The United States is at a crossroads in agricultural research. For 120 years, our land-grant universities and their associated agricultural experiment stations and extension services have succeeded because their collective mission links research, teaching, and outreach. There are cracks in the foundation, however: In 1993, a former land-grant university dean, Harry Kunkel, suggested that knowledge gathered through scholarship was being integrated inadequately. Despite advances in genomics that could be used to identify genetic markers for desired production traits, as well as resistance of plants and animals to parasites, disease, and harsh environments, these failures are even truer today.

Most federal funds to land-grant universities are now used to pay faculty and staff salaries, with little left to support operations and even less to support in-depth hypothesis-driven research. In addition, the culture of providing hard-money support has generated scientists in agricultural experiment stations who have no experience with competitive grants programs,...

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