Woburn Ley Arable

  • Experiment Code: W/RN/3
  • Experiment Site: Woburn
  • Objectives: Effects of continuous arable and ley-arable cropping on crop production, soil organic matter dynamics and fertility in a sandy loam.
  • Description: Started in 1938 to compare the effects of rotations with or without grass or grass-clover leys on the yield of two arable test crops. It is now an important resource for investigation long-term changes in SOM due to different cropping systems. Five year rotation of three years in arable crops or leys (short-term grassland) followed by two years of arable test crops. Total of 40 pairs of plots divided into 5 blocks, phased-in over a five-year period, so the each year of the rotation is present each year.
  • Date Start: 1938
  • Date End: Ongoing

Key Contacts

  • Andy Macdonald

  • Role: Principal Investigator
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom
  • Margaret Glendining

  • Role: Data Manager
  • ORCID: 0000-0002-6466-4629
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom

Funding

Experimental Design

Description

  • 40 pairs of main plots in 5 blocks, phased in over a 5 year period. On half of the plots there were four 'Continuous' rotations: 3-year grass grass/clover ley (L), a 3-year lucerne ley (Lu), a 3-year arable rotation which included a 1-yr hay crop (Ah) and a 3-year arable rotation which included root crops (Ar). The effect of these four 'treatments' was compared on the yield of two arable 'test' crops. On the other plots the ley and arable 'treatment' crops alternated (called the Alternating rotations). A test of FYM applied to the first test crop was also included on one of each pair of main plots, 1938-1966. The test crops were potatoes followed by spring barley. Sugar beet replaced potatoes in 1956. Sainfoin replaced lucerne in 1965.

Design

  • Period: 1938 - 1972
  • Number of Blocks: 8
  • Number of Replicates: 5
  • Number of Sub-plots:
  • Number of Harvests per Year: 1

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Grass Clover Leys
Grass Leys
Potatoes
Sugarbeet
Medicago sativa
Spring Barley

Crop Rotations

Rotation Crops
( - )

Description

  • Major changes made to the experiment in 1973-78. Grazed leys were replaced with cut grass or grass/clover leys. The Alternating rotations were stopped and two cycles of 8-year leys followed by the 2-yr test crops were introduced, the first cycle started in 1973, the second in 1978.

Design

  • Period: 1973 - 2006
  • Number of Blocks: 8
  • Number of Replicates: 5
  • Number of Sub-plots:
  • Number of Harvests per Year: 1

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Wheat
Spring Barley
Winter Rye

Crop Rotations

Rotation Crops
( - )

Measurements

Variable Unit Collection
Frequency
Material Description Crop
Grain Yield t/ha annually SpecifiedCrop Grain yields for test crops (wheat and spring barley) wheat
Soil Organic Carbon % Soil
Total Soil Nitrogen % Soil

Description

  • Major changes to the experiment in 2006/7. The 8-year leys were ended once both cycles had completed three 10-year rotations. Thus in 2008 plots previously in the 1st cycle of 8-year leys started to follow the same rotations as the two continuous arable rotation, whilst those in the second cycle went into a 3-year grass +N or 3-year grass/clover rotation, i.e. the same four rotations as the 'continuous' plots but with more SOM.

Design

  • Period: 2007 - 2020
  • Number of Blocks: 8
  • Number of Replicates: 5
  • Number of Sub-plots:
  • Number of Harvests per Year: 1

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Winter Wheat
Winter Rye

Measurements

Variable Unit Collection
Frequency
Material Description Crop
Grain Yield Trait t/ha annually SpecifiedCrop grain yield for test crops (winter wheat and winter rye) winter wheat
Soil Organic Carbon % Soil
Total Soil Nitrogen % Soil

Site: Stackyard - Woburn

  • Experiment Site: Woburn
  • Description: The experiment started in 1938 on a site that had grown arable crops since at least 1876 and had 0.98% SOC in the topsoil.
  • Management: Conventional management, ploughed. There is no irrigation.
  • Visit Permitted?: Yes
  • Visiting Arrangments: Contact Dr Andy Macdonald
  • Elevation: 99 Metres
  • Slope: 2
  • Geolocation:    51.99906, -0.61673

Soil

Datasets available

Title (hover for a longer description) Year of Publication Type DOI or Link Version

Crop yield data

Woburn Ley-arable experiment: yields of wheat as first test crop, 1976-2018 2022 Frictionless 10.23637/wrn3-wheat7618-01 01
.

More about Woburn Ley-arable

Plans and treatments:
Experimental plans, fertilizer treatments and cropping details, 1938-2020

Key References

2022

  • Maclaren, C., Glendining, M.J., Poulton, P.R., Macdonald, A.J., Clark, S. (2022) "Woburn Ley-arable experiment: yields of wheat as first test crop, 1976-2018", Electronic Rothamsted Archive, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts, UK
    DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-wheat7618-01
  • Johnston, A. E. , Poulton, P. R. , Macdonald, A. J. and Glendining, M. J.(2022) "The Woburn Ley-arable Experiment, 1938-2020: Its management, the issues and problems that arose, and their resolution to maintain the continuity and relevance of the experiment"
    DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-manag1938-2020-01

2021

  • Poulton, P. R. , Johnston, A. E. , Macdonald, A. J. and Glendining, M. J.(2021) "Woburn Ley-arable experiment cropping sequence 1938-2020", electronic Rothamsted Archive, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK
    DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-cropping1938-2020-01

2018

  • Nicholson, F. , Bhogal, A. , Taylor, M. , Mcgrath, S. and Withers, P.(2018) "Long-term Effects of Biosolids on Soil Quality and Fertility", Soil Science, 183, 89-98
    DOI: 10.1097/ss.0000000000000239

2017

  • Watts, C. W. , Glendining, M. J. and Castells-Brooke, N. I. D.(2017) "Woburn Experimental Farm Soil and Field Maps", Electronic Rothamsted Archive, Rothamsted Research
    DOI: 10.23637/ws-soil-maps-01
  • Johnston, A. E. , Poulton, P. R. , Coleman, K. , Macdonald, A. J. and White, R. P.(2017) "Changes in soil organic matter over 70 years in continuous arable and ley arable rotations on a sandy loam soil in England", European Journal of Soil Science, 68, 305-316
    DOI: 10.1111/ejss.12415

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

1996

  • Poulton, P. R.(1996) "Woburn Ley-Arable. ", 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), 154-156

1980

  • Catt, J. A. , Weir, A. H. , Norrish, R. E. , Rayner, J. H. , King, D. W. , Hall, D. G. M. and Murphy, C. P.(1980) "The soils of Woburn Experimental Farm. III. Stackyard", Rothamsted Experimental Station Report for 1979, Part 2
    DOI: 10.23637/ERADOC-1-34287

1973

  • Johnston, A. E.(1973) "The effects of ley and arable cropping systems on the amounts of soil organic matter in the Rothamsted and Woburn ley-arable experiment", Rothamsted Experimental Station, Report for 1972, Part 2
    Get from eRAdoc: ResReport1972p2-131-159

1958

  • Mann, H. H. and Boyd, D. A.(1958) "Some results of an experiment to compare ley and arable rotations at Woburn", The Journal of Agricultural Science, 50, 297-306
    DOI: 10.1017/S002185960003149X

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