Mysterious Morrow Plots of the University can impact future of industry


Ryan Ash

Corn grows in the Morrow Plots on Sunday. The Crop Science department will host their annual Agronomy Day as a virtual event this year.

By Haley Bickelhaupt, Staff Writer

Surrounded by a hedged wall and tucked away between the Main and South Quad stands a mysterious piece of land that is of utmost importance to the College of ACES at the University. Throughout students’ time here on campus, many will walk by and wonder about the unusual sight of crop production in the heart of their campus. The Morrow Plots, a visual representation of the College of ACES, is a special piece of history that has allowed the Illini Nation to impact the world of agriculture and crop production.

Agriculture runs deep in the roots and history of the University of Illinois. Established as a result of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana was created as a way to promote higher education. This occurred to continue the teaching and researching of agricultural practices. Being the second oldest experimental crop field in the world, the use of the Morrow Plots for research began in 1876. Now considered a National Historic Landmark, this important area of production has led to many advances within the field of crop production.

As a student at the University, it is easy to see this landmark and to glance over the exciting research that is happening within the crop science department at the College of ACES. A way to showcase, connect with and teach others about current research conducted at the University, The Crop Science department will host their annual Agronomy Day as a virtual event. With expert spokespeople including Dean Kidwell, Adam Davis, Richard Mulvaney and many more — these individuals explore leading research regarding topics such as herbicide-resistant water hemp and the effectiveness of fall-applied anhydrous ammonia. This event hosts an educational forum for connecting with others as well as exploring new discoveries within the industry.

Allen Parish, chairperson for Agronomy Day and director of Crop Sciences Research and Education Centers, shared more about this online event, stating, “As much as I will miss seeing friends and networking with people, the digital Agronomy Day allows for a wider audience to hear about all the research that is going on here. This time of the year is filled with events so people will be able to view the videos when it is convenient for them.”

Parrish also explained the importance of the current research being done within his department, as well as its connection to the legendary Morrow Plots. “The basic concept of the Morrow Plots is not new. It was designed as a crop rotation study and crop rotation continues to play a big part in commercial agriculture,” he said. “The Morrow Plots embody the idea of doing better and our faculty and staff work hard to find better methods, genetics and technology.”

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Along with his involvement in promoting new research through Agronomy Day, Parrish also shared his work and its connection to the Morrow Plots. He explained, “Since my responsibility is about ensuring the quality of our farms, I work with my farm managers to steward and improve our field laboratories. The Morrow Plots are the oldest research plots in the United States and so it is an honor to continue on the legacy and lessons they teach us about crop rotation and fertility.”

The Morrow Plots fully encompass the impact and passion students within the College of ACES wish to have upon the University, an institution filled with the excitement of innovation as well as the rich history of the past. When discussing the impact this National Historic Landmark has had on the history of crop production, Parrish was quick to state the equally important impact this mysterious, hedged-in plot of land could have on the future of this industry. “It really is an exciting time to be in the agriculture industry.”

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