Video Tip of the Week: AGRICOLA for agricultural science searches

Although lots of attention and resources are focused on human genomics and disease, I keep track of a lot of work on agricultural genomics fronts as well. In many ways, the techniques and technologies of genomics are already paying real benefits–and some tools are even further along in important agricultural species–than they are for human health so far.

A frustrating thing, though, is that there can be important literature siloed in different places. There is a tremendous amount of information in PubMed, some of it covering ag species and technology, but there is a whole other resource with relevant research that you might also need to investigate if you are working on these ag topics. Some plants science tweeps on twitter were recently noting this problem:

I decided it was time to highlight AGRICOLA because of this (AGRICultural OnLine Access). And this week is also the week of a celebration of a hero of agriculture–Norman Borlaug. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in breeding plants with better properties. The #Borlaug100 festivities focused on the 100th anniversary of his birth. But you know what: I think Norm would want people to focus on the science. And to drive it forward. So I wanted to raise awareness of this catalog of ag science for researchers to use.

The AGRICOLA team describes their resource this way:

AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) serves as the catalog and index to the collections of the National Agricultural Library, as well as a primary public source for world-wide access to agricultural information. The database covers materials in all formats and periods, including printed works from as far back as the 15th century.

This video tour of how to use the NAL site comes from the UT iSchool folks. Have a look to learn about what you can expect to find and how to accomplish searches.

You may go right to the AGRICOLA search page. But you can also use a more recent interface from the top of the NAL site (National Agricultural Library) to accomplish your searches. There’s a quick search box right there that can help you get started faster. Or you can still access the other interface (NAL Catalog) from the navigation menu at the top:


Another amazing feature of the NAL resources is their digital collections. They even have thousands of beautiful watercolors and drawings of plants available. Really–go look at these: USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection.

Looking around for some kind of integrated resource (the love child of PubMed and AGRICOLA) I did notice that the Europe PMC (formerly known as UKPMC) site contains the literature from both sources. But it doesn’t have a lot of the tools I’m used to using with PubMed, so for some things I would still certainly go there. But still that’s a handy thing to keep in mind–you could cover both areas with a search from the Europe PMC site.

So I close this brief intro with a bit more Norman Borlaug. He was afraid that the progress on agricultural science could be prevented by folks opposed to this work. But let’s persist. And now–go do science. And “play it hard”.

Video details: Play it Hard – A Tribute to Dr. Norman Borlaug

Quick Links:

National Agricultural Library homepage:

NAL AGRICOLA directly:

Europe PMC:


Borlaug N. (2007). Feeding a Hungry World, Science, 318 (5849) 359-359. DOI:

Borlaug N.E. (2000). Ending World Hunger. The Promise of Biotechnology and the Threat of Antiscience Zealotry, PLANT PHYSIOLOGY, 124 (2) 487-490. DOI:

McEntyre J.R., Ananiadou S., Andrews S., Black W.J., Boulderstone R., Buttery P., Chaplin D., Chevuru S., Cobley N. & Coleman L.A. & (2010). UKPMC: a full text article resource for the life sciences, Nucleic Acids Research, 39 (Database) D58-D65. DOI: