Top of the Morning, April 7, 2014: From the archives

Top of the Morning, April 7, 2014: From the archives

URBANA — It's not even an acre, but it's an important piece of land.

So important one entire building was constructed underground and, decades later, another was built elsewhere.

The Illinois Varsity Men's Glee Club's a cappella group, The Other Guys, have a song about it:

"No sir, we don't mess around, our library's underground, 'cause you can't throw shade on the corn."

I give you the University of Illinois Morrow Plots, where agricultural experiments have been conducted continuously since 1876.

"It's simply the only place in the United States where that's been the case," said Emerson Nafziger, a professor and coordinator of the Research Education Center of the UI's Department of Crop Sciences.

There are three plots within the parcel you've seen between the Undergraduate Library and the Institute for Genomic Biology. Each is home to a different "treatment" of the crops planted there.

In the northern third, corn has been the crop, "every year for more than 100 years." The other two have crops rotated from one year to the next. Fertilizer treatments also vary. The results are recorded after each harvest.

It's one of the stops seemingly everyone makes on a tour of campus.

"The mythology has expanded," said Nafziger. "Everybody seems to know" the Undergraduate Library was built below ground to avoid casting shade on the Morrow Plots. Decades later, in the late 1990s, a plan to build a fire station/parking deck was scuttled over concerns about the effects on the plots.

"I was involved in that one," Nafziger said. "I don't think it was 'To the barricade.'"

By 1968, the Morrow Plots were named a National Historic Landmark. U.S. Rep. William Springer was here for the ceremony.

The plots will be planted late this month or early next, Nafziger said.

It won't take long.

Neither will harvesting.

"It'll take longer to drive the machine up," he said.

There's an excellent history of the site at

In this week's gallery from the archives, we have photos of the Morrow Plots from over the years, and a pdf file of the booklet issued for the Historic Landmark designation.

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