History of the Clemson Experiment Station

In 1887, the Hatch Act gave this nation its network of agricultural experiment stations. The Hatch Act provided federal funds for agricultural research at state colleges and universities. In 1962, the McIntire-Stennis Act provided similar federal funding for forestry, natural resources, and environmental research.

This allowed the United States, through research, to become the most effective producer of food and fiber in the world. More than 100 years after passage of the Hatch Act, research at Clemson University continues to enhance food, fiber, environmental and natural resource activities in South Carolina.

Agricultural researchers in South Carolina discovered puffed cereals, saved the cucumber industry from oblivion, developed soybean growing techniques that helped feed a hungry world, and were chiefly responsible for eliminating the chronic dietary disease pellagra.  Today the hot research topics include molecular biology, water quality, turfgrass and ornamental horticulture, pest management, sustainable agriculture, and food safety.

1669 - 1889: Early beginnings

Agricultural research first began in South Carolina in 1669 when the Lord Proprietors provided an experimental farm at Charles Towne Landing on the Ashley River, believed to be the first such farm in America for improving agriculture.  More than 200 years later, the South Carolina General Assembly established the South Carolina Agricultural Farms and Station at the South Carolina College - later the University of South Carolina - in Columbia in 1886.

Experimental farms were also established in Spartanburg and Darlington counties. 
When the General Assembly created Clemson Agricultural College in 1889, the Experiment Station was transferred to the new upcountry school. With passage of the Hatch Act in 1887, Congress provided $15,000 annually to set up experiment stations in each state and to aid in "acquiring culture and to promote scientific investigation and experiment."

1900 - Present

Around 1900, experiment substations were created in South Carolina to cope with the wide variation of soils and climates and growing conditions. Stations at Spartanburg and Darlington were abolished and replaced with units on the coast, in the midlands and in the Pee Dee regions.
Substations at Florence, Summerville and Columbia duplicated, under different conditions, tests conducted at Clemson, by carrying on research with crops and livestock adapted to their locations.  Later, Edisto Station was added at Blackville and Simpson Station near Pendleton was established as an outdoor laboratory for the scientists at the University.
With time, there would be less duplication and individual stations - renamed research and education centers in 1985 - would focus on crops and livestock research of special concern to their respective geographic areas.  The system today includes seven research facilities across the state:

  • Sandhill Research & Education Center in Columbia
  • Edisto Research & Education Center in Blackville
  • Pee Dee Research & Education Center in Florence
  • Coastal Research & Education Center in Charleston
  • Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology & Forest Science in Georgetown
  • Research farms near the University campus
  • Experimental Forest near the University campus

Until the 1950s, the regional experiment stations were relatively autonomous. Coordination and central direction came in later years with reorganization at Clemson. These regional stations started out with small staffs and with little financing, but grew in time with the demands and needs for additional research.

Today, the Experiment Station has more than 30,000 acres of land and more than 110 research projects.