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Cereal Rust Laboratory records

Identifier: ua-00037

Scope and Content

The Cereal Rust Laboratory Records are composed of materials generated through research and field work performed in four areas : Barberry eradication, a decades-long national program aimed at eliminating the Common Barberry plant; stem rust epidemiology, investigations of how rusts spread; race studies, containing data collected about different strains of rust and their mutations; and rust nurseries, controlled environments where plants are exposed to rusts strains to determine how and why plants are vulnerable to rusts. The collection includes correspondence, ledgers, reports, studies, publications, news clippings, scrapbooks, maps, photographs and slides. Collection date range is 1846 to 2007, with the bulk of the material dating from 1919-1960.

Included in the collection are materials generated by the Minnesota-based Rust Prevention Association (later renamed the Conference for the Prevention of Grain Rust (1921) and still later the Crop Quality Council), which worked in tandem with the Bureau of Plant Industry's Office of Cereal Investigations to conduct field observations and heighten public awareness of the need to control rust spread by eliminating the Common Barberry. Photographs contained in annual state Barberry Eradication Campaign reports, as well as the Photograph series offer an in-depth look at eradication efforts carried out by student and civilian workers, an insight into transitions in farming equipment, fencing, farm buildings, transportation and landscape planting in the early 20th century.

A substantial part of the collection consists of reports generated by field agents involved in two projects: the Barberry Eradication Campaign and rust epidemiology surveys. Initially administered independently, the epidemiology surveys became part of the eradication campaign in 1924. The campaign sent workers -- funded at first by state and private funding, and later by WPA funds -- into towns, farms and fields to dig up, pull out or poison barberry plants. The epidemiology workers were a smaller, academically trained crew that worked for the USDA and the Rust Prevention Association observing and recording outbreaks and sending observations back to the Cereal Rust Laboratory. Daily, weekly and seasonal observations were sent to the Cereal Rust Lab form the original studies in 1917-1920 until the late 1950s.

The collection is organized into five series:

Series 1, Barberry Eradication Campaigns, includes material generated by state and national Barberry eradication efforts. It is divided in to six sub-series:

  1. Subseries 1. Annual Progress Reports by States includes a run of progress reports produced by state eradication program coordinators detailing eradication activities for each year. Most states provide reports beginning in the late 1910s and continuing through the late 1950s.
  2. Subseries 2. State Extension and State Department of Agriculture Activities Supporting Barberry Eradication Campaigns, which include includes printed materials produced by state eradication programs about the Common Barberry, including teaching materials, publicity, posters and public awareness campaigns.
  3. Subseries 3. Eradication Program-Related Publications, contain a variety of publication types, including journal and magazine articles, news articles and government publications.
  4. Subseries 4. Minnesota Barberry Eradication Activities, containing materials on Minnesota’s Barberry eradication efforts, including laws, affidavits of sightings, news clippings and reports. Minnesota barberry materials are not limited to this subseries: users will want to check other subseries, notably Subseries 2 (state extension services and state agriculture departments) for additional Minnesota content.
  5. Subseries 5. International Barberry Activities, contains articles and studies focusing on barberry removal and rust studies in countries outside the United States.
  6. Subseries 6. Miscellaneous Reports on Eradication Activities, including reports written by E.C. Stakman and other rust experts on barberry elimination efforts, 1918 through the 1940s.

Series 2. Stem Rust Epidemiology, contains materials relating to the study of the spread of stem rust. It is divided into 4 subseries:

  1. Subseries 1. Report and Studies, 1915-1982, consists of standardized weekly reports and related correspondence from field agents involved in tracking rust spread in specific locations; quarterly and annual reports from USDA summarizing field agent observations; and selected regional reports. A variety of terms are used to represent these activities, including reports, epidemiology reports, annual reports, rust epidemiology reports, reports on rust epidemiology, epidemiology progress reports and summaries. Reports are primarily from the 1920s-1960s.
  2. Subseries 2. Rust over-wintering data, field notes, and related correspondence.
  3. Subseries 3. Spore Studies, includes materials concerning spore counts and areobiological studies.
  4. Subseries 4. Miscellaneous Publications concerning Stem Rust studies.

Series 3. Rust Mutation Studies and Rust Nursery Observations, consists of materials concerning the physiological specialization and change in rust strains (races), including notes from field and laboratory observations, summaries, reports of controlled experimentation with rust growth on crops, and selected reprints and reports of experiments at rust nurseries in the United States, Europe and Russia.

Series 4. Crop Losses Due to Stem Rust. This section also contains information about the rust prevention labor force in the 1970s and reports recording crop loss due to stem rust by location.

Series 5. Photographs and Slides. Primarily photos of field work in the Barberry eradication program and rust infestations in rural and city and town settings. Also includes photos of infected plants, photos taken under the microscope of rust spores and glass and film slides. Additional photographs can be found interspersed throughout the collection, most notably in Series 1, subseries 1, Barberry Eradication Campaigns, and Subseries 4, Minnesota Barberry Campaigns.


  • 1823, 1846-2007
  • Majority of material found within ( 1900-1979)


Language of Materials

Collection materials in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Historical Note

Activities that led to establishing the Cereal Rust Laboratory began in 1913 with a study of stem rust on wild grasses by University professors Elvin C. Stakman and F. J. Piemeisel. In 1915, the project became a cooperative investigation between the University’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the bureau of Plant Industry, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). At that time, Professor Stakman was appointed a federal collaborator and Mr. Piemeisel a federal scientific assistant in the Office of Cereal Investigations of the Bureau of Plant Industry.

The results of this early cooperation between University and federal personnel laid the foundation for a rational approach to controlling the spread of rust through the breeding of plant varieties resistant to stem rust, which caused the destructive epidemics on wheat and other crops in the United States.

A group of researchers, often called the Federal Rust Laboratory, was led by Professor E.C. Stakman, who continued with a dual appointment as chief agent in the USDA Office of Cereal Investigations and University professor of plant pathology until his retirement in 1953.

Professor Stakman’s successor as head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Agricultural Botany, Professor J.J. Christensen, continued this leadership under an appointment as collaborator in the USDA.

An amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding between the University’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service established the Cooperative Rust Laboratory for the investigation of stem rust of cereals in 1962.

The laboratory was housed in the University’s Plant Pathology Department, and in 1965, congressional appropriates were made to plan and construct a laboratory facility to provide quarters and facilities for the cooperative rust investigations. The Cereal Rust Laboratory facility on the University campus was completed in 1972, and the Laboratory’s mission was to investigate the stem rusts of cereals and develop information and principles useful in the control of these diseases.

In 1997, the mission of the group was expanded to include research on Fusarium head blight (scab) of wheat and barley as well as cereal rust diseases, and the name was changed from Cereal Rust Laboratory to Cereal Disease Laboratory. Federal scientists at the Cereal Disease Laboratory retained their close association with the University’s Department of Plant Pathology and served as adjunct professors on its faculty.


47.5 Cubic Feet (47)


The Cereal Rust Laboratory Records are composed of materials generated through research and field work performed in four areas : Barberry eradication, rust epidemiology investigations, rust race studies, and rust nursery work. Materials include correspondence, memos, ledgers, reports, studies, publications; brochures and program publicity, instructional materials, news clippings, scrapbooks, photographs and slides.

Source of acquisition

The bulk of this collection was transferred to University Archives in July 1989 by John F. Schafer.

Related Materials in University Archives

The Cereal Rust Laboratory records are one of several collections held by the University of Minnesota that document the development of agricultural practices that were central to the Green Revolution, including

Norman Borlaug papers

E.C. Stakman papers

John S. Niederhauser papers

John Gibler papers

Helen Hart papers

Department of Plant Pathology and Physiology records

Processing Information

This collection was processed with funds provided by the State of Minnesota through the Minnesota Historical Society from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, and with funds from the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and individual donors. Digitization funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Cereal Rust Laboratory Records, 1823, 1846-2007
Karen Spilman
September 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area