THE HISTORY OF THE SAMPLE ARCHIVE
The Rothamsted Sample Archive (RSA) was established by Lawes and Gilbert in 1843. It was moved to its present location in 2009. Samples consist of ground and unground wheat grain, straw, soil and herbage together with fertilisers, manures and lime from the Rothamsted Long-term Experiments (LTEs). In addition, several thousand soils collected from around the world in the 1920’s-50’s are stored in the archive together with samples from discontinued experiments. About 1200 crop & 200 soils samples are added annually.
Plant samples are oven dried, but soil samples are air dried. The samples are stored in a variety of containers, each with a unique label and identification number. Each shelf has a unique identifier and sample locations are recorded in the archive database.
Initially, samples were analysed for their nutrient content, including – N, C, P, K, Na, Mg etc, but with the development of new analytical techniques the samples have been used for many other studies, including:
- Detecting changes in atmospheric S deposition over time.
- The development of fungicide resistance in plant pathogens.
- The effects of S deposition on plant pathogen populations.
- Detecting fallout from atomic bomb tests in the 1950s.