1. An experiment was conducted at Jealott's Hill from 1945 to 1956 to study yield trends of cereals grown continuously and in four-course rotations including 1-year ‘renovation’ treatments in the form of (a) grazed ley, (b) ley cut for hay and grazed, (c) rape grazed, (d) mustard for green manure, (e) fallow.
Winter wheat, spring oats and spring barley were successive test crops common to all rotations and followed the ‘renovations’ or spring barley in the corresponding phase of the continuous cereals system. Main plot (rotation) comparisons were confounded with two levels of nitrogen fertilizer (0·2 and 0·4 cwt. N/acre) and three straw treatments (straw removed, burned or ploughed in) which were applied to all three cereal test crops.
All plots except those in fallow received 0·3 cwt. P2O5 and 0·3 cwt. K2O/acre every year. From 1945–48, leys, rape and mustard received 0·2cwt. fertilizer N/acre; from 1949 this dressing was doubled.
Grazing of leys and rape was by sheep.
2. In the earlier years the highest yields of wheat were obtained in the rotations containing rape, mustard or fallow, but in the later years yields after leys were superior to those in all other rotations. Wheat yields in the continuous cereals rotation soon declined and remained at the lowest level throughout, due largely to severe incidence of ‘take-all’ disease.
In the later years yields of barley and oats following 1-year ley were also superior to those in all other rotations.
3. In the six cropping rotations compared, all three cereal crops showed very marked responses to applied fertilizer nitrogen, particularly in the later years as the natural fertility of the site declined.