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Back to the future

Long-term experiments continue to inform and direct agricultural science, to guide the future of farming and food production, all issues for a new conference in May at Rothamsted

Rothamsted Research

Modern farming owes much to long-standing research that continues to pump out results and to provide valuable perspectives to guide the future of agricultural science, achievements that will be celebrated at a three-day international conference in May.

The Future of Long-Term Experiments in Agricultural Science, from 21-23 May, is being organised by the Association of Applied Biologists at Rothamsted Conference Centre to mark the 175th anniversary of the start of scientific investigations at Rothamsted. Details about registration are available here.

"We are uniquely positioned to assess the continuing value of long-term experiments," says Keith Goulding, the Conference Chair and Rothamsted's Sustainable Soils Research Fellow. "We will identify the new questions that need to be asked and how best to go about answering them."

"Like Rothamsted, the conference will be forward-looking," says Achim Dobermann, the institute's Director and Chief Executive. "We will focus on how these experiments can contribute to the sustainable intensification of agricultural in line with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals."

Worldwide, many organisations have established long-term experiments or other long-term research platforms and followed a tradition that started when the first long-term trials, now classical experiments, began in 1843 at Rothamsted on the institute's Broadbalk field.

Rothamsted subsequently began other long-term experiments at the site, and they continue today. The institute also established an archive of grain, grass, fertiliser, manure and soil samples for all these experiments from the very beginning of the first one on Broadbalk.

Besides scientific presentations and debates, the conference will include live streaming, flash talks and speed-dating opportunities. There will also be visits to the long-term experiments and the samples archive, and other activities.

Planned sessions include the unique contributions of LTEs to agricultural science; new designs, methods and tools for LTEs; the mathematics and statistics of LTEs, including mathematical modelling and databases; and the progress and future viability of the Global Long-Term Experiment Network (GLTEN).




Rothamsted Flickr

Rothamsted Research contacts:

Lucy Wansbury, Science Management
Tel: 44-1582-938-060

Susan Watts, Head of Communications
Tel: 44-1582-938-109
Mob: 44-7964-832-719

About Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research is the oldest agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices. Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of its economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK exceeds £3000 million a year (Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence, by Séan Rickard, 2015). Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships. Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform. We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. For more information, visit


BSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond. Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £469M in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.

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