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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 Japanese beetle.

Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica.

photo of Edward F. Knipling

USDA entomologist Edward F. Knipling pioneered the release of sterile male insects to control pest populations.

photo of pecans

ARS conducts the world's only pecan-breeding program

photo of turkeys

The National Poultry Improvement Plan has resulted in better chickens and turkeys.

photo of a Line 1 Hereford bull

An exemplary Line 1 Hereford bull.


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




Of gainfully employed persons, 21.5 percent were engaged in agriculture.

Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act passed.

Plant Patent Act enabled the patenting of new plant varieties, excluding sexual and tuber-propagated plants.

Tariff Act prohibited imports of meat and animals from countries infected with foot-and-mouth disease.(more)

Strain 19 of Brucella abortus developed; formed basis of brucellosis vaccine.

First cross made in the country's only national pecan breeding program.

Controlled citrus blackfly in Cuba using biological control.(more)

First electron microscope built.

Fungus that causes Dutch elm disease introduced into the U.S.

US-1 released; first USDA sugar beet germplasm.

New citrus fruit 'tangelo’ developed, a grapefruit and tangerine hybrid. (more)

Use of carbon dioxide tested as method to retard produce decay; eventually led to method for protecting fruits in transit.

Prepared pure crystals of vitamin C from lemon juice.

Katahdin released, first pest-resistant potato variety.

Developed technique to produce spores in commercial quantities. Allowed first large-scale use of a disease organism to control an insect pest, Japanese beetles. (more)

Suter-Webb cotton fiber measure invented.(more)

Tennessee Valley Authority Act passed.

Farm Credit Administration established by Executive Order 6084.

Soil Erosion Service established, later known as Soil Conservation Service, and today as Natural Resources Conservation Service. (more)

Pantothenic acid discovered.(more)

Stiff Stalk Synthetic released, one of the most important germplasm sources of corn lines.(more)

Worst drought in U.S. history took place in the Great Plains and covered over 75 percent of the country.(more)

Jones-Costigan Sugar Act passed; replaced by Sugar Act in 1937.

Bankhead Cotton Control Act passed.

Taylor Grazing Act gave U.S. Department of the Interior power to regulate grazing on public lands in the West.

Jones-Connally Act authorized appropriations for research to eliminate disease from beef and dairy herds.

Kerr-Smith Tobacco Control Act approved.

Glanders of horses eradicated.

Accomplished first typing of a strain of bacteria with bacteriophage.

USDA and Iowa State Experiment Station imported Danish Landrace hogs.

Carizzo citrus rootstock released, base for more than 60 percent of all United States citrus trees.(more)

Line 1 Hereford program started; one of the longest continuing beef cattle line-breeding programs in the U.S.

Bankhead-Jones Act provided for expansion of agricultural research.

Sulfa drugs discovered.

Methods for genetic evaluation of beef cattle pioneered.

De Rouen Rice Act passed.

Tobacco Inspection Act passed.

Two farmers out of every five were tenant farmers.

Initiated National Poultry Improvement Plan to improve production and marketing qualities of chickens and turkeys through performance testing.

National Tillage Machinery laboratory established at Auburn, AL to study factors applicable to the design of tillage implements.

Developed concept of vegetative waterways, which led to more than 500,000 miles of waterways that channel runoff and prevent severe gully erosion.

Discovered that selenium is absorbed from roots and carried to the foliage where it kills aphids; the first systemic insecticide.

First hybrid crop cultivar (an onion) developed using cytoplasmic male sterility.

Weymouth highbush blueberry released; earliest cultivar in New Jersey.

Demonstrated that water normally lost to runoff could be used to increase growth of grasslands using diversion dams and contour dikes.

First soil conservation district in the U.S. organized.(more)

Published first electron micrographs of bacteria.

Observed that an insecticide applied to bean plants was translocated from the outer surface of the treated leaves to leaves that developed after the application.

Concho hard red winter wheat released.

Agricultural Adjustment Act established four regional research centers to develop new uses for farm products. Locations were Wyndmoor, PA; Peoria, Il; Albany, CA; and New Orleans, LA.(more)

Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act passed.

Bacillus thuringiensis first sold as insecticide.(more)

Insect-sterilization technique for mating disruption proposed.(more)

First artificial breeding cooperative organized for dairy cattle.

Reported filarial dermatosis of sheep; developed treatment.

World War II began in Europe.

Usefulness of crossbreeding to improve the efficiency of beef production demonstrated.

Federal Seed Act required truthful labeling on vegetable seeds in interstate commerce and prohibited importation of low-quality seed.

First grade standards were issued by USDA for a frozen product—peas. (more)

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