National Register of Historical Places, 1988

Old Rotation

"Old Rotation"
c. 1896

The "Old Rotation"(c. 1896) is the oldest continuous cotton experiment in the world and the third oldest field crop experiment on the same site in the United States. This rotation also includes rotations with corn, soybean, and small grains. It was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1988.

The "Old Rotation"was one of the first experiments to demonstrate and document the value of rotating cotton with other crops and including nitrogen-restoring legumes in the system. Information from this test provided evidence that rotation with legumes could sustain and actually improve yields of cotton and corn in Alabama soils. Data from this experiment have been the source of numerous scientific, popular, and educational publications on cotton production and soil fertility. Because only minor changes have been made in the cropping systems, it continues to document the effect of these systems on productivity, soil and environmental quality, and sustainable agriculture. The "Old Rotation" consists of 6 cropping systems in 13 plots on 1 acre of a Pacolet fine sandy loam on the campus of Auburn University.

Cotton Lint Yield (pounds/acre)

Cropping System 1986 - 1995 average *1996 - 2002 average * Average soil organic matter(%) **
Cotton every year:
No N/no winter legumes
350 360 b 0.8 e
+winter legumes
850 ab 1010 a 1.8 c
120 lbN/acre
710 c 1030 a 1.6 d
Cotton-corn rotation:
+winter legumes
870 ab1000 a 1.8 c
+legumes/+120 lb N/acre
970 a 1140 a 2.1 b
3-year Rotation (common-winter legumes
corn-small grain-soybeans)
850 ab 990 a 2.3 a

*Values followed by the same letter are not signficantly different at P < 0.05.
**Recent data show the effect of increasing soil organic matter on cotton productivity.

Grain Yield (bushels/acre)

Cropping system Mean Yield 1996-2002
Cotton-corn rotation + winter legume Corn = 109 bu/acre
Cotton-corn rotation + winter legume +120 lb N/acre Corn = 136 bu/acre
3-year Rotation Corn = 123 bu/acre
3-Year Rotation Wheat = 74
3-Year Rotation Soybean = 47

Old Rotation Photo Gallery
The Old Rotation, 1996-1999
Breaking Records
The Development of Cotton

The Old Rotation 1896-1996: 100 Years of Sustainable Croppping Research

For Additional Information

Revised 02/04