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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 center pivot in field

In low-rainfall areas, center-pivot, drip, and ditch irrigation allowed 55 million more U.S. acres to be farmed in 1997 than in previous years.

photo of fabric in flame

ARS scientists developed THPC, a compound that prevents cotton fabrics from igniting when held in a flame.

photo of potato slurry sheets

Sheets of potato slurry are dried and flaked for instant mashing later.

photo of seeds

ARS germplasm collections preserve many kinds of seeds and beans.

photo of Edgar Hartwig

Sometimes called The Soybean Doctor, agronomist Edgar E. Hartwig has devoted half a century to soybeans research. He is best known for commercial varieties that include Bragg, Lee, Forrest, Lamar, Sharkey, and Vernal.


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




North Korea invaded South Korea.

Diffusion photometer designed; first light-scattering instrument to measure the size of molecules.

Economical methods for producing dextran developed; first used as alternative to blood plasma in Korean War.

National Poultry Improvement Plan authorized.

Of gainfully employed persons, 11 percent were engaged in agriculture.

Exotic Newcastle disease detected in the U.S.

Discovered that highly chlorinated naphthalene, a wax used in certain greases and oils, caused hyperkeratosis (X-disease) in cattle.

New form of streptomycin discovered.

Xanthan gum developed; an edible food gum fermented from glucose by a microorganism.

Discovered the cause of salmon disease in foxes and dogs; the first rickettsial disease agent found to be transmitted by an internal parasite.

Separated the milk protein casein into three components.(more)

Ryder lettuce released.

Used modified live-virus vaccines to protect swine from hog cholera. (more)

Combine harvester-huller designed to harvest castorbean crop.

Found that vitamin E prevented yellow-fat disease in mink and pigs.

Spirochetes isolated from cattle rumen.

Self-propelled center-pivot overhead sprinkler patented.

Tristeza identified in Florida.

Parasitic wasps released as biological control against pink bollworm. (more)

Discovered that rust in containers causes bacterial spores to form in milk left standing at room temperature.

Male-sterile plants of Day sorghum discovered.

Virus-free strawberries developed.

Studied effect of chilling temperatures on tomatoes; led to use of moderate temperatures in transportation of tomatoes and resulted in better ripening and less decay.

Discovered phytochrome.(more)

Pocahontas strawberry released.

Agricultural Research Service created.

James Watson and Francis Crick describe double-helical structure of DNA.

Discovered that plants use the red part of sunlight to launch growth changes. (more)

Demonstrated use of light transmittance to detect blood spots in eggs; technology later applied to detect hollow heart and black spot in potatoes, water core in apples, and changes in their ripening.

Discovered THPC, compound that imparts fire resistance to cotton fabrics. (more)

Khapra beetle found in the U.S.

Korean War ended.

First calves born as a result of embryo transfer from donor to recipient cows.

Developed nystatin; first useful fungal antibiotic.

Growth modifier MOPA (alpha-methoxyphenylacetic acid) developed.

Nordan crested wheatgrass released; exceptional drought resistance.

Discovered that adding aureomycin and vitamin B12 to feed reduced loss of rabbits from enteritis by 75 percent.

Demonstrated that MOPA could move from one plant to another through adjacent roots.

Reported first case of advanced natural parthenogenesis in birds; spontaneous development of embryos without normal fertilization.

Vernal alfalfa released; important in arid areas.

Alaska lettuce released.

Jade lettuce released.

Coronet peach released.

Maygold peach released.

Suwanee hybrid bermudagrass released; used for pasture.

Tiffine released; hybrid bermudagrass for turf.

Developed differential centrifugation method to purify plant viruses.

Red LaSoda released; most popular red-skin potato in the South.

DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) insect repellent developed.

Gas-liquid chromatography used to study flavors and aromas.

Process for making instant potato flakes developed.

Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act passed.

Agricultural Trade, Development, and Assistance Act (Public Law 480) passed.

Near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy invented.

Test developed to detect visceral lymphomatosis in live chickens.

Discovered that avian lymphomatosis virus can be present in hens that appear normal and that it is shed in their eggs; showed that a hen injected with virus imparts passive immunity to the chicks.

Vaccine developed to protect chickens from visceral lymphomatosis.

Discovered beneficial nematode that carries bacterial septicemia to insects.

First spray vaccine developed to immunize mink against distemper.

Landmark document for remediating saline soils published: Diagnosis and Improvement of Saline and Alkali Soils, Agricultural Handbook No. 60. (more)

Dixieland strawberry released.

Lee soybean released; first soybean aimed chiefly at disease control. (more)

Redglobe peach released.

Lahontan alfalfa released; first with high resistance to spotted alfalfa aphid.

Charleston Gray watermelon released.

Delus potato released.

Roma tomato released; still main variety used for tomato paste.

Omar soft white winter club wheat released; multiple gene resistance to common bunt.

Tifblue rabbiteye blueberry released; most widely planted rabbiteye cultivar.

Discovered sesamolin from sesame oil and proved synergistic effect with pyrethrum insecticides.(more)

Mite that carries peach-mosaic disease identified.

Screwworm fly eradicated from Curacao using sterile-fly mating disruption; eradicated from Florida in 1958.(more)

Rio and Palmetto released, first nonshattering sesame seeds for mechanical harvesting.

Grant soybean released.(more)

Dual soft red winter wheat released; one of the first with natural resistance to Hessian fly.

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

Soil Bank Act passed.

Density-gradient centrifugation invented.

Marion trailing blackberry released; the most important blackberry cultivar in the world.

Aureomycin-sulfamethazine treatment developed to prevent mortality of chicks with cecal coccidiosis.

Developed new tanning agent for leather, glutaraldehyde.

Transferred rust resistance from a wild grass to wheat.

Strain of tobacco streak virus isolated in peas.

Test for Aleutian disease of mink devised.

Dixie Bright tobacco released.

Bronco oats released.

Civil Rights Act passed.

Sputnik launched.

Laser invented.

Humane Slaughter Act passed.

Poultry Inspection Act authorized compulsory Federal inspection of poultry sold in interstate commerce.

Federal Plant Pest Act passed.

Discovered interferon, an antiviral protein produced by the body to fight viral infections.

Slow virus proposed as cause of kuru; now known as a human spongiform encephalopathy disease.

Pima S-1 long staple cotton released; selected from germplasm with the same name developed by University of Arizona.

Plant estrogen coumesterol isolated from ladino clover; structure determined.

Virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease purified, isolated, and photographed.

Discovered that zinc is effective in treating swine parakeratosis.

Cotton opener-cleaner patented.(more)

Chemical treatment developed to suppress pollen production; developed male-sterile cotton plants.

Dearing muscadine grape released.

Earliril and Bendril apricots released.

Moapa alfalfa released.

Universal Soil Loss Equation developed.(more)

National Seed Storage Laboratory set up to provide long-term storage of plant germplasm.(more)

Food Additives Amendment established.(more)

Developed continuous method of making jelly with fruit-juice concentrates, instead of single-strength juice.

Discovered that infectious particles from southern bean mosaic virus can move from dead to living cells.

Designed flight-bar roller gin; improved speed of separating cottonseed from lint. (more)

Designed granular cards for cotton carding machines.(more)

Blackstone and Garrisonian watermelons released.

Army flax released.

Pinkshipper tomato released.

Brawley sorghum released.

Golden State A, Golden State B, and Lakeland lettuces released.

Hood soybean released.(more)

Shelby soybean released.(more)

Gila safflower released.

Garden blue and menditoo blueberries released.

Controlled spotted alfalfa aphid in the U.S. using biological control. (more)

Food for Peace Program inaugurated.

Phytochrome isolated; demonstrated its role in controlling flowering and seed germination.(more)

Giant hay baler invented.

Mechanical tomato harvester developed.

Isolated first acidic, aromatic amino acid, meta-carboxy alpha phenylglycine from natural material, iris bulbs.

Shipping fever virus isolated.

Automatic feed handling for poultry from bulk storage bins to feeders developed.

Exotic and Magoon grapes released.

Cody alfalfa released.

Thaxter lima bean released.

Hill soybean released.(more)

Monon wheat released.

Curt oat released.

Controlled Rhodesgrass mealybug on range grass in Texas using biological control. (more)

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