Rothamsted Research Station

Rothamsted Research is a world-leading, non-profit research centre that focuses on strategic agricultural science to the benefit of farmers and society worldwide.

It was founded in Harpenden, south-east England, in 1843 by Sir John Bennet Lawes. Between 1843 and 1856, Lawes and Sir Henry Gilbert established several long-term field experiments. Some failed or were discontinued because of poor soil structure and/or crop diseases. When Lawes died in 1900, the remaining experiments continued more or less as originally planned and are now known as the Classical Experiments. They are the oldest, continuous agronomic experiments in the world and therefore rightfully and uniquely famous. We carefully make management changes every 5-10 years to ensure that these experiments remain relevant. By asking new questions and applying new methods we gain novel insights.

There are several other long-term experiments at Rothamsted (Harpenden), and also at two other sites, Woburn (in Bedfordshire) and Saxmundham (in Suffolk) on contrasting soil types. We make the data and samples collected from the Classical and other long-term experiments available to researchers worldwide.

Field Plan and Soil Map of Rothamsted

The site and soils at Rothamsted are described in this booklet: Avery, BW & Catt, JA 1995 'The Soil at Rothamsted', Lawes Agricultural Trust, Harpenden. - underlying map is copyright OS DOI: 10.23637/ERADOC-1-143

History

Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institution in the world. Its foundation dates from 1843 when John Bennet Lawes, the owner of the Rothamsted Estate, appointed Joseph Henry Gilbert, a chemist, as his scientific collaborator and planted the first of what were to become the classical Rothamsted long term experiments, on Broadbalk field. The scientific partnership between Lawes and Gilbert lasted 57 years, and together they laid the foundations of modern scientific agriculture and established the principles of crop nutrition.

more...

Experiments at Rothamsted Site

Classical Experiments

Experiment Code Purpose Started
Broadbalk R/BK/1 To test the effects of various combinations of inorganic fertilizer and organic manures on the yield of winter wheat 1843
Broadbalk Wilderness R/BK/1W To see the effects on soil and vegetation of allowing arable land to revert naturally to woodland. See also the comparable Geescroft Wilderness site. 1882
Park Grass R/PG/5 To investigate ways of improving the yield of hay by the application of inorganic fertilizers and organic manures 1856
Hoosfield Spring Barley R/HB/2 To test the effects of different inorganic fertilizers and farmyard manure on the yield of spring barley 1852
Alternate Wheat and Fallow R/WF/3 To observe the effects of alternate fallowing on the yield of winter wheat on a part of Hoosfield that had received no applications of fertilizers or manures since 1851 1856-2015
Exhaustion Land R/EX/4 To observe the residual effects of mineral fertilizer and manures on the yield of spring barley and winter wheat. Soils now have a range of plant available P and K 1876
Geescroft Wilderness R/GE/9 To see the effects on soil and vegetation of allowing arable land to revert naturally to woodland. See also the comparable Broadbalk Wilderness site. 1886
Garden Clover R/GC/8 To test factors affecting the persistence of continuous red clover grown on a rich garden soil 1854
Agdell R/AG/6 Effects of fertilizers and organic manures on four-course rotations (cereal, root, legume, fallow). Stopped in 1990 after testing residual effects of P and K. Only archived crop and soil samples are now available 1848-1990
Barnfield (incomplete) R/BN/7 Effects of fertilizers and organic manures on root crops, arable crops and grass & clover. No treatments applied or yields measured since 2001, but the site is still a useful resource for studies on plant nutrient dynamics 1843-2001

Other Long-term Experiments

Experiment Code Purpose Started
Acid Strip R/RS/9 To observe the effects of soil acidity on soil properties under winter wheat 1950
Fosters Ley Arable R/RN/2 To observe the effects of continuous arable and ley arable cropping systems on soil organic matter and fertility, on a site that was originally long-term arable (>100 years) 1948
Highfield Ley Arable R/RN/1 To observe the effects of continuous arable and ley arable cropping systems on soil organic matter and fertility, on a site that was originally long-term grassland (>100 years) 1948
Highfield Bare Fallow R/RS/1 The effects of long-term bare fallow on soil organic matter and fertility, after long-term grass (>100 years) 1959
Highfield Conversion R/CS/767 The effects of changes in agricultural land use and management on crop production and soil physical, chemical and biological parameters, on a site that was originally under long-term grass (>100 years). 2008
Fallow Reversion Plots - Highfield R/CS/683 The effects of converting previously long-term fallow into grass, arable and fallow 2009
Fallow Reversion Plots - Geescroft R/CS/684 The effects of converting previously long-term fallow into grass, arable and fallow 2009
Rothamsted Long-term Liming R/CS/10 To observe the effects of lime, P and K fertilizer treatments on the yield and composition of arable crops (there is a parallel experiment at Woburn) 1962-1996;2018
Rothamsted Amounts of Straw R/CS/326 To study the effects of a range of amounts of straw incorporated into the soil on winter wheat (there is a parallel experiment at Woburn) 1987-2017
Rothamsted Continuous Maize R/CS/477 To monitor the fate of organic carbon in the soil organic matter (there is a parallel experiment at Woburn) 1997-2015
Long-term Miscanthus Experiment R/CS/408 To quantify the biomass yield potential of Miscanthus sinensis giganteus 1993

Key References

2018

  • Macdonald, A. , Poulton, P. , Clark, I. , Scott, T. , Glendining, M. , Perryman, S. , Storkey, J. , Bell, J. , Shield, I. , Mcmillan, V. and Hawkins, J. (2018) "Guide to the Classical and Other Long-term experiments, Datasets and Sample Archive. Rothamsted Research"
    DOI: 10.23637/ROTHAMSTED-LONG-TERM-EXPERIMENTS-GUIDE-2018

2015

2006

1995

1991

  • Rothamsted (1991) "Guide to the Classical Field Experiments", Rothamsted Experimental Station, Lawes Agricultural Trust, Harpenden UK
    DOI: 10.23637/ERADOC-1-189

1984

  • Rothamsted (1984) "Guide to the Classical Field Experiments", Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Herts, Lawes Agricultural Trust
    DOI: 10.23637/ERADOC-1-190

1981

  • Johnston, A. E. , Poulton, P. R. and Meewen, J. (1981) "The Soils of Rothamsted Farm. The Carbon and Nitrogen of the Soils and the Effect of Changes in Crop Rotation and Manuring on Soil pH, P, K and Mg", Rothamsted Experimental Station Annual Report for 1980, Part 2
    Get from eRAdoc: ResReport1980p2-5-20
    DOI: 10.23637/ERADOC-1-34236

1977

  • Rothamsted (1977) "Details of the Classical and Long-Term Experiments 1968-1973", Rothamsted Experimental Station, Lawes Agricultural Trust, Harpenden UK
    DOI: 10.23637/ERADOC-1-193

1966

  • Rothamsted (1966) "Details of the Classical and Long-Term Experiments up to 1962", Rothamsted Experimental Station, Lawes Agricultural Trust, Harpenden UK
    DOI: 10.23637/ERADOC-1-191

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