Regionalizing Knowledge: The Ecological Approach of the USDA Office of Dryland Agriculture on the Great Plains

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


This chapter examines the environmental region as a middle level of knowledge production between local and universal, focusing on the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of Dryland Agriculture in the early twentieth century, under E. C. Chilcott. The office supported branch field stations dispersed across the Great Plains—a region experiencing a tremendous influx of farming immigrants during this period—and these stations undertook coordinated agronomic experiments and measurements of ecological variables throughout the region. Such a regionalized ecological approach to agricultural research was not only similar in many respects to research in the emerging field of ecology but also produced knowledge claims contrasting markedly with the contemporaneous “scientific soil culture” movement led by promoters such as Hardy Webster Campbell. At the same time, the practice of agricultural research involving systematic coordination of research design and uniform collection of ecological variables generated some tensions between federal and state scientists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArchimedes
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

ISSN (Print)1385-0180
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0064


  • E. C. Chilcott
  • Great Plains
  • Hardy Webster Campbell
  • History of ecology
  • Office of Dryland Agriculture
  • US Department of Agriculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy


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