Sesquicentennial Series: Ag Research Comes to KY
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2012) — In celebration of the University of Kentucky's upcoming sesquicentennial in 2015, the 25th of 150 weekly installments on the university looks at the history of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station .
The Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station was established in Fayette County in September 1885, after President James K. Patterson and two Board of Trustees members attended a meeting in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in which representatives from state agricultural colleges discussed the need for scientific, experimental and agricultural research. Roughly a dozen other state colleges had established experiment stations as part of their agriculture departments and Patterson urged that Kentucky follow suit.
This trend of constructing experiment stations preceded the official legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 1887, known as the Hatch Act, which called for every state to establish agriculture experiment stations associated with the state agricultural college, and provided federal funding for those stations. Following this act, the institution's experiment station became officially and legally known as the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, federally funded, controlled by the state of Kentucky and housed in the school's agriculture department.
Less than a year after the Experiment Station was established, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted a law regulating the properties of fertilizers to be sold in the state, making the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station responsible for the analysis and labeling of the approved products. This was the first regulatory activity assigned to the Experiment Station, but more responsibility would follow as other regulations were passed. By 1918, the station was regulating fertilizers, livestock feed, seeds, nursery products, as well as foods and drugs.
Through its involvement with regulation, and also through the publication of bulletins explaining the results of research, the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station began to gain the trust and respect of farmers throughout the state. This relationship continued to develop and be maintained through the Experiment Station's involvement and partnership with the Kentucky Cooperative Extension service that operated at the county level.
In 1910, the Agricultural Experiment Station became part of the newly formed UK College of Agriculture and was designated as the department for research and graduate work. The College of Agriculture also contained the Department of Agriculture, the teaching and undergraduate education component, and the Department of Extension Work, the precursor to Cooperative Extension Service.
At its establishment, the Agricultural Experiment Station was given 12 acres at the edge of the campus to use as a research farm. When that land proved insufficient, the station began purchasing additional land adjacent to the campus, growing to 230 acres by 1908 and approximately 580 acres by 1930.
Also, the Agricultural Experiment Station expanded into other parts of the state, obtaining two "substations" in 1925, one in Breathitt County in eastern Kentucky, and the other in Caldwell County in western Kentucky. A 600 acre farm in Owen County was obtained in 1955. Although most of the original farmland located next to the campus has been transformed into buildings, dormitories, Commonwealth Stadium, the Agricultural Experiment Station continues to do research on several farms in Fayette County, as well as the locations in Breathitt, Caldwell, and Owen counties, and a facility in Woodford County obtained in 1991.
Since its establishment, the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station has researched ways to improve crops, prevent diseases in both livestock and plants, and analyze and improve soils across the state. During times of crisis, such as World War I and II and the Great Depression, the Experiment Station's research was essential to increasing food production and ensuring the survival of farmers and farms statewide.
Additionally, the Agricultural Experiment Station partnered with the U.S. Army Medical Corps and government organizations such as the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) to provide research, technical advice and instruction. Over the years, tobacco research was and continues to be a major area of investigation for the university's Experiment Station. Today, other research areas include agribusiness, international trade, food processing, nutrition, community development and the environment.
This story on UK's history is presented by UK Special Collections. Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press and the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. The mission of Special Collections is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
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