An agricultural chemist was appointed to the Agriculture Department on 31 March 1897, establishing the Chemistry Division. A laboratory was set up in Brisbane for soil, water, plant and stock feed analysis.
The Chemical Laboratory of the Agriculture and Stock Department provided analytical and identification services of agricultural and stock materials to the department's research staff, to other Queensland Government departments and to Queensland's rural industries.
During administrative restructuring of the Department in 1945, the Chemical Laboratory was placed under the Plant Industry Division and subdivided into four sections: general analytical, plant nutrition, biochemistry and toxicology. In 1955 the biochemistry and toxicology sections were transferred to the Animal Industry Division. A cereal chemistry section was established in 1952/53. This section was transferred to the Queensland Wheat Research Institute at Toowoomba in 1962.
In the post-war years, regional agricultural chemical laboratories were opened within regional research stations so as to facilitate on site work by agricultural chemists. These regional research stations were under the administration of Regional Experiment Stations, later Regional Research Stations Branch, Plant Industry Division. The first regional laboratories were opened at Ayr in 1952/53 and at Atherton in 1953.
In June 1961 the Chemical Laboratory was renamed the Agricultural Chemical Laboratory Branch. This branch was decentralised and the majority of agricultural chemists were trained at head office in Brisbane and then sent to the regional laboratories to carry out on site research. Regional laboratories carrying out various types of work were stationed at Northgate, Mareeba, Millaroo, Parada, South Johnstone, Bilolea, Emerald and at the Queensland Wheat Research Institute at Toowoomba.
On 26 September 1963 the Agriculture and Stock Department became the Primary Industries Department.