Park Grass

  • Experiment Code: R/PG/5
  • Experiment Site: Rothamsted
  • Objectives: Originally to study the effects of organic and inorganic amendments and lime on old grass for hay, latterly also for effects on botanical composition.
  • Description: Because of the earlier experiments had showed that different crops require different amounts and ratios of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (p) and potassium (K), Lawes and Gilbert extended their experiments in 1856 to include the mixed plant population of old grassland. The Park Grass experiment was established on c.2.8 ha of parkland that had been in permanent pasture for at least 100 years. Started by Lawes and Gilbert in 1856, its original purpose was to investigate ways of improving the yield of hay by the application of inorganic fertilisers or organic manures. Within 2-3 years it became clear that these treatments were having a dramatic effect on the species composition of what had been a uniform sward comprising about 50 species. Dramatically different swards have evolved as a result of the different pH and nutrient status of the soils. There are 35-45 species on the unfertilised plots but only 2 or 3 species on some of the fertilised plots. The continuing effects on species diversity and on soil function of the original treatments, together with later tests of liming and interactions with atmospheric inputs and climate change, has meant that Park Grass has become increasingly important to ecologists and soil scientists. A study published in the journal Nature shows that grassland diversity on the Park Grass experiment recovered once atmospheric nitrogen pollution reduced (Storkey et. al. 2015). The harvesting methods have changed as farming practices have modernised (see More). The plots are cut for hay in mid-June. The first cut for hay ensures seeds are returned each year. The management of the aftermath following the first hay cut varied in the early years, either being grazed by sheep or cut green. Since the 1890s the second crop has been cut green and removed. In some years a third cut has also been taken. Studies have also been made of the botanical composition of the plots both through visual surveys and by looking at the percentage contribution to the hay made by the various species (see More). Herbage yields are recorded each year. Physical samples of crops and soils have been preserved in the Rothamsted Sample Archive. The experiment also includes a small area used for micro-plot experiments. Since January 2020 twelve sub-plots have three soil moisture probes. The experiment has had three main phases (see Design Periods). Park Grass is a Genomic Observatory - a geographic site with a rich history of environmental/ecological data collection and a long-term commitment to future studies. The Park Grass soil metagenome from the untreated control plot 3d is now publicly available (see Related Documents). Park Grass is both an Environmental Change Network (ECN) data site and an Ecological Continuity Trust site (see Related Documents).
  • Date Start: 1856
  • Date End: Ongoing

Key Contacts

  • Sarah Perryman

  • Role: Data Manager
  • ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0056-2754
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom
  • Jon Storkey

  • Role: Experiment Manager
  • ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1094-8914
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom
  • Andrew MacDonald

  • Role: Principal Investigator
  • ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1785-4892
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom
  • Margaret Glendining

  • ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6466-4629
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom

Funding

Experimental Design

Description

  • There were originally 20 plots, some split (see Plan 1865). Plot nomenclature in 1856-1902 is complex. Yields are given for the whole plot, eg plot 3, 1856-1885. From 1881-1902, yields from the small area chalked in 1881 are referred to as 'C' eg 3C, and from the much larger unchalked area as 'UC' eg 3UC. Separate yields were not recorded for the limed and unlimed Western and Eastern halves in 1883 and 1887, but in some years, eg 1887 and 1889, yields are shown for the Western (W) and Eastern (E) parts of the areas chalked (C) and unchalked (UC) in 1881, eg Plots 3EU, 3WC. Plots areas are shown in e-RA, which helps with understanding which parts of the plots are referred to.

Design

  • Period: 1856 - 1902
  • Number of Blocks: 20
  • Number of Sub-plots:

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Grass

Factors

Factors are the interventions or treatments which vary across the experiment.

Nitrogen Fertilizer Exposure

Application: Whole Plot

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
N1 52 kgN/ha - ammonium sulfate
N2 104 kgN/ha - ammonium sulfate
N3 156 kgN/ha - ammonium sulfate
N1* 52 kgN/ha - ammonium nitrate
N2* 104 kgN/ha - ammonium nitrate

Natural Fertilizer Exposure

Application: Whole Plot

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Farmyard Manure - once every 4 years
Fish Meal - once every 4 years To supply 68 kgN/ha.

Superphosphate Exposure

Application: Whole Plot

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
P 36 kgP/ha -

Potassium Fertilizer Exposure

Application: Whole Plot

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
K 242 kgK/ha - potassium sulphate

Sodium Nutrient Exposure

Application: Whole Plot

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Na 17 kgNa/ha - sodium sulphate

Magnesium Nutrient Exposure

Application: Whole Plot

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Mg 12 kgMg/ha - magnesium sulphate

Silicon Nutrient Exposure

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Si 28 - silicate of soda

Sawdust

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes

Measurements

Variable Unit Collection
Frequency
Material Description Crop
Yield Components t/ha Biannual SpecifiedCrop 1st and 2nd cuts, available from 1856-present. grass
Partial Botanical Separation Data Selected years. Biannual. Percentage composition of gramineae, leguminosae and other orders. Complete Botanical Separation Data. Selected years 1862-1976.
Complete Botanical Separation Data Selected years. Biannual. Percentage composition of species on plot. Selected years 1862-1976.
Soil Total Carbon variable data available for 1876, 1886, (1932, 1959, 1966, 1985, 1991)
Total Soil Nitrogen variable data available for 1876, 1886, (1913, 1932, 1959, 1966, 1985, 1991)
Soil pH variable data available for 1876, (1923, 1959, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1984, 1991, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014)
Olsen P mg/kg variable From 1876 -
Total P mg/kg variable
Soil Weight t/ha variable From 1870 -
Root Mass t/ha variable From 1870 -

Description

  • Plots were divided into two in 1903 to test the effects of regular applications of lime.

Design

  • Period: 1903 - 1964

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Grass

Measurements

Variable Unit Collection
Frequency
Material Description Crop
Yield Components t/ha Biannual. 1st and 2nd cuts, available from 1856-present.
Partial Botanical Separation Data Selected years. Biannual. Percentage composition of gramineae, leguminosae and other orders. Complete Botanical Separation Data. Selected years 1862-1976.
Complete Botanical Separation Data Selected years. Biannual. Percentage composition of species on plot. Selected years 1862-1976.
Soil Total Carbon variable data available for 1876, 1886, 1932, 1959, 1966, 1985, 1991
Total Soil Nitrogen variable data available for (1876, 1886), 1913, 1932, 1959, (1966, 1985, 1991)
Soil pH variable data available for (1876), 1923, 1959, (1967, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1984, 1991, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014)
Olsen P mg/kg variable From 1876 -
Total P mg/kg variable From 1876 -
Soil Weight t/ha variable From 1870 -
Root Mass t/ha variable From 1870 -

Description

  • In 1965 most plots were divided into four sub-plots, three of which receive chalk to maintain pHs of 7, 6 and 5 (sub-plots a, b and c respectively). The fourth sub-plot (sub-plot d) receives no chalk and the pH of these ranges from 3.5 to 5.7 depending on the fertilizer treatment. From 1965 plots 5/1, 5/2 and 6 were used for microplot experiments. Plots 6a and 6b were re-included in the main experiment in 1972 but the other half of plot 6 (6c and 6d) and plots 5/1 and 5/2 have remained outside the main experiment. Since 1990, nitrogen fertilizer has been withheld from half of all sub-plots formerly receiving 96 kg N ha-1 (plots 9 and 14) as either ammonium sulphate or sodium nitrate to study processes controlling soil acidification, heavy-metal mobilisation and botanical changes. Since 1995, plot 13 has been split into 13/1 and 13/2 and FYM/Fishmeal withheld from plot 13/1. Since 1996 plot 2 has been split into 2/1 and 2/2 with plot 2/1 receiving K as potassium sulphate. In 2013 plot 7 (PKNaMg) was divided into two equal sized plots, 7/1 and 7/2. This was to test whether P fertilizer was still required, because large reserves of P have built up in the soil. No P fertilizer was applied to Plot 7/1, but K, Na and Mg applications continued. Plot 7/2 continued as before (i.e. it received PKNaMg). In addition, N applications began on plot 15; 144kg N/ha as sodium nitrate to provide a comparison with plot 11/1 which receives the same amount of N as ammonium sulphate together with P, K, Na & Mg. From autumn 2016 all plots previously receiving 35 kg P ha-1 as triple superphosphate will receive 17 kg P ha-1 (until further notice) because of the high levels of available soil P from past P inputs. The P application to plot 20 will remain unchanged. Current K, Mg and Na rates on Park Grass remain unchanged. Yields are given for the four sub-plots, eg 3a, 3b, 3c and 3d.

Design

  • Period: 1965 - Now

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Grass

Factors

Factors are the interventions or treatments which vary across the experiment.

Nitrogen Fertilizer Exposure

Description: applied in spring

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
N1 48 kgN/ha - ammonium sulfate
N2 96 kgN/ha - ammonium sulfate
N3 144 kgN/ha - ammonium sulfate
N*1 48 kgN/ha - ammonium nitrate
N*2 96 kgN/ha - ammonium nitrate
N*3 144 kgN/ha - ammonium nitrate
(n2) 96 kgN/ha - 1989 ammonium sulfate
(n*2) 96 kgN/ha - 1989 ammonium nitrate

Natural Fertilizer Exposure

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Farmyard Manure 35 t/ha - applied every fourth year supplies c.240 kg N
Pelleted Poultry Manure - replaced fish meal in 2003; supplies c.65 kg N

Superphosphate Exposure

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
P 17 kgP/ha - applied in winter triple superphosphate

Potassium Fertilizer Exposure

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
K 17 kgK/ha - applied in winter potassium sulphate

Sodium Nutrient Exposure

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Na 15 kgNa/ha - applied in winter sodium sulphate

Magnesium Nutrient Exposure

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Mg 10 kgMg/ha - applied in winter magnesium sulphate

Silicon Nutrient Exposure

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Si 450 - applied in winter sodium silicate

Liming Exposure

Description: ground chalk applied as necessary to maintain soil at pH 7,6 and 5 on sub plots a, b and c

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes
Lime - applied every third year since 1995, every 4 years before then calcium carbonate sub-plot d does not receive any chalk

Measurements

Variable Unit Collection
Frequency
Material Description Crop
Yield Components two cuts per year SpecifiedCrop every year from 1856 - present grass
Botanical Composition variable complete separations of hay selected years 1862-1976; partial separations of hay 1862-1976; complete species botanical surveys 1991-2000*below
Soil Total Carbon variable data available for 1876, 1886, 1932, 1959, 1966, 1985, 1991
Total Soil Nitrogen variable data available for (1876, 1886, 1913, 1932, 1959) 1966, 1985, 1991
Soil pH variable data available for (1876, 1923, 1959) 1967, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1984, 1991, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014
Olsen P mg/kg variable
Total P variable From 1876
Soil Weight t/ha variable From 1870
Root Mass t/ha variable From 1870
Exchangeable Cations mg/kg variable K, Mg, Ca, Na in air-dried soil. From 1991-2011.
*botanical Survey Data Annual 1991-2000 by Imperial College. Weight of species in replicates > % compostition
Botanical Survey Data 2 years 1993-1994. Mass effects study by Imperial college, as described by Kunin, 1998
Leafhoppers 2 years Leafhoppers (Auchenorhyncha) on 13 plots sampled five time in the summers of 1977 and 1978, as described by Morris, 1992
Soil Moisture Since January 2020
Atmospheric Chemistry Dry deposition of NO2 (Atmospheric Chemistry, AN) measured on Park Grass by, and available through, the Environmental Change Network (ECN)
Precipitation Chemistry Wet deposition (precipitation chemistry, PC) measured on Park Grass by, and available through, the Environmental Change Network (ECN)

Site: Park Grass - Rothamsted

  • Experiment Site: Rothamsted
  • Description: The experiment was established on c. 2.8 ha of parkland that had been in permanent pasture for at least 100 years.
  • Visit Permitted?: Yes
  • Visiting Arrangments: By arrangement with Dr Andy Macdonald
  • Elevation: 133 Metres
  • Geolocation:    51.803812, -0.372097

Soil

  • Type: Luvisol
    Silty clay loam over clay-with-flints overlying chalk. The site is normally well drained (Hook series) or moderately well drained (Batcombe series)

Soil Properties

Variable Value Reference Year Is Estimated Is Baseline
Sand content 11.6% (Percent) NO NO
Silt content 66.3% (Percent) NO NO
Clay content 22.1% (Percent) NO NO
Soil density 1.1g/cm3 (gram per cubic centimetre) 2011 NO NO

Datasets available

Park Grass Changes in Mean Species Numbers 1864-2011
Species observation data The Figure shows the impact of selected treatments on the number of species comprising 1% or more of the biomass. Applying N as sodium nitrate (orange line N*) or ammonium sulphate (blue line N) quickly decreased species numbers relative to the unfertilised control.
OAPGspecies
Park Grass Soil pH 1856-2011
Soil data The pH of the soil (at depth 0-23cm) on Park Grass was approximately 5. 5 (in water) when the experiment began. The effects of small amounts of liming with chalk were tested in the 1880s. A regular test of liming began in 1903 with chalk applied every 4 years to the southern half of most plots.
OAPGsoilpH
Additional data is available through e-RAdata. Please register for access.

Picture Gallery

More on Park Grass

Plans and treatments:
Plans, fertilizer treatments and liming details for the Park Grass experiment
Harvesting methods
how yield has been measured and important changes in harvesting methods over the years, including yield correction factor
Botanical composition:
information about the botanical surveys
Soil properties:
information about soil chemical and physical properties
Links
related to Park Grass
Video on the Park Grass Experiment

Key References

2021

  • Rothamsted_Research (2021) "Park Grass experiment plan and treatments since 1965, updated 2018", Electronic Rothamsted Archive, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts, AL5 2JQ, UK
    DOI: 10.23637/rpg5-plan1965-01
  • Glendining, M. J. , Poulton, P. R. , Macdonald, A. J. and Gregory, A. S. (2021) "Park Grass Experiment lime treatments, 1856-2021", Electronic Rothamsted Archive, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK
    DOI: 10.23637/rpg5-LimeTreats-01
  • Cabrera, J. C. B. , Hirl, R. T. , Schaufele, R. , Macdonald, A. and Schnyder, H. (2021) "Stomatal conductance limited the CO2 response of grassland in the last century", BMC Biology, 19, 50
    DOI: 10.1186/s12915-021-00988-4

2017

  • Bowley, H. E. , Mathers, A. W. , Young, S. D. , Macdonald, A. J. , Ander, E. L. , Watts, M. J. , Zhao, F. J. , Mcgrath, S. P. , Crout, N. M. J. and Bailey, E. H. (2017) "Historical trends in iodine and selenium in soil and herbage at the Park Grass Experiment, Rothamsted Research, UK", Soil Use and Management, 33, 252-262
    DOI: 10.1111/sum.12343

2016

  • J. Storkey , A.J. Macdonald , J.R. Bell , I.M. Clark , A.S. Gregory , N.J. Hawkins , P.R. Hirsch , L.C. Todman and Whitmore, A. P. (2016) "The Unique Contribution of Rothamsted to Ecological Research at Large Temporal Scales.", Advances in Ecological Research (eds: A.J. Dumbrell , R.L. Kordas and G. Woodward - Academic Press), Vol 55, Chapter 1, pp. 3-42
    DOI: 10.1016/bs.aecr.2016.08.002

2015

  • Storkey, J. , Macdonald, A. J. , Poulton, P. R. , Scott, T. , Kohler, I. H. , Schnyder, H. , Goulding, K. W. T. and Crawley, M. J. (2015) "Grassland biodiversity bounces back from long-term nitrogen addition", Nature , 528, 401-4
    DOI: 10.1038/nature16444

2010

  • Rothamsted_Research (2010) "Park Grass experiment plan and treatments 1856-1902", Electronic Rothamsted Archive, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts, AL5 2JQ, UK
    DOI: 10.23637/rpg5-plan1856-1902-01
  • Rothamsted_Research (2010) "Park Grass experiment plan and treatments 1903-1964", Electronic Rothamsted Archive, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts, AL5 2JQ, UK
    DOI: 10.23637/rpg5-plan1903-1964-01

2009

  • Johnston, A. E. , Poulton, P. R. and Coleman, K. (2009) "Soil organic matter: its importance in sustainable agriculture and carbon dioxide fluxes", Advances in Agronomy, 101, 1-57
    DOI: 10.1016/s0065-2113(08)00801-8

2006

  • Silvertown, J. , Poulton, P. R. , Johnston, A., E. , Edwards, G. , Heard, M. and Biss, P. M. (2006) "The Park Grass Experiment 1856-2006: Its contribution to ecology", Journal of Ecology, 94, 801-814
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2006.01145.x

2005

  • Crawley, M. J. , Johnston, A. E. , Silvertown, J. , Dodd, M. , De Mazancourt, C. , Heard, M. S. , Henman, D. F. and Edwards, G. R. (2005) "Determinants of species richness in the Park Grass experiment", American Naturalist, 165, 179-192
    DOI: 10.1086/427270

1998

  • Kunin, W. E. (1998) "Biodiversity at the edge: A test, of the importance of spatial "mass effects" in the Rothamsted Park Grass experiments", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 95, 207-212
    DOI: 10.1073/pnas.95.1.207

1996

  • Poulton, P. R. (1996) "The Park Grass Experiment, 1856-1995", NATO advanced research workshop, Evaluation of soil organic matter models using existing long-term datasets, NATO ASI Series I: Global Environmental Change, (Powlson D. S. , Smith P. and Smith J.U. (eds) - Springer-Verlag, Berlin), Vol 38, 377-384
  • Poulton, P. R. (1996) "Park Grass. ", Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems, Report No. 7, GCTE Task 3.3.1, Soil Organic Matter Network (SOMNET), 1996 Model and Experimental Metadata (Smith P. , Smith J.U. and Powlson D.S. (eds) - GCTE Focus 3 Office, Wallingford, UK), 129-132

1994

  • Jenkinson, D. S. , Potts, J. M. , Perry, J. N. , Barnett, V. , Coleman, K. and Johnston, A. E. (1994) "Trends in Herbage Yields over the Last Century on the Rothamsted Long-Term Continuous Hay Experiment", Journal of Agricultural Science, 122, 365-374
    DOI: 10.1017/S0021859600067290

1992

  • Morris, M. G. (1992) "Responses of Auchenorhyncha (Homoptera) to Fertilizer and Liming Treatments at Park Grass, Rothamsted", Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, 41, 263-283
    DOI: 10.1016/0167-8809(92)90115-R

1976

  • Thurston, J. M. , Williams, E. D. and Johnston, A. E. (1976) "Modern developments in an experiment on permanent grassland started in 1856: effects of fertilizers and lime on botanical composition and crop and soil analyses", Annales Agronomiques, 27, 1043-1082

1964

For further information and assistance, please contact the e-RA curators, Sarah Perryman and Margaret Glendining using the e-RA email address: era@rothamsted.ac.uk