Back to the future

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.

The Call for Papers deadline is 31 January, and details about presenting, flash talking, exhibiting, sponsor-ship and 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 agriculture 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).