Illini 411: Who started the Morrow Plots, the oldest experimental field in America?

Question courtesy of Roland Spies, JD ’89

Men holding corn cobs in front of planting beds Morrow Plots (image courtesy of UIAA)
Question courtesy of Roland Spies, JD ’89

A: If you guessed Mr. Morrow, guess again. The field’s namesake, Dean of Agriculture George E. Morrow, eventually oversaw its research and made the plots famous by publishing his findings. But they were started in 1876 by agriculture professor Manly Miles, a brilliant scientist with a combative streak who often fought with his colleagues. Shortly after Miles started the plots, his relationship with University Regent John Milton Gregory got so bad that Gregory eventually gave the Board of Trustees an ultimatum: either he goes or I do. The Trustees sided with Gregory and fired Miles. Over the next 150 years, the Morrow Plots—not the Miles Plots—would prove the efficacy of crop rotation, soil quality and fertilizers, revolutionizing farming practices worldwide.

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