure that you maximise your SFI management payment up to £1000 per year. As for Countryside Stewardship, soil analyses must be less than 5 years old throughout the duration of an SFI agreement. If your soil tests are older than 5 years old, you must test parcels included in the SAM1 action within the first 12 months of your agreement. 


Taking soil samples is a great way to get to know your land on a field by field basis and is easy to do while crop walking or doing other routine checks. Sampling should be completed before spring fertiliser applications or cultivations. Many farms stagger soil sampling, testing a portion of the farm each year. If you have questions on how your current soil sampling schedule may fit with a Sustainable Farm Incentive agreement, let us know.

Our team is also very happy to help you review your current soil tests, take soil samples and send them off for testing and complete a soil management plan. We can also provide FWAG members with an SFI SAM1 soil management plan template that you can fill out for your farm. 

If you have any questions, get in touch with your advisor and we can help. Happy soil sampling!