Highfield Ley Arable

Local identifier
R/RN/1
Years operational
1948—
Objective
To study the effects of various three-year leys on the fertility of the soil as measured by a sequence of three arable test crops.
Description
The site was originally permanent grassland since 1838 (>100 years). Some plots stayed in permanent grass, others went into continuous arable cropping and some alternated between leys and arable. Yields are no longer measured but SOM continues to be measured. Available P and K in soil have been measured periodically. The main comparisons have been of four rotations, each of six years duration. The arable with lay rotation includes a one-year ley cut for hay. The other three have had three-year leys of different species and different management, followed by three arable crops and are referred to as 'test crops'. Highfield Ley Arable runs in contrast to Fosters Ley Arable which has the same soil type but a different cropping history (having been in continuous cropping for several centuries).
Farm operation data?
Sample archive?
Samples available?
 
Data Access Statement
Available to any researcher on request
Data Access Notes
Request data from e-RA curator. Will be released online in near future.
Data license
CC BY
Data policy
Don't know
Organization
Rothamsted Research
research organisation
People
Dr Andy MacDonald
principal investigator
Rothamsted Research
Sustainable Agricultural Systems
 
Dr Margaret Glendining
data manager
Rothamsted Research
Computational and Analytical Sciences
 
Dr Sarah Perryman
data manager
Rothamsted Research
Computational and Analytical Sciences

Site: Highfield Ley Arable

Type
research station field
Local code
R/RN/1
Location
Harpenden
Hertfordshire
United Kingdom
Geographic location
51.802777, -0.366025
© OpenStreetMap contributors
Elevation
130 Metres
Visits permitted?
Yes
Visiting arrangements
By arrangement with Dr Andy Macdonald, LTE Manager.
History
The site was originally permanent grassland since 1838 (>100 years).
Management
Ploughing: At the start of the experiment ploughing was shallow, not more than 15cm deep but the depth was gradually increased to 23 cm as more powerful tractors were introduced. Liming: Lime has been applied as required since 1958. Ley management - permanent and re-seeded grass: Two-years sheep grazing followed by one-years hay 1949-57. Since 1958 grazing discontinued, cut repeatedly at early silage stage. Since 1991 grass leys were cut for hay in mid-summer; the hay was baled and removed.
Soil type
luvisol
Soil description
Batcombe series flinty silt or loam over clay-with-flints.
Climatic type
Temperate oceanic climate

Design period: First period, 1949-1954 (1949—1954)

Design Type
Replicated control design
Description
Plots of four rotations with reseeded grass and permanent grass were laid down in randomised blocks of five or six plots each. There were 12 blocks, two in each phase of a six-year cycle. The whole experiment was started over three seasons 1949, 1950 and 1951 and blocks due to start in 1952, 1953 and 1954 started three years earlier with 'dummy' test crops. Each plot was 0.088 acre.
Crops
CropYears grown
lucerne
grass leys
wheat
potatoes
barley
Crop Rotations
Lucerne
  • 1
    -
Grazed ley
  • 1
    -
Cut grass
  • 1
    -
Arable with hay
  • 1
    -
Measurements
VariableMaterialUnitsFrequencyScaleComment
soil total carbonNot specified
plant available phosphorousNot specified
plant available potassiumNot specified
yield componentsNot specified

Design period: Second period, 1955-1960 (1955—1960)

Design Type
Replicated control design
Description
Various changes were made in this period; Spring oats were introduced instead of barley as the third treatment crop of the 'arable with hay' rotation in order to lessen risk of infection of wheat by take-all or eyespot diseases. Dressings of fertiliser K were applied before the first treatment crops were sown and to the R and G plots. This was because soil and plant analyses had shown plots growing hay, cut grass and lucerne lost more K than grazed plots, which would affect the yield of test crops. Plots were further split to measure potash and phosphate responses in test-crop potatoes that followed different leys. From 1958, the standard applications of P and K were revised and corrective dressing applied.
Crops
CropYears grown
lucerne
grass leys
wheat
potatoes
oats
Measurements
VariableMaterialUnitsFrequencyScaleComment
soil total carbonNot specified
plant available phosphorousNot specified
plant available potassiumNot specified
yield componentsNot specified

Design period: Third period, 1961-1967 (1961—1967)

Description
Various changes were made during this period; Sugar beet replaced potatoes as the second treatment crop of the 'arable with hay' rotation. The test of FYM to second treatment crop was omitted from 1961 (to minimise soil born pathogens such as cyst-nematodes). All sub-plot tests of manures to treatment crops were discontinued to allow more elaborate tests on the test-crops; wheat and barley received N at four rates. From 1962, no more plots were sown to 'grazed ley' or 'cut grass'. Instead two new three-year rotations were introduced: i. All-grass receiving fertiliser ii. Clover-grass receiving no fertiliser. From 1962 FYM was ploughed in (previously applied in furrows before planting). From 1962 potatoes were planted by machine. From 1963 certain plots of reseeded grass were ploughed up and put into test-crop sequence and then into 'arable with hay' treatment-crops.
Crops
CropYears grown
grass leys
grass clover leys
wheat
sugarbeet
oats
Measurements
VariableMaterialUnitsFrequencyScaleComment
soil total carbonNot specified
plant available phosphorousNot specified
Not specifiedplant available potassium
yield componentsNot specified

Design period: Fourth period, 1968- (1968—)

Description
Two phases were maintained to study the effects of treatments on changes in soil organic matter. In one of these, the reseeded plots ploughed up in 1964 were sown down again in 1973 to restore the original pattern. The other four phases the normal test crop sequence was followed by continuous wheat cropping to study soil-borne diseases.
Crops
CropYears grown
lucerne
grass leys
grass clover leys
reseeded grass
wheat
sugarbeet
oats
potatoes
barley
hay
Measurements
VariableMaterialUnitsFrequencyScaleComment
soil total carbonNot specified
plant available phosphorousNot specified
plant available potassiumNot specified
yield componentsNot specified

Related publications

  • Rothamsted Ley Arable soil organic carbon 1948-2008
  • 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", Rothamsted Experimental Station, Report for 1972, Part 2, 131-159
    10.23637/ERADOC-1-70 [In English]
  • 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", Rothamsted Experimental Station, Report for 1972, Part 2, 131-159