Rothamsted Research (Harpenden, Hertfordshire) is home to the oldest continuing agricultural field experiments in the world. Seven of these Long-term Experiments (LTEs) continue today and provide an invaluable resource for scientists around the world.
Between 1843 and 1856, Sir John Lawes and Sir Henry Gilbert established several long-term field experiments at Rothamsted Research (Harpenden). 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. We carefully make management changes every 5-10 years to ensure that they remain relevant; by asking new questions and applying new methods we gain novel insights. We make the data and samples collected available to researchers worldwide.
With remarkable prescience, Lawes and Gilbert retained samples of crops, soils, fertilisers and manures applied to the experiments. Successive generations of scientists at Rothamsted have continued to add to the collection and the resulting sample archive now comprise over 300,000 samples. This unique resource is of immensive value. New analyses of archived material continue to provide insights into changes occuring over 180 years. No other long-term experiments have such an archive.
The e-RA , brings the data from the classical and other long-term experiments, much of it originally in paper format, into an accessible and useable database.
The long-term data are not confined to the field experiments. Meteorological measurements have been made since the 1850s when Lawes and Gilbert first collected and analysed rainwater. With current concerns over climate change, the long-term weather records provide invaluable information about the climatic conditions under which the crops have been grown. These data now form part of the UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) which, together with the Long-Term experiments, Sample Archive and e-RA., comprise the Long Term Experiments NBRI.
The Long Term Experiment National Capability is linked to similar experiments and platforms around the world via the ‘Long-Term Soil-Ecosystem Experiments Global Inventory’
The NBRI has had a very wide range of uses: the identification of sources of radioactive fallout; crop responses to nitrogen and other nutrients; fertiliser recommendations; and the development and calibration of mathematical models such as the Roth-C model for the carbon cycle.
The use of the Long-term Experiments NBRI for both national and international research collaborations is actively encouraged.
Anyone wishing to access the Long-term Experiments and/or the Sample Archive for research purposes should discuss their proposed work with a Rothamsted collaborator before submitting a completed sample request form. Potential Rothamsted collaborators are shown on the form.