Morrow Plots

Aerial view of harvested fields and observatory in background
Morrow Plots, 1937

One of the earliest innovations at the University of Illinois is the Morrow Plots. Established by the College of Agriculture in 1876, conceived by Manly Miles, and developed by George E. Morrow, the Morrow Plots were created to study the effects of crop rotation and land use practices on the soil’s health and yield. This research went on from the 1870’s and continues today.


Originally containing 10 plots, the Morrow Plots would eventually be restricted to just 3 plots (Plots 3, 4, and 5). The research measured the health and yield of the plots, with plot 3 being planted with corn, plot 4 being planted with corn and oats, and plot 5 being planted with corn, oats, and clover (Sampled Yield Reports from 1888-1926). Also, soil richness would be monitored by having some plots injected with nitrogen fertilizer, and others left alone.

man on stage in front of harvested fields with people sitting in grass around stage
Morrow Plots Dedication Ceremony, September 12, 1968

Experiments concluded that with crop rotation and/or fertilized soil, corn yields would be high while also maintaining soil richness. To commemorate the research done in the Morrow Plots, The US Department of the Interior would designate said fields as a registered National Historic Landmark in 1968. Today, the Morrow Plots stand as testament as not only the oldest experiment fields in America, but it also honors the legacy of the university as originally having a strong agricultural focus.

  • The Morrow Plots are located on Goodwin Avenue next to the Undergraduate Library and Observatory


E.E. DeTurk, F.C. Bauer, and L.H. Smith, “Lessons from the Morrow Plots,” University of Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 300, Record Series 8/2/801. Box. No 3, University of Illinois Archives

Morrow Plots. (1937). Photographic Subject File. Record Series 39/2/20, Box AGR – 6, Folder AGR – 6-26 Morrow Plots 1930-37, University of Illinois Archives.

Morrow Plots Dedication. (1968, September 12). Record Series 39/2/20, Box AGR – 6, Folder AGR – 6-6 Morrow Plots, 1950-. University of Illinois Archives.

Photographic Subject File, 1868-, Record Series 39/2/20, Box. No 27, University of Illinois Archives

University Archives Reference File, Record Series 35/3/65, Folder: Morrow Plots, University of Illinois Archives


Contributors: Myles Jude