Talcott W. Edminster, 60, who retired in February as administrator of national agricultural research for the Department of Agriculture, died of cancer Friday at his home in College Park.

Mr. Edminster joined Agriculture in 1944 as a research worker in the Soil Conservation Service. He later became a project supervisor in charge of research for the service in Virginia. In 1971, he was appointed administrator of the USDA's old Agricultural Research Service, now part of the department's Science and Education Administration.

During his 35-year career as an authority on soil and water engineering, he received a number of awards, including the USDA's Distinguished Service Award in 1973 for his reorganization of the department's agricultural research programs, Agriculture's Career Service Award, the government-wide William A. Jump Award in 1951 as top young administrator in the federal government, and an award from the French minister of agriculture in 1971.

Born in East Freetown, Mass., Mr. Edminster graduated from Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1942. A year later, he earned a master's degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Georgia.

He was president of the International Commission of Agricultural Engineering at the time of his death.

Mr. Edminster was a coauthor of textbooks on soil and water engineering used by colleges and universities in this country and the author or coauthor of more than 40 articles in his field.

A resident of College Park since 1952, he was chief rifle instructor for Boy Scout Troop 228 there. He was a Sunday school teacher at Riverdale Presbyterian Church in University Park.

Survivors include his wife, Jeanne Wilson Edminster of College Park three daughters, Linda Kay Gregory of Shady Side; Vicki Deen Schmeltz of Brandywine, and Corinne Gail Vucci of Laurel; a son, Talcott Ross of East Freetown, and four grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Melwood Horticultural Training Center, 5606 Dower House Rd., Upper Marlboro 20870, in care of Dick Barnard, or to a charity of one's choice.