Highfield Bare Fallow

  • Experiment Code: R/RS/1
  • Experiment Site: Rothamsted
  • Objectives: The effect of continuous bare fallow.
  • Description: In 1959 an area of permanent grass (since 1838, Lawes & Gilbert, 1885) adjacent to the Highfield Ley-Arable experiment at Rothamsted was ploughed, and has not grown a crop since. This is the Highfield Bare Fallow. Soil organic carbon (SOC) is measured periodically, and this has declined substantially since the area was first ploughed out of grass. Archived soil samples are available.
  • Date Start: 1959
  • Date End: Ongoing

Key Contacts

  • Andy Gregory

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

  • Role: Data Manager
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom


  • The e-RA database, including the published datasets generated from it, is part of the Rothamsted Long-Term Experiments - National Bioscience Research Infrastructure (RLTE-NBRI) , which also includes the Long-Term Experiments, the Sample Archive and Rothamsted's environmental monitoring activities including the weather stations and its role in the UK Environmental Change Network.
  • The RLTE-NBRI is supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (Grants BBS/E/C/00005189 (2012-2017); BBS/E/C/000J0300 (2017-2022); BBS/E/RH/23NB0007 (2023-2028)).

Experimental Design


  • Period: 1959 - Now

Site: Highfield - Rothamsted

  • Experiment Site: Rothamsted
  • Description: Permanent grass since 1838 (Lawes & Gilbert, 1885) adjacent to the Highfield Ley-Arable experiment at Rothamsted.
  • Management: Since 1959 the experiment is kept free of weeds by frequent cultivation, but herbicides are used occasionally, so inputs of carbon to the soil are negligible. The experiment is on a trapezoidal area of approximately 900 m2.
  • Visit Permitted?: Yes
  • Visiting Arrangments: By arrangement with Dr Andy Gregory, LTE Manager
  • Geolocation:    51.804108, -0.361341


  • Type: Luvisol

Soil Properties

Variable Value Reference Year Is Estimated Is Baseline
Sand content 15% (Percent) 1945 NO YES
Silt content 59% (Percent) 1945 NO YES
Clay content 26% (Percent) 1945 NO YES
Soil pH 4.8 () 1945 NO YES

Datasets available

Title (hover for a longer description) Year of Publication Identifier Version

Soil data

Highfield Bare Fallow soil chemical properties, 1959-2014 2021 10.23637/rrs1-SOILCN1959-2014-01


Creative Commons License These media (images and videos) are available under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (4.0) with attribution to Rothamsted Research.


Key References


  • Clark, I.M. , Hughes, D.J. , Fu, Q. , Abadie, M. and Hirsch, P.R.(2021) "Metagenomic approaches reveal differences in genetic diversity and relative abundance of nitrifying bacteria and archaea in contrasting soils", Scientific Reports, 11, 15905
    DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-95100-9
  • Neal, A.L. , Hughes, D. , Clark, I.M. , Jansson, J.K. , Hirsch, P.R. and Allard, S.M.(2021) "Microbiome Aggregated Traits and Assembly Are More Sensitive to Soil Management than Diversity", mSystems, 6, e01056-20
    DOI: 10.1128/mSystems.01056-20


  • Neal, A.L. , Bacq-Labreuil, A. , Zhang, X. , Clark, I.M. , Coleman, K. , Mooney, S.J. , Ritz, K. and Crawford, J.W.(2020) "Soil as an extended composite phenotype of the microbial metagenome", Scientific Reports, 10, 10649
    DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-67631-0
  • Bacq-Labreuil, A. , Neal, A.L. , Crawford, J. , Mooney, S.J. , Akkari, E. , Zhang, X. , Clark, I. and Ritz, K.(2020) "Significant structural evolution of a long-term fallow soil in response to agricultural management practices requires at least 10 years after conversion", European Journal of Soil Science, 1-13
    DOI: 10.1111/ejss.13037
  • Rix, G.D. , Todd, J.D. , Neal, A.L. and Brearley, C.A.(2020) "Improved sensitivity, accuracy and prediction provided by a high-performance liquid chromatography screen for the isolation of phytase-harbouring organisms from environmental samples", Microbial Biotechnology, n/a
    DOI: 10.1111/1751-7915.13733


  • Bacq-Labreuil, A. , Crawford, J. , Mooney, S.J. , Neal, A.L. , Akkari, E. , McAuliffe, C. , Zhang, X. , Redmile-Gordon, M. and Ritz, K.(2018) "Effects of cropping systems upon the three-dimensional architecture of soil systems are modulated by texture", Geoderma, 332, 73-83
    DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2018.07.002
  • Neal, A.L. , Blackwell, M. , Akkari, E. , Guyomar, C. , Clark, I. and Hirsch, P.R.(2018) "Phylogenetic distribution, biogeography and the effects of land management upon bacterial non-specific Acid phosphatase Gene diversity and abundance", Plant and Soil, 427, 175-189
    DOI: 10.1007/s11104-017-3301-2


  • Neal, A.L. , Rossmann, M. , Brearley, C. , Akkari, E. , Guyomar, C. , Clark, I.M. , Allen, E. and Hirsch, P.R.(2017) "Land-use influences phosphatase gene microdiversity in soils", Environmental Microbiology, 19, 2740-2753
    DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.13778
  • Jensen, J.L. , Schjonning, P. , Watts, C.W. , Christensen, B.T. and Munkholm, L.J.(2017) "Soil texture analysis revisited: Removal of organic matter matters more than ever", PLOS ONE, 12, e0178039
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178039


  • Gregory, A.S. , Dungait, J.A.J. , Watts, C.W. , Bol, R. , Dixon, E.R. , White, R.P. and Whitmore, A.P.(2016) "Long-term management changes topsoil and subsoil organic carbon and nitrogen dynamics in a temperate agricultural system", European Journal of Soil Science, 67, 421-430
    DOI: 10.1111/ejss.12359


  • Barre, P. , Eglin, T. , Christensen, B.T. , Ciais, P. , Houot, S. , Katterer, T. , Oort, F.v. , Peylin, P. , Poulton, P.R. , Romanenkov, V. and Chenu, C.(2010) "Quantifying and isolating stable soil organic carbon using long-term bare fallow experiments", Biogeosciences, 7, 3839-3850
    DOI: 10.5194/bg-7-3839-2010
  • Goulding, K.W.T. , Murray, P.J. , Sohi, S.P. , Gilliam, L.M. , Williams, J.K. , Clark, I.M. and Hirsch, P.R.(2010) "Soil without plants: the consequences for microorganisms and mesofauna", Proceedings of the 19th World Congress of Soil Science: Soil solutions for a changing world, Brisbane, Australia, 1-6 August 2010. Symposium 2.3.1 The soil-root interface, 134-137


  • 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
  • Hirsch, P.R. , Gilliam, L.M. , Sohi, S.P. , Williams, J.K. , Clark, I.M. and Murray, P.J.(2009) "Starving the soil of plant inputs for 50 years reduces abundance but not diversity of soil bacterial communities", Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 41, 2021-2024
    DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2009.07.011


  • Lawes, J.B. and Gilbert, J.H.(1885) "On some points in the composition of soils; with results illustrating the sources of the fertility of Manitoba Prairie soils", Journal of the Chemical Society, 47, 380-422 (Series 1/67)
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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