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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 Sir Alexander Fleming

British bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming was the first to note penicillin's antiobiotic action.

photo of soil erosion

Severe soil erosion in a wheat field near Washington State University.


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




Of gainfully employed persons, 27 percent were engaged in agriculture.

Soil classification system developed.(more)

American Farm Bureau Federation formally organized.

Warner-Bratzler shear instrument developed to objectively measure meat tenderness.

Field of population genetics in animal breeding founded.

Capper-Volstead Act provided legal status for agricultural cooperatives.

Honeybee Act prohibited the importation of adult honeybees.

Developed a method for dusting cotton fields with calcium arsenate to protect cotton against boll weevil.(more)

Tobacco mosaic virus isolated; established that viruses cause many plant diseases.

First annual farm outlook conference held.

Congressional distribution of seeds discontinued.

Commercial hybrid seed corn developed.(more)

Magness-Taylor pressure tester invented to measure fruit ripeness.

First planes designed specifically for crop-dusting operations in the Mississippi Delta.

President Coolidge appointed a nine-man President's agricultural conference.

Tennessee outlawed teaching evolution in school; Scopes trial held in Dayton, TN.

Clarence Birdseye pioneered quick-freezing and frozen food.(more)

Three to 4 man-hours of labor required on 1 acre to produce 20 bushels of wheat.

Discovered that ethylene is the agent responsible for initiating fruit coloring in oranges.

Purnell Act authorized funds for research by agricultural experiment stations on economic and social problems of agriculture.

USDA began inspection of live poultry.

Successful light gasoline tractor invented.

First auxin, a plant hormone, discovered.

Targhee breed of sheep developed.

U.S. National Arboretum established by Congress.

Federal beef grading initiated.

USDA conducted tests on methods for removing lead-arsenate spray residues from apples and pears to meet export tolerances.

Bouquets carried on Graf Zeppelin's first transatlantic flight showed the role air travel could play in transporting insect pests and plant diseases. (more)

Antibacterial properties of penicillin discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming. (more)

Soil erosion identified as serious threat to agricultural productivity. (more)

Capper-Ketcham Act provided extension work in agriculture and home economics for men, women, boys, and girls.

Buchanan Amendment provided first Congressional appropriation for soil erosion research by USDA.(more)

Wool Standards Act passed.

Future Farmers of America established.

Method developed for obtaining auxin.

Jersey highbush blueberry released.

Ten regional erosion experiment stations set up.

Great Depression began.

Growing plants in water, hydroponics, invented.

Mediterranean fruit fly discovered in Florida.

First airplane seeding of rice in California.

Showed that plants first inoculated with one virus are protected from infection of another closely related virus or a mild strain of the same virus, known as 'cross protection.’

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