As West Virginia University's oldest academic unit, the history of the Davis College
of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design is deeply rooted in the land-grant
mission. Since 1867, the college has been committed to educating and training our
future leaders, conducting groundbreaking research and performing public outreach
The college has had many accomplishments since its inception. Of the most notable achievements is the Allegheny Highlands Project of the 1970s, mentioned below, which helped to revitalize the livestock-forage industry in West Virginia. Another significant cooperative project with Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda to provide assistance in developing higher education facilities and training the countries' future agricultural leaders.
As West Virginia University celebrates its 150th anniversary, join the Davis College as it reflects on its proud history of fulfilling the land-grant mission. From Feb. 13 to Feb. 15, we'll be celebrating some past accomplishments, achievements in education and research, and the multitude of resources that enrich the student experience.
From its earliest days as the Agricultural College of West Virginia, West Virginia University has been dedicated to conducting research that adds to a shared body of knowledge while creating real results and opportunities for society.
In its ongoing quest to impart knowledge, train future leaders, address critical issues and enrich the lives of West Virginia citizens while protecting the environment, innovative, multidisciplinary research remains a cornerstone in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.
Following are some key milestones and research highlights from the past 150 years.
- Establishment of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station: In 1888, the WV Board of Regents accepted $15,000 in Hatch Act funds to establish the Agricultural Experiment Station. John Myers (pictured right) is appointed director. ( Photo credit: WVRHC.)
First scientific study of West Virginia insects: A.D. Hopkins, a self-taught
entomologist, made the first scientific study of West Virginia Insects. Beginning
in 1888, he collected over 20,000 specimens, including 120 species never before
recorded in scientific study. Hopkins was one of the most productive researchers
in the Experiment Station's early years.
Isolation of the oak wilt fungus: In the early 1950s, the oak wilt disease
threatened forests across the eastern United States. West Virginia University
Experiment Station plant pathologist H.L. Barnett and his colleagues identified
and isolated the fungus which causes oak wilt disease in 1953, sparing trees
in West Virginia and elsewhere from widespread destruction. Continuing research
at WVU concerns factors influencing spread of the disease, host-parasite interactions
Development of a blight-resistant tomato:
The West Virginia '63 tomato, bred by West Virginia University plant pathologist
Mannon Gallegly (pictured right), now professor emeritus, was created to resist
blight and was unveiled in 1963 as part of West Virginia’s centennial celebration.
Signs of blight, which is of concern to many gardeners, include brown spots or
lesions on the stems, olive green or brown patches on the leaves, and white fungal
growth underneath. The variety was the result of 13 years of research and breeding.
The tomato celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, and the heirloom variety
continues to be requested by West Virginians and many others outside the state.
Milestone embryo transplantation:
A long series of studies on the reproductive physiology of cattle attracted widespread
attention in 1985. West Virginia University station scientists, under the direction
of reproductive physiologist E. Keith Inskeep, successfully transplanted a calf
embryo into a cow whose ovaries had earlier been removed. The birth of Shadow,
the first calf to result from this kind of experiment, marked a milestone in
the understanding and control of the chemical functions of the animal reproductive
Linking scientists and citizens: In 1970, West Virginia University established
the Allegheny Highlands Project in Randolph and Upshur counties. Later expanded
to a wide area in the state, the project brought scientists from the Experiment
Station into direct contact with farmers over extended periods. Data from this
ten-year effort resulted in scores of publications related to agricultural production
and rural life in West Virginia.
Saving the American chestnut:
The American chestnut was among the most valuable trees in eastern North American
forests, spanning from southern Ontario to northern Florida. Chestnut blight,
a disease caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, eliminated the American chestnut as a canopy species. Scientists at West Virginia
University have led efforts to promote biological control of the blight and improvement of the
chestnut for more than three decades, largely under the leadership of WVU
plant pathologist William MacDonald. The project received the national multi-state research award at the APLU meetings
in 2013. Scholars from around the world gathered in West Virginia in 2012 as
WVU partnered with the International Society of Horticultural Sciences, the American
Chestnut Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture to host
the fifth International Chestnut Symposium.
Centers and Initiatives: A key component of executing its research mission is the development and support of a range of research centers, initiatives and laboratories. Learn more about each one.