#146 National Soil Dynamics Laboratory


World's first full-size laboratory for tillage tools and traction equipment in all types of soils


The National Soil Dynamics Laboratory was the world's first full-size laboratory for controlled studies of the relationships between tillage tools and traction equipment, and various types of soils. Conceived by Mark L. Nichols and John W. Randolph, the facility incorporates their work begun in 1922 to establish soil dynamics as field of study. Research performed here has influenced the design of almost all modern agricultural equipment. Built in 1935 for research related to cotton production, the laboratory soon expanded its traction and transport research to include all types of machinery and the effects of machinery design on soil compaction, conservation, and plant growth.

Although it has inspired the design of more than a dozen other facilities, this remains the largest and most complete laboratory of its kind in the world. Among many firsts: the facility was first to perform fully instrumented tests on full-size tillage and traction machinery, first to use rail-mounted power and dynamometer cars to isolate the equipment from external influences, first to test all significant types of soils found throughout the world, and the first to use rail-mounted cars to prepare the soils in a controlled manner.

Formerly the National Tillage Machinery Laboratory, the laboratory was built October 1933 to September 1934, and the first test was run April 1935. Operated by the US Department of Agriculture, it remains in active service. Simultaneous recognition by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers accompanied the landmarking of this laboratory.

National Soil Dynamics Laboratory

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Landmark Location

US Dept. of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Auburn, Alabama

Ceremony Notes

October 1990 - joint with ASAgE (The American Society of Agricultural Engineers simultaneously recognized the tillage and traction research work done at the NSDL as a Historic Landmark of Agricultural Engineering during the joint ceremony.


USDA Agricultural Research Service

Visiting Info

Regular operating hours, call for appointment

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