History of Crop and Soil Sciences

Our Roots

During the early 1900s, research and extension activities focused on crop production and soil management for North Carolina crops such as forages, cotton, tobacco and upland rice. Classes in crops and soils were first offered in 1914, and two student clubs were organized, including the present-day Agronomy Club.

In 1924, the Division of Agronomy was renamed the Department of Agronomy, led by C.B. Williams and housed in Patterson Hall. World War I and the Great Depression had a strong impact on the department’s agronomic programs. Following World War II, the department experienced significant growth in faculty, students, new programs in plant breeding, and the launch of the Official Variety Testing Program (OVT).

Growth and Change

In 1952, the department moved to Williams Hall. In 1956, the department was divided into a Field Crops Department and a Soil Science Department. Both new departments experienced rapid growth and evolution, with Crop Science focusing on key discipline areas of plant breeding/genetics, crop management, crop physiology, turfgrass science, weed management and agroecology, and Soil Science concentrating on soil management, waste management, soil fertility, and environmental quality and protection.

Facilities to support education programs in crop and soil sciences include:

  • Buildings on main campus (Williams Hall, greenhouses, Pytotron)
  • Method Road greenhouse complex
  • Field facilities at Reedy Creek Field Operations Unit
  • Lake Wheeler Field Lab for turf, crops and agroecology research, and hands-on soil sediment and erosion control and on-site wastewater management training and research facilities

Faculty conducting field research also use the 18 N.C. Research Stations located throughout the state and work on the farms of clients and stakeholders.

Combined Strength Moves Us Forward

Over the past 25 years, our departments have developed new programs, received national recognition for research and discovery, benefited from the strong support of our stakeholders.

Our new combined department will help advance our vision of being a world leader in crop and soil science education and in the generation and application of knowledge required for economically and environmentally sustainable crop systems and products, as well as in developing land management strategies that protect the quality of North Carolina’s soil, water and air resources.