The general consensus is that Irish soil quality is good overall.
Soil formation is very complex and differs on a range of factors. One of these is leaching (washing out) and it is prominent in Ireland
since the water movement here is mainly downwards, which leaves the
soil very acidic. Lime will counter the acidity but, in doing so, can
alter soil biodiversity.
At first everything in Ireland was in the C-horizon and there was little change if lots of clay was present. North Kerry, Clare and Kilkenny are rich in clay; in
Leitrim the drumlins are built of stiff clayey till. Movement of water
is slow here and leads to waterlogged soil often called gley soil.
There is a high clay content in this type of soiland, while rushes
thrive in this environment, it can still be used for rough grazing of
animals. There are two types in Ireland -surface water gley and ground water gley.
In Ireland, the soil you are most likely to find is brown fertile earth - although it is very shallow. It is rich and fertile
hence 64% of the total land mass is used for agriculture. The land area
of Ireland is 6.9million hectares, of which 4.4million hectares is used
for agriculture. Brown soil is mainly found in midlands and the eastern
At higher levels, where the climate is colder and wetter, a thin layer of plant debris started the process of peaty soil. This provided the bases from which peaty bogs later developed. This
soil is wet and acidic by nature and is usually identified as raised or
blanket bogs with turf as the byproduct. A lot of plants find it hard
to grow in peaty soil but bog cotton, heather and coniferous trees do
manage to lay roots. Growing crops is not really an option is this
soil, which is found in the midlands and also in many parts of the
west, north and south of Ireland.
Grey-brown soil is so-called because of its colour - light above, dark below. They are widely developed in the midlands, where they form very fertile land. Linked to this is pseudo grey-brown soil, which is rich in clay and is near the surface.
Don't forget that topology including altitude, slope and aspect are also important is soil development.
There is, however, increasing pressure on soil, particularly from land use changes, intensification of agriculture, erosion and overgrazing, afforestation, industry and urbanisation.