In 1862, the passage of the Morrill Act provided federal grants of land to states that designated one or more colleges to teach agriculture. This action resulted, two years later, in the establishment of the Rutgers Scientific School, land-grant college of New Jersey. The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station was founded less than two decades later, in 1880. Rutgers now has the distinction of being the only educational institution in the nation that has been a colonial college, a land-grant college, and a state university. Varieties bred at the many agricultural experiment stations across the state have been developed using traditional breeding techniques and fall under the category of non-GMO crops.
In agriculture, variety selection is a key strategy for managing pests and diseases, as well as improving yields and profits. At the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, plant breeders develop and evaluate varieties for New Jersey and the region. They select cultivars for factors including fruit quality, yield, and resistance to diseases of local importance. Other goals of plant breeding include heat and drought tolerance and cold hardiness.
Typically, not all experiment station crops are bred under organic conditions in New Jersey. Organic tree fruit, for instance, would be exceedingly difficult and costly to produce organically, due to pest and disease pressure. Selecting disease-resistant or tolerant varieties can help all growers reduce their reliance on conventional chemicals.
Research facilities used for plant breeding include:
- Center for Turfgrass Science
- Clifford E. and Melda C. Snyder Research Farm
- Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension
- Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center
- Rutgers Fruit and Ornamental Research Extension Center
Research facilities for shellfish breeding include:
- Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory
The research produced by these research facilities is considered part of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, both institutions within Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. This dual role permits breeding programs to draw upon the strengths of off-campus stations and on-campus departments to fulfill its mission in support of research. The stations have a longstanding tradition of sharing research results and working closely with state and federal agencies, farming and agricultural communities, and fisheries and aquaculture communities across the state. Rutgers plant and shellfish breeders generate and disseminate valuable information regarding pressing issues of agricultural sciences, concentrating on species of commercial importance to New Jersey.