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




First DNA sequencing of a plant genome, the flowering mustard Arabidopsis thaliana. ARS one of a three-member U.S. team.

Pierce’s disease first discovered in U.S.

First cloned transgenic animal produced that carries a gene designed to enhance the health and well-being of the animal. This cow has the potential to produce an enzyme that destroys mastitis-causing bacteria.

Nutrim, obtained from the thermo-mechanical processing of oats, developed and patented as a commercial soluble oat fiber nutraceutical.

First pathogenic bacterium identified that does not need or use iron. The bacterium causes Lyme disease in humans.

Demonstrated that pure prion proteins can trigger normal proteins to change shape and become infectious.

Molecular technique developed that will enable researchers to induce mutations in the Marek's disease herpesvirus genome, called overlapping cosmid clone library (OCCL).

First soybeans with complete nematode resistance developed. (more)

The major human allergen in soybean seed suppressed by sequence-mediated gene silencing in transgenic soybeans. (more)

Green Dixie, the first green blackeye-type southernpea, released.

Biomass Research and Development Act.

ARS-imported Russian honey bees transferred to the U.S. honey bee industry, resulting in honey bees resistant to parasitic mites.

Food Safety Initiative, modified food safety inspections to decrease foodborne illnesses.

Chemicals that induce an otherwise healthy plant to form a tumor to resist infection—called bruchins—discovered.

First molecular map of the ribosome, the cell's essential protein factory, completed.


Polyphenolic compounds found in blueberries and cranberries shown to guard against vascular diseases and age-related memory losses.

DNA-based method refined to quickly detect the soybean rust pathogen, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, a threat to 2.9 billion acres of U.S. soybeans.

USDA 103, a catfish line with improved feed efficiency and faster growth, released jointly with Mississippi State Univeristy Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Stationthe first such improvement in over 50 years.

First piglet cloned, by ARS scientists and colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Scotland.

Research headed by ARS showed that Bt transgenic corn, developed to resist crop pests and reduce pesticide use, poses no significant risk to monarch butterflies.

Zinc-transport gene cloned from alpine pennycress, an important development in the field of phytomining (using plants to recover metal).

A finding that selenium deficiency increases virulence of human influenza A virus in mice has major public health implications.

Released SITES, a landscape management tool being used to rehabilitate thousands of U.S. earthen dams. Watersheds reliant on these dams provide Americans with $800 million in benefits each year. (more)


Gave organic strawberry growers the first technically sound information about cultivar performance under organic conditions.

Farm Security and Rural Investment Act passed to address water and other environmental issues. Programs include the Conservation Security Program, which created a reward system for eco-conscientious farmers.

Genetically engineered a tomato to boost its levels of good-for-the-body lycopene. (more)

Transferred a mite-resistant line of bees to breeders who are sharing them with beekeepers. The bees possess a special trait that naturally guards them against the bee industry's number one enemy, varroa mites. (more)

Demonstrated that improving nitrogen fixation and phosphorus acquisition in legumes would reduce the need for artificial fertilizers.

Developed a DNA-based test for rapidly detecting avian influenza with the help of scientists at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.


Helped successfully corral the noxious western weed known as leafy spurge. After a five-year-assault, the weed was reduced by 85 percent at four demonstration sites; herbicide use reduced by 95 percent.

Efficient manure/wastewater treatment system developed to capture nutrients, improve water quality, reduce emissions of ammonia and nuisance odors, enhance water availability for water reuse and kill harmful pathogens.

Created an all-natural glue out of heat-loving bacteria and plant material. Could be a valuable byproduct of ethanol production. (more)

USDA launches Conservation Effects Assessment Project to quantify benefits associated with cropland conservation practices.

Found that increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide alter the expression of over 30 genes in a model plant, including an important one involved in photosynthesis.

December tests confirm the first case of BSE on U.S. soil.

Sequenced Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, the causal agent of Johne's disease, an affliction of cattle and other ruminant animals that costs the U.S. dairy industry about $200 million a year. (more)

Identified a gene variation in cattle affecting tenderness in beef, which could lead the way to breeding approaches that would allow for more tender cuts of beef. (more)

Sunbutter, a sunflower seed spread and peanut butter alternative is made available to the public. (more)

Discovered a peanut variety lacking a major allergen. Peanut allergies, which can be fatal, affect over 1.5 million Americans. (more)

Sequenced four Listeria genomes in association with The Institute for Genomic Research. This genetic knowledge is crucial to battling food borne illnesses.

Found that barley is as effective as oats in reducing serum cholesterol, which resulted in an FDA-approved health claim. (more)


ARS DNA analysis confirms the first U.S. cow to test positive for BSE was imported from Canada.

"Defender," the first North American late-blight-resistant potato cultivar, is released. (more)

Hawaiian fruit fly populations reduced, using biologically based tools developed by ARS. (more)

Helped sequence the first agricultural insect and first domestic animal, the honey bee. (more)


Chicken genome sequenced and annotated by an international consortium led by Washington University–St. Louis. (more)

Released databases for components in food that are believed to have important health benefits, such as carotenoids, isoflavones and proanthocyanidins.(more)

Showed that vitamin E reduces upper respiratory infections in the elderly.(more)

Published "U.S. Agriculture and Forestry Greenhouse Gas Inventory: 1990-2001." Helped develop emissions and sinks estimates for livestock, cropland and ranges.


ARS scientists deliver the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS), a tool for forecasting wind erosion damage, to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service for implementing across the nation. (more)

ARS scientists contributed to an international research effort to characterize and assess the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu from South Korean poultry. Discoveries helped shape regulatory responses to the outbreaks.

Updated computer model SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) released to address water pollution on federal, state and local levels. Represents over 30 years of data. (more)

Demonstrated how strategic use of irrigation water can reduce water use and boost its quality. This practice is now being used on millions of acres across the American West, where irrigation can consume up to 90 percent of available water resources.

Mormon cricket wearing a radio transmitter device.Found that insects move en masse for safety, a discovery that could help predict swarms of crop-destroying insects, like locusts and Mormon crickets. (more)

New antibiotic for treating American foulbrood disease in honeybees transferred to industry. (more)

Three new cotton lines released, combining the fiber quality of Acala-type cottons and the heat tolerance of Delta-type cottons.

Thermal defoliator developed to allow eco-friendly, chemical-free defoliation of cotton. (more)

New fungal genes and markers related to mycotoxin biosynthesis identified and Expressed Sequence Tag libraries established.

Transferred the first, noninvasive beef tenderness prediction system to industry, which is expected to have a multi-million dollar impact on the beef industry and consumers.

With the help of gene transfer technologies, produced dairy cows that are resistant to mastitis. (more)

Developed an edible coating to keep sliced apples fresh. Being used by restaurants, stores, and the School Lunch Program (more)

Released the "What's in the Foods You Eat" search tool, greatly expanding the nutrition information on foods available to consumers.(more)

Energy Policy Act increased biofuels research funding.


Bovine genome sequenced and assembled by international consortium led by the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center.

A finishing technique is applied to cotton gauze modified to be a specialized dressing for chronic wounds.In July 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an ARS-developed cotton wound dressing for use by patient with chronic wounds. This discovery will benefit cotton farmers by increasing the volume of U.S. value-added cotton products.

ARS scientists developed a new method to detect Norwalk virus-a common viral food contaminant. Public health agencies have a critical need for simpler, faster, and more sensitive detection methods of this virus.

ARS scientists designed two handheld portable inspection devices for sanitary inspections of food processing plants. A U.S. patent application for the technology was submitted.

In cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ARS scientists developed a geographic information system (GIS)-based hydrologic modeling tool that integrates national watershed data and state-of-the-art environmental assessment and modeling tools into one convenient package.

A cluster of E. coli bacteria.ARS scientists developed a method to quantify E. coli O157:H7 at levels less than 100 cells per gram of soil, manure, or water. The method demonstrates that E. coli O157:H7 can survive at least 45 days in soil suggesting aggressive methods are needed to control pathogens in the environment.

On July 12, 2006, the California Department of Fish and Game formally declared the invasive marine algal weed, Caulerpa taxifolia-that threatened over 600 miles of western coastal subtidal habitat-eradicated. This was achieved through cooperative efforts with ARS scientists. ARS scientists developed the first-ever quarantine irradiation treatments for coconut scale and white peach scale pests.

Scientists irradiating fruit.ARS scientists developed the first-ever quarantine irradiation treatments for coconut scale and white peach scale pests.

A newly released pear variety—Sunrise—fills the need for an early-season pear with excellent fruit quality and appearance, and with resistance to the devastating disease known as fire blight.


A multiplex real time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) assay was developed to enhance the ability to detect endemic virulent Newcastle Disease viral strains circulating in poultry and to prevent future outbreaks.

SNP50 BeadChipDevelopment of Bovine SNP50 DNA Assay, now the standard for cattle genome research and genetic prediction around the globe. It significantly increases the accuracy of genetic evaluations and the rate of genetic progress in the dairy industry. [more]

Developed Heat Stress Forecasting website in cooperation with the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assist feedlot managers in providing proper care and management for cattle in periods of heat stress. [more]


A bowl of cereal and a glass of milk.ARS scientists found that children who skipped breakfast were less attentive and had slower visual cue response times than children who ate breakfast.

ARS scientists found that storage of cotton bales for at least two years leads to a significant reduction in yarn strength as well as an increase in yellowness. Both factors are associated with inferior quality.

Foods fried in mid oleic/low linolenic soybean oil had better flavor, longer shelf life and more tocopherol retention than did the hydrogenated soybean oil.

Corn production in tile-drained soils leads to high nitrate concentrations in drainage water that discharges into streams. A simple biofilter composed of wood chips buried in trenches adjacent to subsurface tiles can remove 60 70 percent of the nitrate from the tile drainage.

An ambient PM10 sampler.ARS scientists led in the development of a new, advanced wind erosion prediction software—the wind erosion prediction system (WEPS)—which allows growers to select the right approach to prevent erosion and also predict emission of the tiny dust particles known as PM10 that may pose risks to human health and the environment. [more]

ARS scientists showed that elevated CO2 protects peanut plants from the negative effects of ground level ozone. These results will be useful in predicting peanut response to climate change and in choosing proper peanut varieties for specific locations.

Cattle grazing.Long-term studies, by ARS scientists, of plant composition under various livestock stocking rates show that excluding livestock grazing on northern Great Plains rangelands is not the best strategy for improving and maintaining biodiversity and ecological health.

Research by ARS scientists has shown that high moisture corn in the feed reduces production of odorous compounds from beef manure compared with dry rolled corn, due to a decrease in excretion of starch and malodorous fatty acids.


Bison.ARS researchers evaluated the ability of a new recombinant brucellosis vaccine to protect against infection and disease in bison. The new vaccine was safe for use in bison following experimental challenge. [more]



The beneficial melaleuca leaf weevil.Introduction of four key insect natural enemies of the tree from its native range in Australia effectively restored the Everglades to a more natural state, allowing native species of plants and animals to increase in numbers. [more]

Following 1739 people for about five years, ARS scientists found evidence suggesting low levels of vitamin D may adversely affect the cardiovascular system.

Nutritionist weighs baby boy.In the first well controlled, longitudinal study to examine the affect of soy infant formula on brain development, ARS scientists found that resting brain electrical activity, a measure of brain development, did not differ between infants fed milk based or soy based formula during their first six months of life. [more]


Foods containing whole grains.ARS scientists found that women consuming diets designed to meet dietary recommendations for whole grain consumption were about one third less efficient in absorbing iron from the diet. This new information will be valuable for future revisions of the Dietary Guidelines.

A new dehairing process based on alkaline sodium percarbonate eliminates the use of sulfide (both a health and environmental hazard) from the tannery and eliminates sulfide from the waste stream.

ARS researchers developed starch microbeads containing heptanone and essential oils that control Varroa mites as slow release agents to release miticides to control parasitic mites in honeybee colonies.

SwitchgrassARS scientists in California, were the first to publish gene sequences for Brachypodium, a model grass plant, and switchgrass. The sequence data generated will accelerate efforts to breed better varieties of perennial, herbaceous energy crops such as switchgrass.      [more]


ARS researchers, evaluating the efficiency of properly managed ditches in keeping agricultural runoff containing pesticides from polluting nearby water bodies, found that ditches can trap 60 to 90 percent of commonly used herbicides and insecticides carried in runoff water, and therefore appear to be a simple, low tech, inexpensive way to improve water quality when properly managed.

In cooperation with Ohio State University, ARS scientists have successfully modified ground penetrating radar equipment to locate operational and non-operational tile lines. Estimates suggest this detection method will save farmers and land improvement contractors about $10 million annually throughout the United States and will be an effective way to mitigate agricultural runoff that contributes to the Gulf of Mexico's nutrient loading.

ARS scientists and their cooperators developed an updated version of the USDA nitrogen computer simulation model, the Nitrogen Loss and Environmental Assessment Package (NLEAP), which can predict nitrogen form, application rate, timing, and application alternatives for different cropping systems and conditions. [more]

ARS released, FirstStrike, a new variety of Slender Wheatgrass which proved to be equal to or superior to other commercial varieties. FirstStrike has been adapted by 42 Department of Defense facilities encompassing 1.3 million acres of land regularly reseeded following training exercises. [more]


PigDetermined the safety of meat from pigs infected with the 2009 Pandemic A/H1N1 influenza virus.        

Implemented the first genomic evaluations for the dairy industry using the BovineSNP50 DNA Assay and related technologies resulting in increased accuracy and decreased generation interval for the genetic evaluations that combine to increase genetic progress for the dairy industry.  [more]

An international consortium including ARS resources and leadership completed the swine genome sequencing project.  [more]

Discovered the first stereospecific chemical receptor in a mosquito, greatly improving the ability to design attractants and repellents.  

Golden RiceIn one of the most heralded genetic engineering achievements in agriculture of the past 15 years, ARS scientists were integrally involved in the development of "Golden Rice," a rice engineered to provide enough beta carotene that is readily converted to vitamin A to satisfy the requirements for this essential vitamin. [more]   



Egg testerDevelopment of a prototype pressure chamber and camera system that finds very small cracks, called microcracks, in fresh eggshells, helping the egg industry find cracks that can often go undetected during grading.   [more]

ARS scientists developed and fabricated a large sample pressure system for measuring cotton samples for use on multiple types of bench top color spectrophotometers, yielding significant improvements in color measurement consistency and variability over the present manual sampling systems for large fiber samples. 

ARS researchers developed an environmentally friendly finishing process to counteract ultraviolet and heat degradation of leather, strengthening the competitiveness of the U.S. hides and leather industries by encouraging environmentally friendly production, while imparting better quality to the finished product.

NRCS and ARS worked together to develop a prototype Nitrogen Trading Tool that can predict nitrogen losses across a range of soils, climate, crops, and management practices. [more]

Wastewater treatment systemSecond generation swine wastewater treatment system provides environmentally superior technology at a lower cost. [more]

Development of an online nitrogen management tool describing best management practices for dairy farms that utilize a whole farm perspective. The web site is an important resource for Extension agents, NRCS staff, and consultants as they write nutrient management plans for Northeastern dairies.

To assist growers in managing salinity in recycled irrigation waters, ARS scientists in collaboration with researchers at the University of California Davis, developed a Salt Management Guide and accompanying CD that includes an extensive list of plant species suitable for water reuse systems.

ARS scientists found that managing mixed forages lowers risks to pasture productivity and farm profitability during droughts.


Safer, more effective vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) virus developed. The new vaccines make it possible to distinguish between vaccinated versus infected animals, which could greatly reduce animal losses in the event of an outbreak.

TurkeysCompleted the turkey genome sequence project, a collaborative effort conducted by ARS scientists, the poultry industry and academic stakeholders. [more]


FasTrack plum lineDiscovered FasTrack tree breeding technique, which promotes early flowering and fruiting, and enables cycles of tree breeding to be accomplished faster than conventional breeding.  [more]

Developed bean molecular markers, released to assist legume breeders worldwide. Transferring these ARS-developed molecular markers is consistent with the USDA Feed the Future commitment to be actively engaged in global food security efforts.

ARS research established for the first time, that concentrations of vitamins C, folate, E, K, and pro-vitamin A in spinach leaves exposed to the kind of lighting used in supermarket produce sections will increase during storage, deterring some concerns about diminishing nutritional quality of produce in retail settings.    [more]


A bowl of instant corn-soy blend Developed a new instant corn-soy blend emergency aid food, which is nutritionally fortified, and has a one-year shelf life. Twenty metric tons of this new emergency aid food was shipped to Haiti in 2011 through a grant from the National Institute for the Severely Handicapped. This effort is feeding over 3,000 malnourished children and provides jobs for 128 disabled employees in the United States.  [more]


MosquitoReceived the first patent for a new insecticide against mosquitoes based on cutting-edge genetic technology called "Inhibitory RNA Technology". This method produces insecticides that are highly specific for the target insect and completely safe for all other species and the environment.  

Developed low-oil frying batter, a gluten-free, rice-based frying batter that reduces oil uptake by as much as 50 percent. The technology has been commercialized by an industrial partner with projected economic impact of $8 million by 2014 from sales of the product and creation of 100 new jobs in four states.  

Marmorated stink bugDiscovered the pheromone attractant for the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species that threatens the fruit industry on the East Coast. This chemical will be an essential part of returning fruit orchards to profitability by providing tools for trapping and monitoring. [more]

ARS released a hard white winter wheat with resistance to the wheat stem rust (UG99) pathogen—protecting this crop from this devastating disease. ARS scientists screened more than 1300 wild relatives of wheat in the ARS germplasm collection and discovered critically needed new sources of Ug99 resistance in wheat. [more]

Determined biodiesel provides 5-to-1 return on fossil energy; new study also found that the new, higher energy return for biodiesel results from three major improvements since the earlier assessment: soybean crushing facilities and biodiesel production plants have become increasingly energy efficient; soybean farmers have adopted energy-saving farm practices, such has minimum tillage; and soybean yields have increased.

Wheat infected with Ug99ARS scientists developed a sensitive diagnostic method to accurately determine whether or not stem rust symptoms are caused by any of the highly virulent strains of the pathogen in the Ug99 fungus family. If wheat plants suspected of harboring Ug99 stem rust are found in the United States, APHIS will use this diagnostic method to determine whether or not Ug99 is present. 


Wheat infected with Ug99First alfalfa gene index identified and assembled by ARS scientists and several genes associated with regulating lignin and cellulose production were identified thus increasing the value of alfalfa as a bioenergy crop.



The French Quarter in New Orleans.Saved the New Orleans French Quarter from destruction by the invasive Formosan subterranean termite using a series of control techniques developed over a period of 15 years. Without this work, the termites would have destroyed all wooden structures in the historic New Orleans French Quarter.

Discovered, developed, and commercialized the first broad spectrum bacterial-toxin insecticide in 50 years. Chromobacterium, the source of a new insecticide, is natural, organic, and safe with application for a wide variety of insect pests. This product will provide an important new tool for organic and non-organic food production.

The French Quarter in New Orleans.Faster growing Atlantic salmon developed and germplasm released to commercial producers. This could lead to reduced harvest time and increased profitability/sustainability of coldwater marine aquaculture in the United States, providing a quality seafood product to U.S. consumers.


Honey beeDeveloped protection for bees from varroa mites. ARS scientists completed breeding of a honey bee with VSH (varroa sensitive hygiene) resistance to the varroa mite, the most devastating parasite of bees. VSH bees detect the odor of bee brood infested with the mite and remove it from the hive. This breakthrough was honored with a Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. [more]

Full sequence of citrus rootstock 'Carizzo'—single most important rootstock to the U.S. citrus industry with resistance or tolerance to major citrus diseases, including citrus tristeza virus, foot rot, and citrus greening—completed and published in publicly-available database.

Plant Hardiness Zone mapThe USDA's Agricultural Research Service and Oregon State University's PRISM Climate Group jointly developed a new version of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map released in a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format, updating a useful tool for gardeners and researchers for the first time since 1990 with greater accuracy and detail. [more]