The Western Agricultural Research Center (WARC) at Corvallis was established in 1907, during the apple-planting boom in the Bitterroot Valley. The center, originally named the "Horticultural Substation," was the first state-initiated research center in Montana. The center was established on 20 acres of land donated to the state by the Bitterroot Valley Irrigation Company. Another 9.1 acres were added to the center in 1920.
The center was established to "determine, by testing, the most profitable varieties of apples, pears, cherries, plums, walnuts, peaches, apricots, strawberries, bushfruits, and vegetables." Considerable work was done on orchard fertility and orchard cover crops in early years. After the decline of apples in the Bitterroot Valley, the center's emphasis shifted to the development of small fruits and the sweet cherry industry in the Flathead area. Other projects included tomato variety studies and the development of an exceptional iris collection.
In 1957, the Legislature expanded the responsibilities to include other areas of agricultural research. In 1964, fertilizer experiments were initiated on forages and crops such as potatoes, sugar beets and sweet cherries, and studies were started on the effects of irrigation on nitrate leaching and N fertilizer loss. A new crop studied in the 1970's was the perennial poppy, Papaver bracteatum, used for the production of codeine. In more recent history, the center hosted research programs in soil science, biological weed control, herb production with oil distillation and the development of a biological seed treatment.
The center has gone through several name changes. The "Horticultural Substation" became the Western Montana Branch Station in 1957, and was renamed the Western Agricultural Research Center in the early 1970's.
The average annual precipitation at the WARC is 11.4 inches; the average temperature is 58 degrees and the average frost-free period is 112 days. More complete weather data can be found at the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation AGRIMET site.
New knowledge generated by the Research Center programs benefits Montana agriculture and the scientific community at local, state and national levels. This knowledge is disseminated to the agricultural industry in Montana through publications and teaching to improve the economic status and quality of life of its citizens. Research information also reaches the scientific community through publication in professional journals and presentations at professional meetings, thereby enhancing and promoting the individual professional development of faculty members. Faculty appointments are predominantly research-oriented, with limited opportunities for traditional academic teaching activities.