Research

Introduction

Universities across the nation engage in research, but at least one land-grant college or university per state is home to an agricultural experiment station. An agricultural experiment station is a scientific research center that investigates potential improvements to food production and agribusiness. Experiment station scientists work with farmers, ranchers, suppliers, processors, and others involved in food production and agriculture.

The Hatch Act of 1887 authorized the establishment of an agricultural experiment station in each state, which today employs about 13,000 scientists. Many states have branch stations to meet the special needs of different climate and geographical zones in those states. Federal and state governments cooperate in funding the research done at the stations, with additional income coming from grants, contracts, and the sale of products.

Meeting 21st Century Challenges with Science and Technology

By 2050, there will be nine billion people on Earth. Demographic trends indicate that this global population will be more urbanized and more concentrated in coastal communities, which are more vulnerable to severe weather, rising sea levels, and a lack of fresh water than their inland counterparts. At the same time, per capita incomes will continue to grow in many parts of the world and with them the demand for nutritious food, energy, water, and sanitation. Meanwhile, urban population growth will continue to move water away from agricultural use, increasing vulnerability to drought and famine around the world.

In the United States, the population is predicted to increase 40 percent by 2050, which will drastically increase demand for services, food, and natural resources-especially fresh water. Without drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures across most of the U.S. are predicted to increase by between 3 and 6°F by 2050; rainfall patterns will change; and increases in storm intensity may bring more frequent crop failures and migrations of affected populations. As a result, the U.S. will face significant challenges to food security, human health, economic growth, job creation, and sustainable environmental and natural resources.

The challenges we face as a nation will be multiplied across our interconnected world. How will we safeguard our quality of life-including affordable food, energy security, economic opportunity, a healthy environment, and economically and socially viable communities? Guided by principles of sustainability and stewardship, the Land-Grant Universities and State Agricultural Experiment Stations have identified the key challenges and management strategies needed to address them in A Science Roadmap for Agriculture. Research conducted by the Agricultural Experiment Stations that impacts food security and human health, economic growth and job creation, and sustainable environmental and natural resources will position the U.S. for resilience in the decades to come.