A set of long-term experiments will quantify the exact impact of regenerative agriculture from all perspectives.

The work will be undertaken by staff at Rothamsted Research based in the UK.

Significantly, initial results suggest that techniques, such as no-till and diversified cropping, are not a short-term fix for more sustainable food production systems; a long-term commitment will be required.    

Research on regenerative agriculture

An experimental set-up of 24 cropping systems that combine a variety of regenerative agriculture practices has been established.

To date, reduced tillage has resulted in lower wheat yields but the effect varied with crop rotation, previous-crop and site. 

However, plots with added organic matter significantly increased spring barley yield by 8% on average, though the effect again varied with site.

The ploughed crop plots tended to produce higher caloric yield, overall, than systems under reduced tillage. 

Study team leader, Prof. Jon Storkey said: “The initial results suggest that it takes time for regenerative approaches to restore the health of soils and the ecosystem.

“In addition, there may be a decrease in yields as the system transitions to a more sustainable state.

“With so many variables in play, only a long-term, integrated approach will be able to tell us what really works in regenerative farming.” 


The original long-term Broadbalk experiment at Rothamsted was set up in 1843 and was focused on how varying inputs of fertiliser might affect crop yield.

This was hugely influential and helped establish many modern farming practices that have consistently delivered bountiful harvests and widespread food security.

Today, as agriculture faces multiple pressures to reduce its environmental impacts, the new long-term experiments will look at how varying approaches to crop rotation, tillage, nutrition and crop protection can reduce inputs of pesticides and fertilisers, emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and support biodiversity.

The aim is to collect extensive data on multiple indicators from each of the experiments. 

Rather than just focusing on crop yield, these new Large Scale Rotation Experiments (LSREs) are being monitored to study the synergies and trade-offs of each approach.

The experiment has been established as a long-term resource for inter-disciplinary research. 

“We have explained the experimental setup in detail in this new paper so that other similar experiments can be set up worldwide,” Storkey added.

“Only by taking such a broad perspective can we hope to successfully inform the transition to more sustainable cropping systems across the planet.

“Inevitably trade-offs will need to be made between maximising crop yield and protecting the environment, but these experiments will help us better understand the system behaviour, and ultimately identify the optimal balance for multiple systems and approaches.”