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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 gypsy moth caterpillar

Caterpillar stage of the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar.

photo of permanent press pants

Permanently creased, wrinkle-resistant, easy-care cotton fabric for clothing came from ARS research.

photo of screwworm larvae

Millions of screwworm larvae, Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel), are mass-reared for sterile-male release programs.

photo of Theodor O. Diener

ARS plant pathologist Theodor O. Diener discovered a cell-invading plant pathogen 80 times smaller than a virus-- the viroid.


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




Gypsy moth pheromone discovered; proposed using sex attractants to disrupt mating.(more)

US-1140 great northern bean released; dominant variety in this seed class for 25 years.

Developed method for shrinkproofing wool called interfacial polymerization; known as the WURlan process.

Revealed that protein similarities between plant and disease organism are involved in susceptibility of the plant to the disease.

Instant sweet potatoes developed.

Discovered mechanism of delayed bitterness in citrus juices and identified enzyme system that prevents bitterness in whole fruit.(more)

Determined cause and prevention of cockle defect in sheepskins.

Robinson, Osceloa, and Lee tangerines released.(more)

PD-611 tobacco released; first tobacco line resistant to root-knot nematodes.

Wells and Lakota durum wheat released.

Vinall wild rye released.

Utah Synthetic C alfalfa released.

Chinook and Ranier cherries released.

Midway strawberry released.

Path of carbon in photosynthesis determined (Calvin cycle).

Statistical Reporting Service established.

Neutron probe developed for field measurements of soil-water content.

First commercial semidwarf cultivar of a cereal grain in North America released; Gaines high-yield wheat helped launch 'Green Revolution.’ (more)

Feed Grain Act passed

Peace Corps established.

Equine piroplasmosis reported in the U.S.

Economic Research Service established.

Developed cytoplasmic male-sterile millet. By 1965, Indian scientists had developed a new hybrid from these seeds that yielded 88 percent more grain than common millet. (more)

Developed method to prevent gelling in canned evaporated milk.

Demonstrated that flavor components in fruit could be incorporated into amorphous sugar that was moisture stable at room temperature; used to fortify flavors of candies, cookies, and cakes.

Discovered that spraying linseed oil mixtures on new concrete prevented damage from salt put on roads to melt ice during winter.

Emerald crownvetch discovered by plant exploration team in southeastern Russian, introduced into Midwest.(more)

Developed method for measuring pungency of onions by determining amount of pyruvic acid.

Isolated an abscission-accelerating chemical from cotton burs, absicisn.

Badger Shipper cabbage released; first with some resistance to clubroot.

Bethel and Kent soybean released.

Woodard blueberry released.

Belle Patna rice released.

Denta sweetclover released; first nonbitter white sweetclover.

Silent Spring published; documented the effect of chemicals on the environment. (more)

Discovered breeding line that could restore fertility to male-sterile wheat plants.

Library collection of USDA designated as National Agricultural Library.

Cereal leaf beetle discovered to be established in Michigan.

Purified and structurally identified three soluble ribonucleic acids (RNAs). (more)

Developed method for built-in permanent creases for wool trousers.

First laboratory test developed to detect bluetongue neutralizing antibody.

Released four inbred lines that resulted in first commercial production of hybrid seed of pearl millet.

Developed methods using calcium to remove strontium-90 radioactivity from wheat and milk.

Developed method using cyclic lighting and chemical retardants to produce compact poinsettias with dark-green foliage.

U-1421 safflower released.

First precision weighing lysimiter with automated data processing developed.

Discovered new sugar in honey, named erlose, resulting from the action of the honey bee enzyme invertase on sucrose.

Virulent-virus hog cholera vaccines outlawed.(more)

Produced first evidence of large genetic differences in amino acid composition of cereal protein, thereby making possible improvement of the nutritional quality of cereal protein.

Abscisic acid identified.

Slack mercerization developed to improve cotton stretchability.(more)

Simple test for galactose developed; served as basis for diagnosing infants with galactosemia.

Discovered Chediak-Higashi syndrome in mink and cattle.

Fiber retriever invented to increase efficiency of cleaning section of card in cotton by up to 40 percent.(more)

Proved that tropical horse tick, Dermacentor nitens, can transmit equine piroplasmosis.

Discovered that wild carrots give sheep acute sensitivity to sunlight, causing sunburn of sensitive areas.

Starch-based polyethers developed and converted to foam; dries as a rigid layer of insulation.

Crane and Orrin Chinese chestnuts released, the only chestnuts that can be grown in the eastern U.S.

Penobscot potato discovered; first with good resistance to leaf roll virus.

Jensen-Haise equation developed.

Agricultural Appropriation Act authorized fifth utilization laboratory at Athens, GA.

Showed that detergents made from fats are biodegradable and produce much less foaming than detergents made from alkybenzene-sulfonates.

Discovered that different plant varieties alter soil pH differently.

Developed plastic frames for bee honeycombs.

Simple method developed to determine amount of available lysine in oilseed meals.

Chemically treated cotton batting created; held its shape better than older versions.(more)

First field test of devices for an automated irrigation system performed.

United States entered Vietnam conflict.

Discovered molecular structure of transfer RNA.(more)

Juvenile hormone of insects identified and synthesized.

Durable-press cotton textile (permanent press) developed.(more)

Water Resources Planning Act passed.

Nugaines soft white winter wheat released; sister to Gaines with resistance to stripe rust and cephalosprium stripe.(more)

Hood strawberry released; most important processing cultivar for many years.

Light-absorbing pigment called chromosphere discovered as the activating agent for phytochrome.(more)

Conducted initial field trials using corrugated-wall polyethylene plastic tubing for subsurface drainage; installed tubing with an ARS-developed plow, rather than excavating trenches to install tubing in the soil.

Discovered that addition of vitamins C and E reduced levels of nitrosamines in fried bacon and nitrite-cured products; industry changed processing to minimize consumer exposure to cancer-causing nitrosamines.

Developed a continuous process for making bulgur, while reducing cost by two-thirds; invented WURLD wheat, a chemically peeled, creamy white bulgur that looks like rice.

Abscisin II, a plant hormone that accelerates plant defoliation, isolated.

Tidwarf bermudagrass released.

Spring Pink poinsettia released; first variety with pink bracts and green foliage.

Yakima snap bean released; first commercial snap bean with good resistance to curly top.

Controlled European wheat stem sawfly in the eastern U.S. using biological control. (more)

Developed Beltsville Universal Computerized Spectrophotometer, which led to commercial development of near-infrared reflectance instruments for analysis of bulk commodities like wheat, corn, and soybeans.

High-lysine corn developed; bred to enhance protein level.(more)

Eradicated screwworm fly from the U.S. using sterilization.(more)

First monitoring program established to determine effects of typical agricultural pesticide use.

Laboratory Animal Welfare Act passed; renamed Animal Welfare Act in 1970.

Cotton Research and Promotion Act passed.

Discovered that protein is not essential in a milk cow's diet.

Camptothecin shown to have antitumor activity; isolated from Camptotheca trees grown by ARS, samples provided to National Cancer Institute as part of a germplasm research project.

Identified methionine as the precursor of ethylene, the plant hormone that promotes fruit ripening.

Smoothstem and Thornfree semierrect blackberries released, first thornless blackberry cultivars.

Juvabione isolated, a substance in balsam fir wood that prevents immature insects from maturing.

First electron microscope image produced of virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease in infected animal cells.(more)

Food for Peace program amended to permit the enrichment and fortification of commodities to improve their nutritional quality.

Showed that dairy cows could have protein needs met with low-cost urea instead of high-cost protein feeds; research funded by ARS.

Fortuna released; first rust and sawfly resistant wheat.

Developed method for chemical pruning side buds from chrysanthemums without harming the growing tip.

Conducted initial testing of prototype laser-beam system for controlling depth and grade in subsurface drainage installation equipment. The laser-plane grading system was adopted and modified by industry and is now used worldwide.

Showed that ozone and sulfur dioxide in combination more seriously affected plants than either did alone.

Developed high-calorie, nontoxic fat emulsion for intravenous feeding from purified cottonseed oil and egg lecithin.

Viroids discovered, the smallest known agents of plant disease.(more)

Wholesome Meat Act passed.

Blueboy released; first semidwarf soft red winter wheat.

Grew Marek's disease-causing virus in the laboratory for the first time.

Developed wheat-soybean tempeh.

Alfalfa blotch leafminer found in the U.S.

Reported that soil eventually controls disease 'take-all’ after years of continuously grown wheat.

Determined that lupine is toxic to cattle; caused crooked calf disease or abortion.

Arthur soft red winter wheat released; double the yield of standard Trumbull variety.

Friar plum released.

Team alfalfa released; ozone resistant.

Concept of crop coefficients for use with evapotranspiration developed.

Food and Nutrition Service established.(more)

Use of modified live-virus hog cholera vaccines outlawed.(more)

National Environmental Policy Act passed.

Discovered bovine leukemia virus.

Mycoplasmalike organisms discovered.

Discovered bovine C-type virus; later renamed bovine leukemia virus.

A mycoplasma, a type of microorganism associated with animal disease, identified for the first time as the cause of a mechanically transmitted plant disease.

Patented ammoniation process for detoxification of aflatoxin.

Discovered mode of inheritance of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in dogs and mink.



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