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 and resistance.
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
, eliminated the American chestnut as a canopy species. Scientists at West
Virginia University have
ed 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. Click here to learn more about each one.