Centre for Sustainable Cropping

Local identifier
Years operational
To design and test an integrated cropping system that aims to optimise biodiversity, soil health and productivity relative to standard commercial practice
The Centre for Sustainable Cropping, based at Balruddery Farm near Dundee, Scotland is a long-term experimental platform comprising a 42 ha block of six fields, established in 2009 to integrate cross-disciplinary research on sustainability in arable ecosystems. The Centre is based on a framework for designing and testing a cropping system to optimise crop yield, biodiversity and ecosystem services, whilst reducing the environmental footprint of crop production by minimising inputs and the loss of non-renewable resources. Measures currently include direct drilling, cover cropping, legume under-sowing, crop residue incorporation, compost amendments, targeted weed management, wildflower margins and IPM. We use a long-term, whole-systems approach to address the potential conflicts between food production and environmental health. The platform provides an open research facility to test and demonstrate the economic, ecological and environmental trade-offs in sustainable land management over many decades.
Data Access Statement
Available to collaborators only
Data Access Notes
Data and archived samples are freely available to researchers on request and in collaboration with the data owners, provided there are no conflicts of interest with existing users.
Data license
Don't know
Data URL
Data policy
Don't know
Dr Cathy Hawes
principal investigator
James Hutton Institute
Ecological Sciences

Site: Centre for Sustainable Cropping, James Hutton Institute, Balruddery Farm

research station field
Local code
United Kingdom
Geographic location
56.480141, -3.123679
© OpenStreetMap contributors
(south facing)
Visits permitted?
Visiting arrangements
Visitors are welcome to the site. Please contact the co-ordinator: Cathy.Hawes@hutton.ac.uk to arrange a visit.
The site comprises 6 fields over 42 hectares in an arable farm, with a history of cereal and potato production. Details of the research farm can be found here: https://www.hutton.ac.uk/about/facilities/balruddery-farm
Each field is planted with one of the 6 crops in the rotation and divided into two to compare an integrated cropping system on one half with standard commercial practice on the other. Integrated management includes no-till, cover cropping, legume under-sowing, straw incorporation, compost amendments, IPM strategies, targeted weed management and wildflower margins - all designed to meet multiple goals of enhancing biodiversity, improving soil function and reducing losses whilst maintaining production. Treatments are imposed at the half-field scale and are flexible over time, adapting to changes in legislation and technology.
Soil type
Soil description
Sandy loam, top soil depth 25-38 cm, top soil stone content 5-12%
Soil properties
VariableDepthValue (range)UnitsRef yearEstimated?Baseline?
soil pH1 – 20 Centimetres5.6
soil total carbon1 – 20 Centimetres2.8 %
Climatic type
temperate oceanic climate
Climate properties
VariableTime periodValue (range)Units
average annual precipitation761 millimeter
wind speed4.9 miles per
annualair temperature8.6 (5 – 12.1) degree Celsius

Design period:

Design Type
Design description
Integrated management compared to standard practice in a split-field design with year on year replication over a six year rotation
Number of plots
Number of subplots
Number of replicates
Number of harvests per year
CropYears grown
winter wheat
Crop Rotation
CSC rotation  2010—
  • 1
  • 2
    winter wheat
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Factor name
Factor levels
cropping system
Two cropping systems are compared over multiple 6 year rotations
Integrated crop
Combination of a range of best practice agroecological practices: direct drill, compost amendments, straw incorporation, cover crops, clover undersowing, IPM, biofortification, targeted weed management and wildflower margins
Standard commercial practice
Control treatments based on standard agronomic practice typical of the geographic region for each crop in the rotation
soil pHSoilN/Aannuallybulk soil measurements to 20 cm depth from 350 GPS grid locations across the site in March every year
soil organic matterSoilmg/kgannuallybulk soil measurements to 20 cm depth from 350 GPS grid locations across the site in March every year
soil total carbonNot specified%annuallyElemental Analyser on 350 GPS bulk soil samples collected in March
total soil nitrogenNot specified%annuallyElemental Analyser on 350 GPS bulk soil samples collected in March
soil plant nutrientsNot specifiedmg/kgannuallyP, K, ,Mg, Ca, Mo, S, Mn, Cu, Bo, Zn, Fe, Na, CEC from bulk soil measurements to 20 cm depth at 350 GPS grid locations across the site in March every year
weed seedbankNot specifiedcountannuallyGlasshouse emergence method used on bulk soil samples collected from 350 GPS locations across the 6 fields to give number of viable seeds per species
yieldNot specifiedcountannuallyCrop yield maps gathered from the combine for all crops except potatoes.
pollinatorsNot specifiedcount3 times a yearTransect walks to record bees and butterflies foraging within the crop and in field margins; coloured pan traps in the crops to sample all pollinating insects flying between 10 am and 4 pm on the day of sampling.
earthwormsNot specifiedcounttwice a yearNumber of individuals per species (adults only) and total number of juveniles sampled in each half field in the spring (April/May) and autumn (August/September)
litter decompositionNot specifiedrateannuallyEstimated as the change in weight of tea bags buried in the spring (April/May) and collected after crop harvest (August/September). Rate of decomposition reflects microbial activity.
Greenhouse Gas EmissionsNot specifiedppm5 times a yearCover boxes are sealed and collected gas is then analysed for NH4, NO3 and CH4 approximately once a month through the cropping season. Nitrates in soil water are monitored at the same time in the same locations using ceramic cup lysimeters and data are used to estimate N budgets.
financial marginsNot specifiedSterlingannualAll input costs (agrochemicals and seed) plus tractor time and fuel use are recorded and use alongside crop yield/sale prices to estimate gross financial margins of the two cropping systems

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