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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 SuperSlurper

Starch-based, superabsorbent “Super Slurper” is now an ingredient in many products including baby powders, wound dressings, and diapers.

photo of cotton yarn

In 1974, a new cotton processing system--spiral carding--cut steps in individualizing fibers to allow them to be drawn into a strand and twisted into yarn.

photo of normal chicken eye and one with Marek's disease

Normal chicken eye on left. Eye lesions and irregular pupil caused by Marek's disease on right.


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




Farmers made up less than 5 percent of work force for the first time.

Plant Variety Protection Act passed.

Effects of salinity on plant growth determined.

System developed to continuously process raw cotton stock into yarn. (more)

Council on Environmental Quality established.

Environmental Protection Agency established.

Horse Protection Act passed.

Wheat Research and Promotion Act passed.

Egg Products Inspection Act passed.

One and one-half man-hours of labor required on 1 acre to produce 30 bushels of wheat.

Eurasian pine adelgid found in Hawaii.(more)

Montcalm kidney beans released.

Identified active ingredient in gypsy moth pheromone; synthesized an attractant, disparlure, as effective as female's natural attractant. (more)

Continuous chromatography apparatus constructed.

Produced active-synthetic boll weevil attractant, named grandlure. (more)

Discovered mode of inheritance of cyclic neutropenia in dogs.

Identified and synthesized new class of plant hormones, brassinolides.

First micropropagation of thornless blackberries.

Immunoglobulin IGA discovered in cows milk.

Killed-virus vaccine for Newcastle disease developed.

Developed process to make sourdough bread outside of San Francisco area.

Tylosin lactate discovered as a treatment for American foulbrood of bees.

NPV of corn earworm registered by FDA; first baculovirus to be registered and mass- produced for commercial use; registered by EPA in 1975. (more)

Developed first artificially produced crop variety, Higgins buffelgrass, that reproduces by seed, but without fertilization.

Controlled alfalfa weevil in the eastern U.S. using biological control. (more)

Controlled tansy ragwort on rangelands in the western U.S. using biological control.

Era released; first semidwarf hard red spring wheat variety.

Kanza alfalfa released.

Developed gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analytical techniques for flavor analysis of fruits and juices.

Microcomputers invented.

Role of enzyme "rubisco" on photosynthesis and photorespiration demonstrated. (more)

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service established; responsible for regulatory and control programs relating to disease and pests of animals and plants that were previously carried out by ARS.

Discovered first fertility restorer for sunflower; lines RHA265 and RHA 266; used as male parents to create first hybrid sunflowers planted by farmers in the U.S.

Marek's disease vaccine developed.

First comprehensive study on the effects of feeding aflatoxin to livestock and poultry published.

Both sex attractants of female southern armyworm isolated, must be combined to work. (more)

First recombinant DNA molecule synthesized.

Improved chemical treatment using THPC and other chemicals, allowing fire-retardant children's sleepware.(more)

Federal Water Pollution Control Act passed.

Clean Air Act passed.

Consumer Product Safety Act passed.

DDT use banned in the U.S.(more)

United States signed 1952 International Plant Protection Convention.

Clean Water Act passed.

Isolated sex pheromones for Mediterranean fruit fly.(more)

Spiroplasmas discovered, an entirely new class of disease-causing organisms.

Agate alfalfa released.

Endangered Species Act passed.

Flammable Fabrics Act mandated new standards for fire retardancy.(more)

First gene splicing performed.

Caprine arthritis and encephalitis of goats described.

Flame Seedless released; second most important seedless grape produced in the U.S.

Designed fiberboard box used for exporting citrus.(more)

Threat to ozone by chlorofluorocarbons proposed.

Safe Drinking Water Act passed.

United States ratified the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

Viva and Roza pink beans released; most widely grown pink bean varieties for past 25 years.

Climax rabbiteye blueberry released; second most widely planted rabbiteye cultivar.

Swingle citrus rootstock released; Swingle and Carizzo form rootstock for most grafted citrus trees in the U.S. (more)

Single citrumelo rootstock released, resistant to citrus nematodes and tolerant to citrus blight.(more)

Flavorcrest peach released.

First book wholly devoted to biological control of plant pathogens published.

Monoclonal antibodies invented.

Federal Noxious Weed Act provided authority for a regulatory system designed to prevent the introduction of noxious weeds into the U.S. from foreign countries.

Developed pollen substituted as a nutritional additive for bee colonies, Beltsville Bee Diet.

Demonstrated that a fraction of the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease is not infectious, but produces immunity in livestock.(more)

Cando released; first semidwarf durum variety.

SuperSlurper patented, a combination of starch and a synthetic chemical that absorbs hundreds of times its own weight in water.(more)

Beef Research and Information Act passed.

Federal Land Policy and Management Act repealed Homestead Act and many other land laws.

Propagated bovine leukemia virus in cell culture.

Daws soft white winter wheat released; outstanding cold hardiness.

Citrus black fly eradicated using lab-reared parasites as biocontrol agents. (more)

Designed, built, and operated a prototype system to continuously process raw cotton stock into yarn.(more)

Crystalline sugar produced from sweet sorghum.

Atlantic potato released; number one chipping variety.

Controlled alligatorweed in the southeastern U.S. using biological control.

Developed rapid, nondestructive technique for determining quality of forages used as feed for livestock, using near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy.

Methods developed to determine exact sequence of DNA.

Demonstrated the stability of the transmissible mink encephalopathy agent.

Developed practice of spraying calcium chloride or calcium nitrate on unsprayed fruit to reduce blemishes.

Discovered direct relationship between Neotyphodium coenophialum fungus in fescue and disease in cattle.

United States declared free of hog cholera.(more)

Cryotherapy proved successful in treating malignant cancer in animals.

Developed technique to accurately measure vitamin D2 in plants, vitamin D3 in animals and their 11 metabolites.(more)

Smallpox eliminated, the only microbial disease ever completely defeated.

Sunburst tangerine released.(more)

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