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Posts tagged: Agricultural Innovation

Mar 23 2015

Growth from the Grassroots: Agricultural Awareness Week

In honor of Alpha Zeta’s annual Agricultural Awareness Week, beginning March 23, 2015, the Special Collections Research Center presents an exhibit in the Ask Us Lobby of D.H. Hill Library to highlight the farming men and women who have shaped the evolution of agriculture and technology in North Carolina.

From its roots as an agricultural experiment station, North Carolina State University has been interwoven into this evolution through teaching, research, and extension work that has supported local farming communities and organizations. Partnerships between NC State and the small farmers of North Carolina have pioneered innovative approaches to sustainability through times of major change, from the early industrial revolution through today.

Small farmers who relied solely on cash-crop cultivation suffered after World War II as cotton and tobacco prices plummeted, demand decreased, and overproduction glutted the market.  By growing more of their own food, farm families could provide their own sustenance without exhausting their meager cash supply. Publications like the Progressive Farmer newspaper and the D&P Monthly (Dairyman and Poultryman) circulated information to rural communities, and grassroots organizations like the North Carolina Farmers Bureau formed to give farmers a unified voice on agricultural issues. 4-H clubs and the Future Farmers of America supported agricultural education and leadership among rural youth. Annual conferences brought farmers together to learn from each other and from experts in agricultural research, frequently featuring presentations from NC State faculty and cooperative extension agents.  North Carolina agriculture evolved through these networks of support, empowering farming men and women to grow and negotiate economic and legislative policies in a changing agrarian economy.

The exhibit will highlight the evolution of farming practices and home-grown agricultural organizations in North Carolina that tell the story of the people who cultivated and developed our state.  Materials will be on display starting March 23, 2015, in the Ask Us Lobby of D.H. Hill Library.

The Special Collections Research Center has a wealth of materials that show the rich history of small farming and agricultural sustainability in North Carolina. The North Carolina Farm Bureau Records and North Carolina Agricultural Organizations Records reflect the leadership of farmers in their local communities and grassroots organizations. The Green N’ Growing project highlights materials from the Cooperative Extension Service, and Cultivating a Revolution and Living off the Land show the evolution of agricultural research, education, and farming practices in North Carolina. Our digital collections portal, Historical State, also contains a wide array of resources on agriculture in  North Carolina and at NC State in particular.

Jul 01 2013

Cultivating a Revolution project wraps up

Testing a Cucumber Harvester in the field

Yesterday marked the final day of our two-year project to digitize and make accessible over 40,000 pages of documents critical to understanding the history of agriculture in North Carolina.  “Cultivating a Revolution: Science, Technology, and Change in North Carolina Agriculture, 1950-1979” serves students, teachers, researchers, and the general public by documenting the development of modern agricultural practices and their economic impact across the state of North Carolina.  The industry currently generates $70 billion in value annually in the state. Drawing from thirteen different archival collections held by the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, “Cultivating a Revolution” provides primary source documentation and valuable historical information about the evolution of modern agricultural practices in North Carolina and the southeastern United States at large.

Highlights of the collection include drawings by Dr. William Johnson, Dr. William Splinter, and their graduate assistants, in the College of Agriculture and Life Science, of their designs for tobacco harvesters and bulk curing barns; correspondence with the international academic and business community regarding developments at NC State on bulk curing and mechanized harvesting of tobacco and other crops; and documentation of research into pesticide development, plant disease prevention, and genetic modification of crops.

The Farm of the Future

In addition to the text and photographic materials, over one hundred and fifty 16mm films from the University Archives Film Collection and the Department of Biological and Agricultural Records at NC State are now available online.  The films include interviews with scientists, engineers, extension workers, and farmers who developed and applied innovative agricultural practices, as well as footage of the application of these practices around North Carolina. The films include interviews with the creators and users of the newly developed bulk curing barns in the mid-1960s, a visit to the NC State Dairy Farm in the 1950s, and test runs of sweet potato and cucumber harvesters at the university’s research stations.

The funds to support this work were awarded by the State Library of North Carolina and are made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Design for a better way to house cattle

The “Cultivating a Revolution” website at provides more information on the project and links to the digitized materials. The NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Materials website at also makes it easy to access the digitized materials from the project.

Jun 13 2013

Expanding the Farm Income of North Carolina and the NC 2000 Commission

The Cultivating a Revolution project team has just finished digitizing the project reports series from the Department of Horticulture Records.  Included in the series is a folder that holds a report that was requested by Governor Jim Hunt in 1982 from the College of Agriculture and Life Science on how North Carolina could expand it’s production in agriculture in areas beyond tobacco.  The report was to be included in a finalized report about the future of the state’s economy as a whole that was to be put together by the “Commission on the Future of North Carolina” or as it was commonly known, NC 2000.

The letter sent out to department faculty soliciting input for this report reflects a growing reality in the early 1980s in NC agriculture – that tobacco was going to fade as the primary crop of NC and that new crops needed to be identified that could become a good source of income for NC farmers.  The Dean of the School of Agriculture wrote:

“In 1981 tobacco accounted for a major portion of the farm income in North Carolina and was among our most profitable agricultural enterprise in terms of returns to capital investment, labor, and management.  Although the “tobacco program” will undoubtedly undergo modification to comply with the federal mandate that the program operate at no cost to the federal government, tobacco will undoubtedly remain a primary source of agricultural income in North Carolina.  It is, however, incumbent on our School to identify other profit generating agricultural enterprises for North Carolina farmers.”

In the report there are maps of assorted crops that the horticulture faculty thought had the potential to be greatly expanded in the state, including many that we identify as primary NC crops today in 2013, such as strawberries, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and cucumbers.

Strawberry production by county, 1977-1979

Blueberry production by county, 1977-1979

To read the whole report, visit our site here. And to learn more about the Department of Horticulture and other materials digitized as part of the Cultivating a Revolution project, check our website:

Jun 06 2013

Politicians and Agriculture in NC

A lot of the materials we’ve digitized for the Cultivating a Revolution project is work of faculty and students at NCSU and also highlights the work of ordinary farmers in testing the research.  But these are not the only people that shaped the economy of agriculture in the mid 20th century.  Politicians and the government also played a large role in shaping agriculture policy (as they still do today, with items such as the Farm Bill that is currently up for debate in Congress.)  Several of the films digitized for the project are clips of speeches given by local and national politicians about various aspects of agriculture policy.  A few of those films are highlighted below.

Lt. Governor of NC Jim Hunt discussing his past experience with agriculture

President John F. Kennedy speaking at a national dairy convention in 1963

Senator Jesse Helms discussing the 1977 Agriculture Act

Commissioner of NC Agriculture, Jim Graham on anti-tobacco proponents in NC

To view more films from the project and other digitized materials, visit

May 23 2013

Agriculture learning through Continuing Education Schools

Contributed by Holly Withrow.

In addition to the Agricultural Chemicals School, now the Crop Protection School, discussed in our blog post last week, many other continuing education programs related to agriculture are held here at NCSU.  These include schools such as the “Peach School,” and the “Apple Pest Control School.”

Above is an example for a program for an Annual Peach School, put on by NCSU.  This school is one of many that NC State sponsored over the years to reach out to the public and keep them up to date and educated on many fields related to agriculture.

Above is a diagram of the life-cycle of Apple Blotch Fungus, a handout from the 1949 session.  The Apple Pest Control School was held in two locations, Hendersonville and Wilkesboro.  The Plant Pathology department had received so many inquiries about this subject from apple growers and had not had enough personnel to address them all.  To solve this problem, the Apple Pest Control Schools were designed to focus on the pressing issues of disease, rodents, and insects and their effects on apple production.

To get more information on these and other Schools held by the Plant Pathology Department and other departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, check out the Cultivating a Revolution project!

May 16 2013

Agricultural Chemicals School

Front of the 1971 Program

Back of the 1971 Program

The 5,300 students who graduated last weekend at PNC Arena are not the only type of student that North Carolina State University serves.  Continuing education, particularly for farmers, is something that NCSU has been involved in since the university opened its doors over a century ago.  Recognizing that many of those who could most use the information learned in research done at the university are not the regular college-aged student, “schools” such as the Agricultural Chemical School have been held annually to teach in a short period of time (usually a week, or weekend) the newest information about a particular topic.

Comments and Suggestions from Attendees to the 1960 School

The Agricultural Chemical School or “Pesticide School” was started in 1948 and was typically held over a weekend in January, the off-season for farmers.  It was attended by both farmers and those in the pesticide development industry and educated the attendees on the latest research and techniques on pesticide use, both being done at NCSU and across the country.  The program has remained popular and continues to this day, although the School is currently called the Crop Protection School and is run jointly by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Office of Professional Development, a unit of Continuing & Professional Education.  he focus of the School today remains much the same as when it started, to “present information on the effectiveness, safe application, and proper use of agricultural chemicals for the benefit of dealers, applicators, formulators, manufacturers, county Extension agents, farm superintendents, vocational agriculture teachers, and other agricultural leaders.”  The Special Collections Research Center, as part of the Cultivating a Revolution digitization project, has just completed digitization of all the materials held in the Agriculture Chemicals School Records.  Those materials can be found here.

Tally of types of Registrants to the School in 1967

To learn about the history of other continuing education programs at NCSU in agriculture, check out our digitization project, “Cultivating a Revolution.”

May 02 2013

Plant Disease Clinic

Contributed by Holly Withrow.

One of the more important aspects of a Plant Pathologists job is diagnosing plant diseases for farmers via inspecting specimens.  In North Carolina, where the range of crops grown is so vast, plant pathologists are an especially important aspect of keeping crops healthy.

In a recent collection of digitized papers from the Plant Pathology department, the development of the Plant Disease Clinic at North Carolina State University is detailed.  Up until 1951, only one Extension Plant Pathologist was available to examine specimens.  Over time, and in relation to the spread of black shank disease of tobacco, the number of specimens needing to be examined rose dramatically.  To answer this need, the Plant Disease Clinic was born.  Its goal was to systematically and quickly analyze the specimens given to the Plant Pathology department.  Farmers would send in information about diseases affecting their crops and the plant pathologists would help them figure out what it was and how to treat it.  The records that have been digitized help to show what diseases have afflicted plants in North Carolina since the 1950s.

The program was so successful that it continues until this day.  To find out about the workings of the Clinic presently, check out it’s website. For more history on the Plant Disease Clinic, check out the Cultivating a Revolution project.

Apr 25 2013

Plant Pathology in Space?

Contributed by Holly Withrow.

While scanning materials for the Cultivating a Revolution digitization project, I discovered in a folder of papers from the Plant Pathology Department of North Carolina State University dated from the 1960s a paper suggesting that NASA should focus a little more on Plant Pathology.

The unnamed author suggests that while NASA should rightly focus on how man fares in space, they should also focus on other forms of life – specifically parasites of the plants that man depends on for food.  The effects of atmospheric differences on the plants and their parasites should be evaluated to see how well they could survive on, for instance, the moon.  They also suggest that this is not only important for the sake of nutrition, but also to consider in the case of biological warfare in space.  The author even attached some studies on pathogenesis in plants that he thought would be especially useful.

Of course at this point, NASA has researched some aspects of plants in space, but how exciting it seems for someone from an agricultural program in North Carolina in the 1960s to already be considering the impact of agricultural research on space exploration.  Someone was definitely thinking ahead!

To find out more about historical documents from the Department of Plant Pathology, check out the Cultivating a Revolution project.

Apr 18 2013

Department of Plant Pathology papers now available online

Contributed by Anne Barrett.

As part of the Cultivating a Revolution digitization project, papers from the Department of Plant Pathology Records have just been digitized and made available online.

What is plant pathology?

Plant pathology is the study of plant diseases caused by pathogens. These pathogens can include: bacteria, viruses, fungi, nematodes and parasites. Insects, mites and other vertebrate parasites are not generally studied by plant pathologists. Plant (or phyto) pathologists identify plant diseases, study the life cycles of the diseases, the etymology of the diseases, management of the diseases, and the impact(s) of the diseases (human, animal, financial, etc.).

Some examples of plant pathology research at NC State:

The Department of Plant Pathology at NC State is an active and dynamic leader in research and experimentation. This is a nice introductory video to the department of Plant Pathology at NC State:

From our recently digitized content, several examples of research stand out. This group of papers relate to work done at NC State and its associated extensions on disease-resistant legumes. These disease-resistant crops were developed for several African nations seeking plants that could resist rosette infestation.

This group of papers is comprised of correspondence between the Department of Crop Science and U.S. Senate and House Committees to prevent foreign pathogens from entering the country via shipments of agricultural goods.

In the recent news, two professors from the Department of Plant Pathology here at NC State have won an award for their work associated with soybean rust (a fungal disease affecting soybeans). To read more about their efforts, see:

To learn more about the Cultivating a Revolution project or see more digitized materials from the North Carolina State University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, visit here.

Apr 05 2013

Harvesting Peanuts

Contributed by Anne Barrett.

What is this?

Developed in cooperation with NC State professors, this is a sophisticated piece of machinery designed to treat freshly harvested peanuts. According to the patent application, the machine is designed to reduce the moisture content in the freshly harvested nuts to ensure longer storage without spoiling.

The machine consists of chambers to treat the nuts with heated gas. In order to move the nuts through the apparatus, several vacuum chambers were also incorporated into the design. To see the full description, as noted in the patent application, see:

To see more interesting designs for agricultural machines, check out our digitization project, Cultivating a Revolution: Science, Technology, and Change in North Carolina Agriculture, 1950-1979.