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An experimental farm is a farm which is used to conduct research in the agricultural sciences. Universities which offer agricultural coursework may have an experimental farm attached to their facilities, and independent research organizations can also establish experimental farms. The goal of an experimental farm is to provide a place which can be used to test out new ideas and techniques before asking the agricultural community to consider adopting these techniques.
While humans have been experimenting with agriculture for thousands of years, the concept of an experimental farm did not really take off until the 1900s, when a more scientific approach to agriculture was adopted. Researchers wanted a controlled environment to perform a variety of tests, and the idea of the experimental farm was born. Today, experimental farms can be found in many locations, in a broad assortment of climates, and a wide variety of research is conducted on such farms.
Experimental farms are often used to test new crops such as hybrids and genetically modified crops before they are released to the public, with an eye to developing strong, high-yield crops. New farming equipment, chemicals, and agricultural techniques can also be tested on an experimental farm. The fields at such farms often resemble a patchwork, with various tests being conducted on crops of interest in different zones on the farm. Issues like soil conditioning, the use of greenhouses, and so forth may also be explored on an experimental farm.
Many farms have a specific organic area as well, so that researchers can utilize organic farming techniques, and some have a working farm which is meant to mimic the farms of the 1900s, complete with farm animals, handmade tools, and older farming techniques which may be of historical interest. Other special areas on an experimental farm might include sections of contaminated soil for the purpose of testing plants which could be used in phytoremediation, along with laboratories which house scientific equipment which can be used detailed examinations and analyses.
In addition to being useful for crops, experimental farms can also be handy for gardeners. Some gardening publications maintain experimental farms to play around with ornamental plants, so that they can issue reports for their readers on the hardiness and growth habits of various plants. Gardeners may also utilize an experimental farm to create showcase exhibits of specific landscaping styles, ranging from formal gardens to gardens which are designed for tough climates.