Colorado State University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences Celebrates a Century of Service

Building on its roots in agronomy, Colorado State University’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Department of Agronomy, as it was known until 1994, was founded in 1909 by two faculty members – Alvin Kezer and D. W. Frear.

Today, the department has 29 research, teaching and Extension faculty on campus and at four branch Experiment Stations located across Colorado. In addition, there are 28 research associates, 40 graduate students and 67 undergraduate students enrolled.

Kezer is one of the department’s 11 “legends.” Legend status recognizes current and retired faculty who have contributed to the success and reputation of the department based on contributions in teaching, research and outreach.

Joining Kezer as “legends” are: David “Scotty” Robertson, who pioneered work into barley genetics and served as department chairman for 13 years; Willard Lindsay, a soil chemistry and micronutrient testing researcher; Warren “Red “Leonard, a long-time crop production and genetics professor; Robert Whitney, an international authority on irrigated soils and former department chairman; William Stewart, who was the first person to focus on wheat research programs at CSU; Robert Danielson, an expert in the fields of soil physics and irrigation science; Takumi Tsuchiya, recognized for his contributions to plant genetics and cytogenetics; Wayne Keim, who made major strides on behalf of the department in teaching, research and administration during his time as chairman; James Quick, a renowned professor in the fields of plants genetics and breeding; and current faculty member Jack Fenwick, known for his work with the department’s Agronomy Club.

Officials in the Soil and Crop Sciences department attribute the 100 years of success to teaching, research and Extension activities in areas ranging from basic genomics to production agriculture research.

“Over the last century the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences has prided itself on high quality teaching, especially at the undergraduate level,” said Gary Peterson, department chairman. “Our outstanding 21st century faculty members contribute at a high level and our graduates frequently comment on how, upon entering the job market, they find themselves ahead of their peers who graduated from other universities. In particular, they point to the principle based teaching they receive in the department, which provided them with the tools needed for on the job problem solving.”

Soil and crop sciences encompasses the study of the plant, soil and water resources that are the foundations of all agroecosystems. It includes the production and management of food, feed and fiber crops to meet human needs and the simultaneous protection of the environment.

The roots of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences were initiated in 1879 when the Colorado Agricultural College – now CSU – was organized. At that time, the entire college consisted of four faculty members. In 1887, with the passage of the Hatch Act by the U.S. Congress, the Agricultural Experiment Station at Colorado Agricultural College was organized with $15,000 from the U.S. Treasury. In 1888, the Colorado General Assembly provided funding to start two branch experiment stations: one in the San Luis Valley near Center, and one in the Arkansas Valley near Rocky Ford, in addition to the main Experimental Station in Fort Collins. From 1888 to 1909 agronomy research and teaching was conducted by the college’s Department of Agriculture and the Extension activities were carried out by experiment station personnel. In 1909, the Department of Agriculture was reorganized, and the Departments of Agronomy, Animal Husbandry and Farm Mechanics were initiated. A year later, the one instructor in the Farm Mechanics Department departed and that discipline was transferred to the Department of Agronomy.

“The soil and crop sciences department is known world-wide for its contributions in the fields of genetics, crop breeding and soil science,” said Peterson. “People such as Scotty Robertson and Willard Lindsay exemplify the high level of research done in the department over the past century. We are on a great trajectory for a second century of highly impactful work.”

For more information on the 100th anniversary of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, contact Gary Peterson at (970) 491-6501 or