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 of 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

  • Andrew Gregory

  • Role: Principal Investigator
  • ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7123-0784
  • 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

  • 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

Description

  • 40 pairs of main plots in 5 blocks, phased in over a 5 year period. Each block had four different three-year rotations, followed by two arable test crops: in four plots in each block the rotation was repeated every five years (continuous) and in four plots in each block the rotations alternated every five years, on a 20-year cycle of all four arable and ley-arable rotations. The main plots are in pairs, one of each pair received FYM (farmyard manure) applied every fifth year, to the first test crop, 1941-1967 (the split plots).

Design

  • Period: 1938 - 1972
  • Experiment Design Type: Split-plot
  • Number of Plots: 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
Sugar Beet
Spring Barley
Winter Wheat
Winter Rye
Kale
One-year Hay
Carrots
Oats
Beans
Lucerne (alfalfa)
Sainfoin

Crop Rotations

Rotation Crops
Ar arable with roots (1938 - 1972) Potatoes > Winter Wheat > Sugar Beet > Potatoes > Spring Barley
Ah arable with hay (1938 - 1972) Potatoes > Winter Wheat > One-year Hay > Potatoes > Spring Barley
L grass/cover ley (1938 - 1972) Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Potatoes > Spring Barley
Lu legume ley (1938 - 1972) Lucerne (alfalfa) > Lucerne (alfalfa) > Lucerne (alfalfa) > Potatoes > Spring Barley

Factors

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

Farmyard Manure Exposure

Description: The main plots are in pairs, one of each pair received FYM (farmyard manure) applied every fifth year, to the first test crop, 1941-1967.

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes

Measurements

Variable Unit Collection
Frequency
Material Description Crop
Test Crop Yield t/ha annual AllCrops Test crop yields - potatoes, wheat, barley, sugar beet.
Soil Organic Carbon every five years Soil The soil in each block was sampled regularly every five years from 1955, to coincide with the end of the third treatment year

Description

  • 40 pairs of main plots in 5 blocks, phased in over a 5 year period. Each block had four different three-year rotations, followed by two arable test crops: in four plots in each block the rotation was repeated every five years (continuous) and in four plots in each block the rotations alternated every five years, on a 20-year cycle of all four arable and ley-arable rotations. The main plots are in pairs, one of each pair received FYM (farmyard manure) applied every fifth year, to the first test crop, 1941-1967 (the split plots). The treatments were: AB (all arable rotation); AF (arable rotation with roots or fallow); LN3 (3-year grass ley with fertilizer N); LC3 (3-year legume or grass/clover ley). The alternating rotations were replaced by eight-year grass or grass/clover leys in the mid-1970s: LN8 (8-year grass leys with fertilizer N, followed by two arable test crops); LC8 (8-year grass/clover leys, followed by two arable test crops). The rotations are phased in over a five-year period in the five different blocks, so that each year of the five-year rotation is present each year. The eight-year leys were also phased in, the first cycle starting 1973-77, the second cycle 1978-82. The test crops had four N treatments (split-split plots).

Design

  • Period: 1973 - 2007
  • Experiment Design Type: Split split plot
  • Number of Plots: 8
  • Number of Replicates: 5
  • Number of Sub-plots:
  • Number of Harvests per Year: 1

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Wheat
Spring Barley
Winter Rye
Potatoes
Fallow
Oats
Winter Beans
Carrots
Forage Maize
Grass Clover Leys
Grass Leys
Red Clover

Crop Rotations

Rotation Crops
AB/ABe (all arable rotation) (1973 - 2007) Spring Barley > Spring Barley > Oats > Wheat > Spring Barley
AF/AM (all arable rotation with fallow) (1973 - 2007) Fallow > Fallow > Oats > Wheat > Spring Barley
Ln3 (1973 - 2007) Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Wheat > Spring Barley
Lc3 (1973 - 2007) Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Wheat > Spring Barley
Lln8 (1973 - 2007) Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Grass Leys > Wheat > Spring Barley
Llc8 (1973 - 2007) Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Wheat > Spring Barley

Factors

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

Nitrogen Fertilizer Exposure

Description: 4 levels of N fertilizer applied to wheat and barley/rye test crops. Split-spilt plots

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes

Potassium Fertilizer Exposure

Description: Corrective K applications to 1st test wheat. 4 levels.

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes

Split Nitrogen Fertilizer Exposure

Description: Split v single N applications to wheat test crop, tested 2001-2005, split plots. Applied to Farmyard manure residue split plots, last applied in 1960s.

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes

Residue of Farmyard Manure Exposure

Description: Farmyard manure residue, last applied 1966. Split-plots.

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes

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

  • 40 main plots, divided over five blocks. Half the plots have been in four continuous five-year arable or ley-arable rotations since 1938: three years of treatment crops followed by two arable test crops. The other 20 plots were in alternating rotations from 1938 to the mid-1970s: a 20-year cycle of all four arable and ley-arable rotations. These were replaced by eight-year grass or grass/clover leys from the mid-1970s until 2007. From 2008 all plots were in five-year rotations of three years of treatment crops and two years of test crops.: AO (continuous arable with oats); ABe (continuous arable with beans); Ln3 (three-year grass leys with nitrogen); Lc3 (three-year grass/clover leys). In 2021 winter beans (BE) were replaced with winter barley (WB), and all arable rotations followed the same rotation, R, WB, O, W and R. Rotation ABe became AO in 2021, so there are now one arable rotation and two ley/arable rotations, with different histories.

Design

  • Period: 2008 - Now
  • Experiment Design Type: Split split plot
  • Number of Plots: 8
  • Number of Replicates: 5
  • Number of Sub-plots:
  • Number of Harvests per Year: 1

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Winter Wheat (w)
Winter Rye (r)
Beans (be)
Winter Oats (o)
Winter Barley (wb)
Grass Leys
Grass Clover Leys

Crop Rotations

Rotation Crops
Ln3 (2008 - ) Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Winter Wheat (w) > Winter Rye (r)
Lc3 (2008 - ) Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Grass Clover Leys > Winter Wheat (w) > Winter Rye (r)
(ABe) ABe (2008 - 2020) Winter Rye (r) > Winter Oats (o) > Beans (be) > Winter Wheat (w) > Winter Rye (r)
(AM) AO (2008 - 2020) Winter Rye (r) > Beans (be) > Winter Oats (o) > Winter Wheat (w) > Winter Rye (r)
AO (2021 - ) Winter Rye (r) > Winter Barley (wb) > Winter Oats (o) > Winter Wheat (w) > Winter Rye (r)

Factors

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

Nitrogen Fertilizer Exposure

Description: 4 rates of N fertilizer applied to test crops Split-spilt plots

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes

Residue Farmyard Manure Exposure,

Description: Farmyard manure residues, last applied in 1960s, split plots. Used to test split N 2001-2005.

Levels
Level Name Amount Years Frequency Crop Method Chemical Form Notes

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 (W)
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 Andrew Gregory
  • Elevation: 99 Metres
  • Slope: 2
  • Geolocation:    51.99906, -0.61673

Soil

Datasets available

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

Crop yield data - Annual

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

Experiment details

Woburn Ley-arable experiment cropping sequence 1938-2020 2022 10.23637/wrn3-cropping1938-2020-02
02

Soil data

Woburn Ley-arable experiment soil organic carbon, 1938-2009 2022 10.23637/wrn3-soc3809-01
01
.

License

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

Images

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Plans, treatments and background

  • WLA background 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. Johnston et al, 2022, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK . DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-manag1938-2020-01
  • WLA cropping Woburn Ley-arable experiment cropping sequence, 1938-2020. Showing generic plan and arable and ley rotation sequence of all 5 Blocks (I-V), and the different treatment crops. Available as pdf and dataset. DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-cropping1938-2020-02
  • WLA fertilizer Woburn Ley-arable experiment fertilizer and lime applications, 1938-2020. Annual fertilizer and lime applications, including basal N, P and K, and corrective K, applied to test and treatment crops. DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-fert1938-2020-01

Key References

2023

  • Poulton, P.R. , Johnston, A.E. and White, R.P.(2023) "Response of three cereal crops in continuous arable or ley-arable rotations to fertiliser nitrogen and soil nitrogen at Rothamsted's Woburn Ley-arable experiment", Soil Use and Management, 00, 1-14
    DOI: 10.1111/sum.12872

2022

  • Poulton, P.R. , Johnston, A.E. , Macdonald, A.J. and Glendining, M.J.(2022) "Woburn Ley-arable experiment fertilizer and lime applications 1938-2020"
    DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-fert1938-2020-01
  • 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", Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK , , 28
    DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-manag1938-2020-01
  • 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, 1.0
    DOI: 10.23637/wrn3-wheat7618-01

2021

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

  • 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
  • Watts, C.W. , Glendining, M.J. and Castells-Brooke, N.I.D.(2017) "Woburn Experimental Farm Soil and Field Maps"
    DOI: 10.23637/ws-soil-maps-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

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", Part 2 , 5-39
    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", Part 2 , 131-159
    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
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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