AUBURN, Ala.—Auburn University will begin its observances of the 150th anniversary of the nation’s land-grant college system Thursday, Oct. 11, when long-time agricultural researcher and administrator Gale Buchanan delivers the fall 2012 E.T. York Distinguished Lecture, “Land-Grant University: An American Icon.” The lecture, set for 7 p.m. in The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center auditorium, is free and open to the public.

The nation’s land-grant college system was created in 1862 by the Morrill Land-Grant Act, which gave each state federal lands to establish public colleges that would teach agriculture, mechanical arts and military tactics as well as more traditional classical or scientific disciplines so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education. In 1872, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama—now Auburn University—became the first land-grant college in the South.

In his lecture, Buchanan, currently dean and director emeritus of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia’s Tifton Campus, will discuss scientific advancements that researchers at land-grant universities have made through the decades and how those research accomplishments have contributed to the economic and social well-being of the nation.

Buchanan earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy from the University of Florida in 1959 and ’62, respectively, and the Ph.D. in plant physiology from Iowa State University in 1965, and then spent the first 21 years of his professional career at Auburn University as a faculty member in the Department of Agronomy and Soils.

As a young scientist with vivid memories of hours spent hoeing weeds on his family’s north Florida peanut farm, Buchanan focused his research on herbicides and improved planting methods that would reduce weed pressure in peanuts. His groundbreaking development of twin-row planting in peanuts drastically reduced herbicide use and increased yields 10 to 15 percent.

Fifteen years into his career at Auburn, Buchanan was named dean of Auburn’s College of Agriculture and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and served in that position until 1985.

The following year, he joined the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations and in 1995 was named dean and director of UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. In 2006, he was appointed undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He held that role until 2009.

Buchanan currently is chairman of the board of the international Council for Agricultural Science and Technology and was senior author on a recent CAST issue paper, “Agricultural Productivity Strategies for the Future: Addressing U.S. and Global Challenges.” He also is co-chair of the research section of the organization Solutions from the Land, which is co-sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy and the Farm Foundation. He co-authored the book “Leadership in Agriculture: Case Studies for a New Generation,” to be published by Texas A&M University Press in early 2013, and is working on a second book tentatively titled “Agricultural Research: the Only Hope for Civilization.”

Buchanan’s York lecture is the first of several on-campus events commemorating the Morrill Act sesquicentennial. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, Auburn University Outreach will sponsor a special lecture, “Auburn vs. Alabama: The Origin of the Rivalry,” by Dwayne Cox, head of Special Collections and Archives in the Ralph Brown Draughon Library. In the 3 p.m. presentation in the library’s ground-floor lecture room, Cox will discuss how the competition between Auburn and Alabama began over which institution would receive the land-grant designation. For other Morrill Act anniversary events or information, go to  

The E.T. York Distinguished Lecturer Series at Auburn University ( was established in the College of Agriculture in 1981 through an endowment from E.T. York and his wife, Vam Cardwell York, both native Alabamians and Auburn graduates. York served as head of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service from 1959 until 1962, then went on to serve as director of the Federal Extension Service in Washington, D.C., as provost and vice president for agriculture at the University of Florida and then as chancellor of the State University System of Florida. He retired in 1980 and passed away in April 2011.


For more information on the Oct. 11 York lecture, contact Megan Ross at 334-833-3201 or