Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

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The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is one of eight colleges at Virginia Tech with a three-part mission of learning, discovery, and engagement and it is one of the best agriculture programs in the nation. It has more than 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students in a dozen academic departments.[1] In 2009, the National Science Foundation ranked Virginia Tech No. 5 in the country for agricultural research expenditures, much of which originated from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.[2]

As part of Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission, the college administers Virginia Cooperative Extension in partnership with Virginia State University.


Deans of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences[3]
Andrew M. Soule 1903-1906
W.J. Quick 1906-1908
Harvey L. Price 1908-1945
Thomas B. Hutcheson 1946-1950
Leander B. Dietrick 1952-1962
Wilson B. Bell 1962-1968
James E. Martin 1968-1975
James R. Nichols 1975-1991
Andy L. Swiger 1992-2003
Sharron S. Quisenberry 2003-2009
Alan L. Grant 2009–present

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college named Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, Virginia Tech has evolved into a large public university with numerous degree offerings. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences provides the kind of education intended under the Morrill Act of 1862, making it the center of the land-grant tradition at Virginia Tech. Closely associated with the college are the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, established in 1886, and Virginia Cooperative Extension, established in 1914.[4]

Today, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has more than 17,000 alumni.[1]


The college is home to a dozen academic departments:

  • Agricultural and Applied Economics
  • Agricultural and Extension Education
  • Animal and Poultry Sciences
  • Biochemistry (with the College of Science)
  • Biological Systems Engineering (with the College of Engineering)
  • Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences
  • Dairy Science
  • Entomology
  • Food Science and Technology
  • Horticulture
  • Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise
  • Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science


Meredith Cassell, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech, collects bean leaf beetles at a soybean field at the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Painter, Va. Cassell discovered that beetles carrying bean pod mottle virus, previously unknown to exist in the area, have infected soybean fields throughout the region.

The college offers bachelor’s degrees in 13 majors as well as an undecided option:[5]

  • Agribusiness
  • Agricultural sciences
  • Animal and poultry sciences
  • Applied economic management
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological systems engineering
  • Crop and soil environmental sciences
  • Dairy science
  • Environmental horticulture
  • Environmental science
  • Food science and technology
  • Human nutrition, foods and exercise
  • Landscape contracting
  • Life sciences undecided (must transfer into degree program during first two years)

The Agricultural Technology Program prepares students for careers in the agricultural and green industries with a concentrated, two-year degree experience that leads to an associate’s degree. Students specialize in either applied agricultural management or landscape and turf management.[6]

The college’s graduate program offers advanced degrees in numerous disciplines:

  • Agricultural and applied economics
  • Animal and dairy science (Ph.D. only)
  • Animal and poultry sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Crop and soil environmental sciences
  • Dairy science (M.S. only)
  • Economics in agricultural and life sciences (Ph.D. only)
  • Entomology
  • Food science and technology
  • Horticulture
  • Human nutrition, foods and exercise
  • Plant pathology, physiology, and weed science


Xiao Yang, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, describes Phytophthora spores as part of a project to combat plant pathogens in recycled irrigation water and improve water quality at nurseries and greenhouses throughout the U.S.[7]

The college has identified six program areas as a focus for development and investment:

  • Agricultural profitability and environmental sustainability
  • Food, nutrition, and health
  • Biodesign and bioprocessing
  • Green industry
  • Infectious diseases
  • Community viability[8]

Together with the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, the college administers the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, which allows faculty to investigate food and fiber systems, their impact on the environment, and natural and human resource issues. Eleven agricultural research and Extension centers, which are dispersed throughout Virginia’s five geographical areas, support this research system.[9]

Virginia Tech’s research expenditures in the agricultural and life sciences have consistently ranked among the top in the nation. In 2009, these expenditures exceeded $91.6 million and accounted for more than 23 percent of Virginia Tech’s research spending.[2]

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