Facing Systems Support Projeot
International Programs Office of Agriculture and
Institute of Food and Office of Multisectoral Development
Agricultural Sciences Bureau for Science and Technology
University of Florida Agency for International Development
Gainesville, Florida 32611 Washington, D.C. 20523
The publications in this collection do not reflect current scientific knowledge or recommendations. These texts represent the historic publishing record of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences and should be used only to trace the historic work of the Institute and its staff. Current WFAS research may be found on the Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS)
site maintained by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University of Florida
AN OVERVIEW OF THE LAND GRANT SYSTEM
Steve Kearl and Van Crowder
University of Florida March 1984
AN OVERVIEW OF THE LANDGRANT SYSTEM AND IFAS
Providing cheap and abundant food is a goal all .nations share.
We succeed in the United States because our farmers have the incentive to work hard and take risks
... they have control over their own land and resources ...
and the knowledge to use those resources productively.
The incentive is built into our political and economic system
we are blessed with land and water and climate
but gaining the knowledge is a struggle that never ends.
This is the story of how we do it.
The story begins more than a century ago when our nation was less than a century old.
More than 50 percent of our population made a living from farming.
The production methods the farmers used were different: land was cheap.
So, when the soil in one area was exhausted of nutrients, the farmers simply moved on.
As agriculture pushed onto out great prairies, men took more land than they could farm efficiently.
American farmers came to the land with primitive tools and no training.
There were no schools for common men like farmers and craftsmen.
Scientific agriculture was unheard of.
We had universities, of course, many dating back to our colonial era.
But these provided classical education for the sons of the rich and privileged.
One didn't go there to learn a better plow design or how to apply Mendel's great discoveries.
in genetics to the breeding of better crops or livestock.
In 1B57, a U.S. Congressman named Justin Morrill proposed that a new kind of college be established throughout the country
to provide agricultural and mechanical training.
Under the Morrill Act, passed in 1862,,
federal land was given to each state. Money from the sale of this land
formed endowment funds for the new schools ... hence the name, Land Grant Collecres.
But, it was soon obvious that something else was needed. Something more than classroom teaching.
Agriculture isn't philosophy. Scholarly debate won't make the crops grow or the animals thrive.
College training in agriculture must rest on a solid, scientific base.
So, the 1BB7 Hatch Act provided money for agricultural experiment stations at the land grant colleges
with the charc e to "develop and communicate" useful agricultural information.
This gave a new dimension to the professor's role. For, in addition to dispensing knowledge to eager students,
knowledge was created through applied research in the laboratory aud in the field.
It was soon apparent that no one, not even students, had more need for "useful agricultural information" than farmers.
The growing demand for publications and field demonstrations
placed an increasingly heavy burden on the land grant teaching and research faculties.
In response, Congress established the Agricultural Extension Service
in 1914 creating yet another role for the agricultural educator.
Agricultural agents, as they were known, were assigned to each county.
They were teachers, but they found their classrooms on the farm or in the rural meeting hall.
Through them, new research findings were applied season by season, rather than generation by generation.
So the foundation was complete. The dream of practical
education for the worker and farmer had been realized.
Through research efforts in every state, agriculture was becoming a science.
And, extension agents provided a vital link to every farmer and rural family.
Education ... research ... extension ... the American Land Grant System.
When the University of Florida was established as the state's land grant institution in the 1880's. Florida agriculture was little more than a subsistence way of life
and agricultural resources seemed meager indeed. Then, as now,
most of our soil was sandy and infertile. The semi-tropical climate of Florida favored pests and diseases more than crops or livestock.
Prospects for economic development and modernization were
unlikely at best. One startling comparison shows how agriculture in Florida lagged behind the rest of the country.
By 1917 there were 34,000 tractors operating on farms in the United States. In Florida there were only 71.
But, as the University's agricultural research and education programs gained momentum, the potential for a productive, competitive industry was discovered in the laboratories and experimental fields.
A few examples ... for many years, beef and dairy cattle in some parts of the state suffered and died from mysterious "disease."
The problem slowed the growth of Florida livestock industries for decades. In the early 1930s a university researcher discovered the cause.
Important trace elements ... copper, iron and cobalt ... were
absent from the soil in many areas. So, they weren't in the diets. of grazing cattle.
Scientists solved the problem with mineral feed supplements. Extension agents taught farmers and ranchers how to use them.
The result ... today's Florida dairy herds are the largest in the nation and its beef industry exports about 750,000 feeder calves each year.
Through a similar development, South Florida became the country's winter vegetable garden.
In the 1920's and '30's, farmers were frustrated to find the region ''s rich-looking muck soils no more fertile than the dry sands of central Florida.
University of Florida scientists made the land productive with trace amounts of copper, potassium and magnesium.
Today, fresh vegetables bring more farm income into the state than any other crop ... Of course Florida has come to be best known for its citrus industry.
But just 35 years ago, citrus growers were in danger of producing themselves out of business.
Orange crops were simply too large for the fresh fruit demand. "For Sale" signs appeared in hundreds of groves.
The owners faced bankruptcy even though the trees were heavy with fruit.
The industry was saved when University of Florida scientists developed a process for taking part of the water out of orange juice
and then freezing the product for shipment and sale. Today Florida is a major world producer of frozen orange juice concentrate.
This product has led to year-round, world-wide markets for the state's seasonal citrus crops.
Today, agriculture is Florida's number one production industry, growing more different crops than most other states combined.
Research and extension programs have helped Florida farmers adapt to an astonishing range of growing conditions.
Of course, farm production is just part of the picture. Agriculture also includes support industries;
suppliers of feed, seed, chemicals and fertilizer
packaging and processing ...
marketing ... credit and insurance.
So, in addition to providing an important part of the nation's food supply, Florida agriculture provides about 25 percent of all the jobs in the state.
Agriculture is the key
to maximum productive use of Florida's human and natural resources.
Maintaining this vast, complex agricultural industry is just as great a challenge as building it was.
As population growth increases competitive for water
farmers need more efficient irrigation systems.
As chemical pesticides become more expensive, farmers
look for biological pest control methods and new pest resistant crop varieties.
As conventional fuel prices rise,
it becomes imperative to develop alternative energy sources.
Florida agriculture continues to rely heavily on the research, education and extension programs of the University of Florida.
Today, the University's land grant resources are organized as the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
known by the acronym "IFAS." IFAS employs scientists and teachers in a seemingly endless list of fields
plant and animal sciences, entomology and nematology
economics ... food science and nutrition ...
forestry ... engineering ... microbiology and cell science..
plant pathology ... soil science ... and many others.
A faculty of 400 conducts basic and applied research on the production and marketing of more than 50 commodities.
One hundred and twenty university-based extension faculty prepare educational programs to disseminate new information.
More than 300 county extension faculty conduct educational programs specifically tailored to local needs.
.And, almost 100 teaching faculty make up IFAS and the college of agriculture the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, IFAS, is a multi-million dollar operation.
Because Florida has such a wide variety in crops, soils and climate, IFAS research is conducted at more than 20 off-campus research centers.
And, there are fully-staffed extension offices in each of the state's 67 counties.
All of this means a tremendous investment in buildings, farm equipment, scientific instruments and support personnel.
Here's another vital production tool used in IFAS operations
one that's easy to take for granted.
To provide the current reference material scientists and
students need, the university library spends about $2 million a year on new books.
IFAS libraries have 135,000 volumes on agricultural and related scientific subjects..
and hundreds of periodicals in which the very latest research findings are published.
There's only one reason that public resources of this magnitude can be committed to the support of IFAS programs ... the investment pays off ... year after year.
Recent research with potato production shows how valuable a single new discovery can be.
By improving soil testing procedures IFAS scietists have made it possible for farmers to accurately measure the amount of phosphorus in their soil.
If there's already enough to produce good yields, they don't have to add any more.
This reduces production costs by about $60 an acre, or
$150/hectare, and saves Florida potato farmers about half a million dollars a year.
An extension program in North Florida has increased farm income by about $4 million a year in five rural counties.
County agents helped introduce farmers to a new higrh-yielding soybeam variety, and as a result plantings have increased by more than 50,000 acres or 20,000 hectares in only two years.
In this way extension agents significantly increase the value of research results. Because they work directly with farmers in many cases,
they can present new technology in a way that's appropriate for each social and economic setting. This makes adoption faster and easier.
It's especially important in reaching small, limited-resource farmers, who are often the last to benefit from agricultural research and education programs.
Extension agents also provide important feedback to their colleagues working in research
reporting on the adoption of new varieties or production practices,
identifying farm problems for future study.
Of course, one cannot put a dollar value on the teaching
programs in the College of Agriculture. But the facts are clear:
none of this would be possible without a highly trained agricultural workforce.
. Nearly 1,000 undergraduate students and more than 700 graduate students are a part of IFAS at the University of Florida.
The training they receive, and their dedication in applying
that training~, will ensure that Justin Morrill's dream remains a reality..
here and around the world. IFAS The Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences is working today to prepare the scientists and educators of tomorrow.