New research programme set to explore the secrets of profitable crop rotations


Rothamsted Research is one of four major partners involved in new projects aiming to improve crop rotations economically and environmentally.

Looking beyond the factors affecting crop performance within a season, an ambitious new research programme aims to uncover the features of successful crop rotations. To deliver the programme, Rothamsted Research will work in partnership with NIAB CUF, Lancaster University and the James Hutton Institute, along with 14 other organisations from across the agricultural and horticultural industries. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), which commissioned the research, has awarded £1.2m in funding to address challenges in soil and water management across whole rotations. The work will form a five-year programme of research to help farmers and agronomists optimise soil and water management decisions and plan environmentally and economically beneficial rotations.

The funding is allocated to four interrelated projects, that will address:

  • Links between rotational management and soil physical conditions with yields,

  • Use of precision technologies to identify contrasting zones of the field, with the aim that inputs to these zones be modified according to short-term financial return and long-term productivity and environmental quality,

  • The effects of soil damage caused by the management of root crops on subsequent crops and remedial interventions,

  • Links between soil conditions, efficient water use, the growth of roots and canopy, and yields.

Together, these projects aim to improve understanding of soil structure and equip growers with the knowledge to build resilient, sustainable and profitable rotations. Central to this programme is a focus on knowledge exchange, giving farmers and their advisors access to trials, tools and data, as well as encouraging a two-way flow of information to help bridge the gap between robust science and practical solutions for farmers.

Dr Mike Storey, AHDB Head of Resource Management, said: “This research will generate new data and knowledge to answer challenges across whole rotations and provide information and tools to allow farm businesses to make rewarding and sustainable rotational decisions.”

Notes to Editors

About the research partnership:

The programme was commissioned under ‘AHDB soil and water call: management of rotation, soil structure and water’ and includes £1.2 million funding from AHDB Potatoes, AHDB Horticulture and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.

The four core research organisations are: Rothamsted Research, NIAB CUF, Lancaster University and the James Hutton Institute. Partner researchers are: Aarhus University, BIOSS, Vegetable Consultancy Services. Contributing in-kind are: Cambridge University Potato Growers Research Association, Frontier Agriculture, Grimme (UK) Ltd, Kettle Produce Ltd, Spearhead Marketing Ltd, B&C Farming Ltd, Greenvale AP, Farm Care Ltd, J & AE Montgomery, WB Daw & Son and Frederick Hiam Ltd.

About AHDB

AHDB is a UK-wide Non-Departmental Public Body sponsored by Defra and primarily funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain through statutory levies. Established in 2008, it supports the following industries: meat and livestock (cattle, sheep and pigs) in England; horticulture, milk and potatoes in Great Britain; and cereals and oilseeds in the UK. The AHDB’s remit covers 75 per cent of total UK agricultural output. Further information on AHDB can be found at

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We are the longest running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for over 170 years. Our mission is to deliver the knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.

Our strength lies in the integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in plant, insect and soil science.
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