During the 1870s Belgium followed the path of other European countries and created its first public agricultural laboratories under the direction of Arthur Petermann, a young German agricultural scientist. Petermann had been trained in the well-established European stations of renowned chemists such as Wilhelm Henneberg and Louis Grandeau. The mission of these laboratories was to acquaint the local farming community with the new scientific approach to farming, which included the use of chemical fertilizers. The laboratory scientists hoped to achieve this through education, information dissemination, and regulating chemical fertilizers. But farmers and fertilizer traders, whose practices relied on age-old family tradition, commonsense, and mutuality, were not pleased with this interference. Therefore, the scientists had to develop strategies to establish their authority.

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