First Agricultural Experiment Station in Chapel Hill

The Apple Research Laboratory in Wilkes County in 1941. Image from the N.C. State University Archives

The Apple Research Laboratory in Wilkes County in 1941. Image from the N.C. State University Archives

On April 19, 1877, the first agricultural experiment station opened in a one-room chemistry lab at UNC. It was the first such station in the South, and the second in the nation.

A movement had been building to found the research station since 1885, when the General Assembly directed the Board of Agriculture to begin acquiring land and machinery for it. The actual legislation establishing the station was passed in February 1877 with a focus on research that would aid in plant nutrition and develop new fertilizers.

In 1889, management of the station was transferred to what is now N.C. State University. The change was the result of the federal Hatch Act, which sent federal funds for agricultural research to the states through land grant colleges. At the same time, the N.C. Department of Agriculture began establishing “test farms” across the state to try different crop, fertilizer and soil combinations and discover which crops were best suited to particular regions.

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The program has continued to grow, and today the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. State University operate 18 research stations around the state.

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