DSAC was established in 1934 on about 5,100 acres of unglaciated Ozark Uplift land (primarily Fraguidalfs and Fluventic Haplaquepts) near Simpson in Pope County, and was operated until 1985 as a sub-station of the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station. In this period, agronomic work involving soil fertility, soil management, conservation and crop production was a major part of its mission. A major reorganization plan that took place in 1985 assigned the land, equipment and personnel to academic units within the College of ACES and Veterinary Medicine.
DSAC links the laboratories and classrooms of the University of Illinois at Urbana and the USDA with the farms in southern Illinois. Researchers at DSAC coordinate their programs to meet the needs of area farmers. An advisory board, drawn from a broad sampling of local stakeholders, provides guidance.
The University of Illinois conducts research and educational programs at Dixon Springs in the following areas:
Animal Scientists conduct beef cattle research focusing on grazing management, nutrition, genetics, reproduction, and pest management.
Agronomists study precision agriculture, crops and soil management, soil fertility, crop production and pest management. There is a major emphasis on no-till and reduced tillage systems, a concept developed at DSAC in that late 1950's by Professor George E. McKibben.
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences staff conduct research and extension programs and system-based land stewardship. The Forest Resource Center offers information and educational programs for land owners, natural resource professionals, teachers, students and the general public.