The Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station was established under the provisions of the federal Hatch Act of 1887, which provided grants of $15,000 to each U.S. state and territory for experimentation in the "principles and applications of agricultural science." Agricultural experimentation began at Oregon Agricultural College in 1888 under Edgar Grimm, the Station's first director, and in 1889 state legislation was approved formally establishing the Experiment Station. That year, the Station published its first bulletin and the college farm was increased from 35 acres to 155 acres.
In 1901 the first Branch Station was established at Union, in northeast Oregon, to address issues pertaining to the agriculture in that part of the state. Over the next few years, Branch Stations were established throughout Oregon, at Hermiston and Moro (1909); Harney and Talent (1911); Hood River (1912); and Astoria (1913). Prior to World War II, stations were established at Pendleton (1927); Medford (1931); Squaw Butte (1935); Klamath Falls (1937); and Oregon City (1939).
Major achievements of the Station's first 50 years included a successful way to remove spray residues from fruit; introduction of new grain varieties; new methods for storing and marketing Oregon pears; control of various livestock diseases; development of the modern maraschino cherry; and poultry breeding for egg production.
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