orange blossom (c) UCR/Stan Lim



The forerunner of the Department of Environmental Sciences was an agricultural chemistry research unit in the world-renowned California Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station (CRC-AES) which was established in Riverside in 1907. The results of research conducted by scientists in this unit led to large-scale reclamation of salt-affected lands in California, and a better fundamental understanding of base exchange, plant nutrition, and physical conditions of irrigated soils. The University of California general campus at Riverside was established in 1948, opened for classes in 1954, and initiated its Graduate Division in 1960. Since 1960, the graduate program in Soil Science has conferred 122 Master's degrees and 192 Ph.D. degrees. The College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences houses 12 centers and institutes. Nearby are the Riverside Office of the Center for Water Resources, and two U.S.D.A. research laboratories: the U.S. Salinity Laboratory and the U.S. Forest Fire Laboratory.


  • Early History

    1907: Southern California Pathological Laboratory and Experiment Station is established in Whittier and Riverside. The headquarters for soil and irrigation studies is located in Riverside.

    1913: Reorganized to Citrus Experiment Station and Graduate School of Tropical Agriculture

    1914: Agricultural Extension Service established

  • The Kelley Years 1914-1937

    1914: Department of Agricultural Chemistry established

    1914-1927 Faculty: W.P. Kelley, S.M. Brown, E.E. Thomas, A.P. Vanselow

    1927-1937 Faculty: H. D. Chapman, H. Jenny, V. Socolf

    Research Emphasis:

    • Chemistry/biochemistry of nitrogen in semi-arid soils
    • Chemical/physical effects of salinity/sodicity on soils
    • Base/cation exchange in soils

    Major Accomplishments:

    • The clay mineral concept (Kelley, Brown And Dore)
    • Mole fraction ion exchange equation (Vanselow)
  • The Chapman Years 1937-1961

    1940's Faculty: Homer Chapman, Albert Vanselow, Daniel Aldrich, Sterling Olson, James Martin, Frank Eaton, Ellis Wallihan, Robert Harding

    1950-1961 Faculty: John Kaudy, Frank Bingham, William Moje, Roy Branson, Parker Pratt, Albert Page, Nathaniel Coleman, John Letey, Lewis Stolzy, Sterling Richards

    Research Emphasis:

    • Research emphasis of the department changed to mineral nutrition of plants, mainly citrus and avocados
    • The department name changed to Soils and Plant Nutrition

    Research Highlights 1940-1950:

    • Technology of sand/solution culture was developed
    • Use of leaf analysis for the diagnosis of deficiencies of plants
    • Functional groups in soil organic matter and their contribution to cation exchange capacity
    • Reclamation of saline/sodic soils
    • Citrus replant problem

    1954: The College of Letters and Science was established

    1958: The College of Agriculture at UCLA was phased out in 1958, and John Letey, Sterling Richards, Lewis Stolzy, and Jacob Oertli were assigned to Riverside

    Research Highlights 1951-1961:

    • Effects of air pollutants on plants
    • Soil phosphorus/trace element nutrition of plants
    • Methods for the diagnosis of soil acidity, lime and sulfur requirement
    • Boron chemistry in soils, deficiencies and excesses in soils and irrigation waters
    • Measurement of soil water content- neutron probe - soil suction devices (tensiometers)
    • Role of microorganisms in the formation of humic/fulvic acids
  • The Coleman Years 1961-1965

    Undergraduate and graduate program in Soil Science initiated

    Research Highlights:

    • Oxygen diffusion rate - its measurement and effect on plant growth
    • Soil wettability/repellency - the effects of wetting agents and surfactants on infiltration and hydraulic conductivity
    • Exchangeable and titratable acidity of clays and soils - the role played by and chemistry of aluminum
    • Chemistry and mineralogy of trioctahedral micas
    • Negative adsorption by clays and soil
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