The Morrow Plots

The Morrow Plots are named after the first dean of the College of Agriculture (the previous title of the College of ACES), Professor George Espy Morrow. Established in 1876, the plots are the oldest experimental crop field in the Americas and the second oldest in the world - after the Rothamsted research station in England, established in 1843.

Center: The Morrow Plots and observatory, 1924, with open space to the east and west. Bottom left: Construction for the main library.
Center: The Morrow Plots and observatory, 1924, with open space to the east and west. Bottom left: Construction for the main library.

The plots were originally divided into 10 half acre plots. Some of the land formally included in the plots was used to build the observatory or tuned into green space. Now only three plots remain but they are protected as a National Historic Landmark. The Morrow Plots is one of two such landmarks on campus, achieving the status in 1968. The neighboring observatory also achieved the status of National Historic Landmark in 1989.

Research on the plots was instrumental in gaining knowledge on crop rotation, soil nutrient depletion, and the effects of synthetic and natural fertilizers. With crops being consistently grown in the same place for well over 100 years, research and records on the Morrow Plots continue to provide valuable information for a variety of topics, including soil carbon sequestration and long-term effects of fertilizers on soil bacteria. Corn, wheat, soybeans and other crops are still grown on the plots to this day.

Morrow plots in the early fall, 2016, with corn in a few plots. IGB, undergrad library, and observatory also visible.
The Morrow Plots in 2016 with one of the undergraduate library entrances visible on the left.

The plots have often been credited as the reason the university’s undergraduate library, just West of of the plots, was built underground - to avoid shading plants growing in the plots. However the library dedication proceedings cited the desire to keep an open air aesthetic as the primary reason. Nonetheless credit is still often assigned to the plots. The University a cappella group, The Other Guys, even have a song they perform at nearly every concert about the Morrow Plots being the reason for the underground library.