Over a research career devoted to the genetics of resistance and the breeding and improvement of cereal grains, Briggs earned himself a reputation as a pioneer in the application of genetics to crop improvement. This status is due in large part to his development and advancement of a breeding technique that has been called one of the significant plant breeding developments of the 20th Century: backcrossing, a breeding methodology that allows the introgression of desired traits (e.g. disease resistance) without significantly altering high quality. Using this method, Briggs developed several disease-resistant grain varieties for commercial production in California, including net blotch-resistant barley and rust- and bunt-resistant wheat.
A co-author with P.F. Knowles of the important 1967 text Introduction to Plant Breeding, Briggs did much to educate the next generation of plant breeders even as he worked from his position as Department Chair and Dean to forge key and lasting collaborations between university and external researchers (e.g. the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation). On May 24, 1972, Briggs Hall on the UC Davis campus was named in honor of his valuable career of service to the university and his contributions to California agriculture.