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Title: ARS Timeline...144 Years of Ag Research

Chronological history by decade from
the creation of USDA in 1862 until 2000

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History of Research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Service
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Blue=USDA research accomplishment


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photo of ticks on cow

Cattle ticks, when feeding, balloon in size.

photo of student and scientist

ARS maintains a committment to students at 1890 schools and throughout the public education system.

photo of plant exploration notebooks

Collecting and freely sharing plants and seeds that grow around the world is one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's longest continuous programs.


1860s 1870s
1880s 1890s
1900s 1910s
1920s 1930s
1940s 1950s
1960s 1970s
1980s 1990s




Sherman Antitrust Act passed.

Developed simple test to determine butterfat content of milk.

McKinley Tariff Act passed with a tariff on some agricultural products.

The second Morrill Land-Grant College Act authorized separate land-grant colleges for Negroes—17 were established.(more)

Meat Inspection Act authorized inspection of salted pork, bacon, and live animals intended for export, and the quarantine of imported animals.

Of gainfully employed persons, 43 percent were engaged in agriculture.

Combination corn-shucking and fodder-shredding machine patented.

Nitrifying bacteria isolated from soil.

First comprehensive list of animal and human parasites developed; today it comprises more than 30 volumes.

Bacteria shown to cause plant diseases, including tumors.

Antibodies proposed as responsible for immunity.

First successful gasoline engine farm tractor built by John Froelich.

Viruses discovered.

Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia eradicated.

Cotton boll weevil found near Brownville, TX.(more)

Canadian Marquis, first successful cross-bred spring wheat, released.

Cause of cattle tick fever discovered; demonstrated that a disease-producing microorganism could be transmitted by an arthropod from one animal to another. (more)

Carey Land Grant Act granted land to western states after irrigation provided by the states.

Milestone document in soil conservation published: Farmer's Bulletin No. 20, Washed Soils: How to Prevent and Reclaim Them.(more)

Spindle-type cotton picker invented

Insects shown to spread plant diseases.

First extensive table of food values published.(more)

Tea Importation Act passed, the first U.S. law regulating food products.

Concluded that disease could be caused by depriving body of certain substances, later defined as vitamins.(more)

Congress authorized testing of seeds purchased on open market.

First funds officially appropriated to collect, test, and prepare foreign plant materials. (more)

Field mapping of soils began by USDA.(more)

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Send comments or questions about this historical timeline to Sean Adams.