Thursday, October 30, 2008

Raising the Stakes for Graduate Students

Have you ever screwed something up so badly that you've wasted over a century worth of work? I hope not, but if you have, I hope that you stay the hell away from Auburn University (formerly the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama). They've had an ongoing experiment running for the past 110 years.

I know, I know, you've probably already read all about this in the press release put out by the American Society of Agronomy, but I just love repeating what they have to say so that I can bask in their reflected glory.

Anyway, Auburn University is the oldest continuous cotton experiment in the world, and the third oldest field crop experiment in the United States (on the same site). They've been using thirteen plots to grow cotton, corn, wheat, and soybeans (they all grow cotton, but some plots alternate cotton with the other crops in rotation). Some of the plots are treated with nitrogen, and it's nice to know that it's good for something besides killing lakes.

I hope they've got safeguards in place to make sure that things keep running smoothly, because the longer an experiment like that runs, the more researchers stand to lose when it ends unexpectedly.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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