Rothamsted Research is a fascinating place. For 170 years (it was established in 1843), scientists there have been cultivating crops and studying how different nutrients, crop protection treatments, and now genes, affect their crop yields and influence other factors such as soil quality and insect diversity.
The first time I visited Rothamsted Research Station, it was -5°C outside and the fields were smothered in snow. But the delayed trains and the dicey drive on the ice were all worth it when we opened the doors of the sampling storage to see shelves and shelves of archived cereal grains… The further back you went in time, the more impressive the sample bottles got – with yellowing labels and cork stoppers sealed with wax. It was like an immense sweetshop for granivores.
The reason why Rothamsted is so exciting for us is that there have been manured and unmanured plots of bread wheat and barley since 1843 and 1852, respectively. This means that the long term effects of manure or lack of it on cereal grains can be assessed, and since the archive stretches right back to the beginning of the experiments, we can even study the effect of manuring over time.