Exhaustion Land

Local identifier
R/EX/4
Years operational
1856—
Objective
To test the residual effects of mineral fertilizer and manures applied 1876-1901 and of additional phosphate applied since 1986, on the yield of spring barley (up to 1991) and winter wheat. A test of potassium was introduced in 2007. Soils now have a range of plant available P and K.
Description
The Exhaustion Land experiment has had several distinct phases since it started in 1856. Today, it is used to study the residual effects of fertilizers and manures applied from 1856-1901 and additional phosphate applied since 1986, on the yield of cereals. A test of potassium was introduced in 2007. Treatments have been managed so that the soils now have a wide range of plant available P and K.
Farm operation data?
Sample archive?
Samples available?
 
Data Access Statement
Available to any researcher on request
Data license
CC BY
Data URL
http://www.era.rothamsted.ac.uk/Exhaustion
Data policy
Yes (not online)
Organization
Rothamsted Research
People
Dr Andy Macdonald
principal investigator
Rothamsted Research
Dr Margaret Glendining
data manager
Rothamsted Research
Computational and Analytical Sciences

Site: Hoosfield

Type
research station field
Location
Harpenden
Hertfordshire
United Kingdom
Geographic location
51.812883, -0.375931
© OpenStreetMap contributors
Elevation
128 Metres
Visits permitted?
Yes
Visiting arrangements
By arrangement with Dr Any Macdonald
History
From 1852-1855, this site was the 'Lois Weedon' plots, an experiment that tested different methods of husbandry, with no fertilizer or manure. Winter wheat was grown. See Johnston & Poulton (1977) for more details.
Soil type
luvisol
Soil description
Chromic Luvisol. Silty clay loam topsoil over clay-with–flints (Avery & Catt, 1995). The soil contains a large number of flints and some rounded pebbles from the material derived from the Reading Beds. The soil is naturally acid and free draining. Below about 2m depth the soil becomes chalk. Soil pH: Since the 1950s, chalk (CaCO3) has been applied as necessary to maintain a minimum soil pH of 7.0. Like several other old arable fields at Rothamsted, Hoosfield was given large dressings of chalk in the early 19th century, when the practice was to dig out the underlying chalk and spread it on the arable land. Chalk was applied at up to 250 t/ha, and this increased topsoil pH in water (23cm) to between 7.0 and 8.0 (from Poulton et al, 2013).
Soil properties
VariableDepthValue (range)UnitsRef yearEstimated?Baseline?
sand content Metres28 Percent
clay content Metres52 Percent
clay content Metres20 Percent

Design period: Phase I (1856—1901)

Design Type
Demonstration strip design
Design description
Four plots were established on the Exhaustion Land site in 1856, this was known as 'Smith's Wheat' experiment. Winter wheat was grown each year. In 1876 the four plots were divided and two more plots were added, from a strip of unmanured and unfertilized wheat on the north side of the experiment. This was known as the 'Potato experiment', and potatoes were grown every year from 1876-1901. From 1856 to 1901, the plots received annual applications of N, P, K or FYM. There were 10 plots from 1876 to 1901, each 0.067 ha (1/6th of an acre).
Crops
CropYears grown
wheat 1856—1875
potatoes 1876—1901
Factors
phosphate fertilizer exposure
Plot application: Whole plot
superphosphate  (34 kgP/ha)
1876—1896
Applied to crop: All crops
basic slag  (34 kgP/ha)
1897—1901
Applied to crop: potatoes
potassium fertilizer exposure
Plot application: Whole plot
 (91 kgK/ha)
1859—1874
Applied to crop: wheat
Chemical form: potassium sulphate
 (137 kgK/ha)
1876—1901
Applied to crop: potatoes
Chemical form: potassium sulphate
farmyard manure exposure
Plot application: Whole plot
farmyard manure  (35 t/ha)
1876—1901
Applied to crop: potatoes
nitrogen fertilizer exposure
Plot application: Whole plot
 (96 kgN/ha)
1856—1901
Applied to crop: All crops
As ammonium salts ammonium sulphate & ammonium chloride
 (96 kgN/ha)
1856—1901
Applied to crop: All crops
Chemical form: sodium nitrate
sodium nutrient exposure
Plot application: Whole plot
 (16 kgNa/ha)
1856—1901
Applied to crop: All crops
magnesium nutrient exposure
Plot application: Whole plot
 (11 kgMg/ha)
1856—1901
Applied to crop: All crops
Factor combinations
PKNaMg  1856—1901
phosphate fertilizer exposure: superphosphate
Applied to crop: All crops
potassium fertilizer exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
magnesium nutrient exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
sodium nutrient exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
P  1876—1901
phosphate fertilizer exposure: superphosphate
Applied to crop: potatoes
NPKNaMg  1856—1901
nitrogen fertilizer exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
phosphate fertilizer exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
potassium fertilizer exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
sodium nutrient exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
magnesium nutrient exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
N  1856—1901
nitrogen fertilizer exposure: -
Applied to crop: All crops
nitrogen fertilizer exposure: -
Applied to crop: potatoes
FYM (P)  1876—1882
farmyard manure exposure: -
Applied to crop: potatoes
phosphate fertilizer exposure: -
Applied to crop: potatoes
FYM (N*P)  1876—1882
farmyard manure exposure: -
Applied to crop: potatoes
nitrogen fertilizer exposure: -
Last application in 1881
Applied to crop: potatoes
phosphate fertilizer exposure: -
Applied to crop: potatoes
FYM  1883—1901
farmyard manure exposure: -
Nil  1856—1901

Design period: Phase II (1902—1939)

Description
Between 1902 and 1939 no fertilizers or manures were applied and, with a few exceptions, cereals (usually spring barley) were grown. The site was fallow in 1920. Yields were recorded in some of the earlier years, and residual effects of the previous treatments were very small in the absence of fresh nitrogen fertilizer. Yields were not recorded from 1923-1939, except in 1935.
Number of plots
10
Crops
CropYears grown

Design period: Phase III (1940—1985)

Description
Between 1940 and 1985, spring barley was grown and N fertilizer applied to all plots every year. Initially a single rate was applied, 63-88 kg N/ha. In 1976 the 10 main plots were each divided to test four rates of N (0, 48, 96 and 144 kg N/ha), which were rotated each year. No other fertilizer or manure was applied 1902-1985. No crop was grown in 1967 or 1975. Grain and straw yields were recorded from 1949 onwards. Nitrogen not only increased yields, but allowed the crop to take advantage of P and K residues remaining in the soil from Phase I of the experiment. The effects of these were initially large but declined as amounts of phosphate in the soil declined.
Number of plots
10
Number of subplots
40
Number of harvests per year
1
Crop
CropYears grown
barley 1940—1985
Factor
nitrogen fertilizer exposure
Single rate applied to all plots until 1976 when 4 different N rates were applied but rotate in the sequence N0>N3>N2>N1, eg N0 1976, N3 1977, N2 1978, N1 1979, N0 1980. the cumulative N rate for each plot is therefore equal.
 (75 kgN/ha)
1940—1948
Chemical form: ammonium sulfate
 (63 kgN/ha)
1949—1963
Chemical form: ammonium sulfate
 (88 kgN/ha)
1964—1974
Chemical form: calcium ammonium nitrate
N0  (0 )
1976—1985
N1  (48 kgN/ha)
1976—1985
Chemical form: calcium ammonium nitrate
N2  (96 kgN/ha)
1976—1985
Chemical form: calcium ammonium nitrate
N3  (144 kgN/ha)
1976—1985
Chemical form: calcium ammonium nitrate

Design period: Phase IV (1986—2006)

Description
In 1986, after a long period when the P residues in particular were being “exhausted”, it was decided to see how quickly this decline in soil fertility could be reversed. Annual, cumulative dressings of 0 v 44 v 87 v 131 kg P ha-1, as triple superphosphate, were tested on five of the original plots (each divided into four sub-plots). Spring barley was grown. This was known as the "P Test". Basal N and K were applied such that these nutrients did not limit yield. Responses to fresh P were rapid. Applications of P stopped after seven years. No P was applied between 1993 and 1999, but since 2000, maintenance dressings, equivalent to offtakes by the crop, have been applied (not to the no-fresh-P sub-plots). Wheat has been grown since 1992. Typically, it showed the same response to available-P as spring barley i.e. above a critical level, on this soil, of about 12 mg kg-1 there is no further increase in yield.
Crops
CropYears grown
barley 1986—1991
wheat 1992—2006
Factors
phosphate fertilizer exposure
Applied to "P" test sub-plots. These plots received basal manuring rates of 144 kg N/ha and 83 kg K/ha
Plot application: Sub plot
P0  (0 )
P1  (44 kgP/ha)
1986—1991
Applied to crop: barley
Application frequency: annually in autumn
Chemical form: calcium bis(dihydrogenphosphate)
P2  (87 kgP/ha)
1986—1991
Applied to crop: barley
Application frequency: annually in autumn
Chemical form: calcium bis(dihydrogenphosphate)
P3  (131 kgP/ha)
1986—1991
Applied to crop: barley
Application frequency: annually in autumn
Chemical form: calcium bis(dihydrogenphosphate)
nitrogen fertilizer exposure
Applied to "N" Tests sub plots. N rates rotate each year N0>N3>N2>N1, eg N0 1986, N3 1987, N2 1988, N1 1989, N0 1990
Plot application: Sub plot
N0  (0 )
Applied to crop: wheat
N1  (48 kgN/ha)
1986—1991
Applied to crop: barley
Chemical form: calcium ammonium nitrate
N2  (96 kgN/ha)
1986—1991
Chemical form: calcium ammonium nitrate
N3  (144 kgN/ha)
1986—1991
Applied to crop: barley
Chemical form: calcium ammonium nitrate

Design period: Phase V (2007—)

Description
On the other half of the experiment, the effects of K residues (in the presence of basal P and N) on yield are investigated (the "K Test" plots). Since 2007, annual cumulative applications of 0, 62.2 and 124.5 kg K ha-1 as muriate of potash have been applied (K0, K1 and K2). Basal N and P has been applied so that yields are not limited. From autumn 2015 P was withheld from plots 013, 033, 053, 073 and 093 ("P Test" plots) in addition to those which no longer receive P (plots 014, 034, 054, 074 and 094) because the plant available P was increasing on these plots. See Exhaustion Land today for more details.
Crops
CropYears grown