The principles and guidelines for designing long-term agronomic experiments

Guangdi Li, Feng-rui Li, Mark Conyers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many of the important questions facing farming systems in the world today require long-term studies to provide meaningful information and answers. A long-term agronomic experiment (LTAE) should a) have long-term objectives; b) study important soil processes or ecological processes; and c) be related to the productivity and sustainability of systems. A well established LTAE can provide both insights into how the system operates and foresight into where the system goes. The prerequisites for setting up a LTAE are the secured land, continuous funding and dedicated scientists. A number of principles must be considered carefully when establishing a LTAE, a) the site must be representative of large areas; b) the treatments should be simple, but focusing on the big questions; c) the plots should be large enough to allow subsequent modification of the experiment if this becomes necessary; d) crop rotations should minimise, wherever possible, the risk of build-up of pests and diseases, and rotational phase should be considered in a rotational experiment; e) a clearly defined experimental protocol should be developed to ensure data collected is scientifically valid and statistically analysable, but with flexibility to allow essential changes; f) soil samples, possibly plant samples, should be achieved to provide better answer to the original questions when new, perhaps more accurate analytical techniques are developed, or answer new research questions that were not considered in the original design. The MASTER experiment in Australia was used as a case study to demonstrate how these principles are implemented in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-97
Number of pages7
JournalSciences in Cold and Arid Regions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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