Long ago the view that this gas might be the source of the combined nitrogen found in different forms within the plant, was critically examined, particularly by Boussingault, and later by Lawes and Gilbert and by Pugh, and it was ascertained to be erroneous, the plants only taking nitrogen into their substance when it is presented to their roots in the form of nitrates of various metals, or compounds of ammonia.
Many writers in recent years, among whom may be named especially Heliriegel and Wilfarth, Lawes and Gilbert, and Schlcesing and Laurent, have shown that the Leguminosae as a group form conspicuous exceptions to this rule.
From the bottom of this sea they have been raised to form the dry lands along the shores of Suffolk, whence they are now extracted as articles of commercial value, being ground to powder in the mills of Mr [afterwards Sir John] Lawes, at Deptford, to supply our farms with a valuable substitute for guano, under the accepted name of coprolite manure."
In 1840 the appearance of Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture and Physiology by Justus von Liebig set on foot a movement in favour of scientific husbandry, the most notable outcome of which was the establishment by Sir John Bennet Lawes in 1843 of the experimental station of Rothamsted.
The results of more than half a century of sustained experimental inquiry were communicated to the world by Lawes and his collaborator, Sir J.