Exploring alternative ways of growing crops to balance food production with a healthy environment.

AgZero+ is using experimental platforms at Rothamsted Research to identify opportunities to improve the efficiency of production and reduce negative impacts on the environment.

Large-scale experimental platforms to test alternative paths to sustainable production.

The design of the platforms and intensive monitoring helps us to quantify the relative benefit of different approaches for production and the environment. There are two platforms – one in the Southwest studying livestock systems, and one in the East studying cropping systems.
Cows and bulls

Cows and Bulls

The Rowden grazing experiment

Alternative ways of producing beef and lamb are being tested on the Rowden experimental platform at North Wyke, Devon. Large 1 Ha plots are either managed as permanent pasture or newly established pastures including deep rooted grasses and broad-leaf plants that are predicted to increase soil carbon. The potential for restricting grazing to small areas of the field at any one time to allow the pasture to recover (cell grazing) is also being tested in combination with the different plant mixes.


The Large-Scale Rotation Experiment

The Large-Scale Rotation Experiment (LSRE) was established at two sites in 2017 (at Brooms Barn , Suffolk) and 2018 (at Harpenden, Hertfordshire). It tests the ingredients of ‘regenerative agriculture’ in different combinations: crop diversification, reduced tillage, cover crops, integrated pest management and organic amendments in large, replicated plots. Initial results suggest there may be a yield penalty associated with a transition to more environmentally sustainable systems but that ecological function should increase with time, affording the opportunity to reduce mineral fertiliser inputs. 

Ploughing Broadbalk

Measuring multiple impacts

As well as measuring the effects of the different treatments on the LSRE and Rowden platforms on productivity (crop yield and liveweight gain of livestock), environmental impacts are also being monitored. These include greenhouse gas emissions, soil organic carbon and biodiversity. By intensively studying these multiple outcomes over time, we will be able to inform systems that reconcile trade-offs, increase the efficiency of farming and mitigate negative environmental impacts.