North America benefits greatly from its fertile soils, plentiful freshwater, oil and mineral deposits, and forests. With a strong domestic and export economy focused on this abundant array of natural resources, North America has become one of the most developed regions in the world.
From the freezing Arctic to the tropical jungles of Central America, North America enjoys more climate variation than any other continent. Almost every type of ecosystem is represented somewhere on the continent, from coral reefs in the Caribbean to the ice sheet in Greenland. These differences contribute to variety of agricultural industries in North America, which are often divided by climate zone: tropical zone, subtropical zone, cool temperate zone, and dry zone.
In the tropical zones of North America, farmers grow oranges, sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, and bananas. These crops grow on coastal plains and humid mountain slopes. Cotton and hemp are cultivated in the warmer and drier intermediate climate zone. These crops are important exports for Central American countries.
Fruits, vegetables, cotton, and tobacco are predominant in the warm, subtropical zones of northern Mexico and the United States. Important agricultural areas in this zone include the Rio Grande Valley (citrus fruits) in the U.S. state of Texas and Mexico, Californias Central Valley (fruits and vegetables), the Gulf Coastal Plain (vegetables), and the sandy valleys of the Appalachians (cotton and tobacco). These areas enjoy the benefit from ample rain and warm air currents.
North American crops include grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and plants for clothing and other nonfood uses. The system of businesses associated with agricultural production in an industrialized society is integral part of modern agriculture and the interrelationship works quite well in North America.
In North America, agriculture generally has become mechanized and heavily dependent upon an integrated system of supporting agribusinesses, although traditional practices continue in Mexico. In the United States and Canada, most farmers and ranchers depend heavily upon technology, although groups such as the Amish have rejected automation and continue to use animal power for traction.
Most farmers practice monoculture, relying upon a single crop for their primary income, and have expanded to very large acreages in order to take advantage of economies of scale. Such farms are referred to in terms of the primary crop, for example, a dairy farm, a cattle ranch, or a wheat farm. Some small farms are run by part-time farmers who also have other occupations.
The Dairy Belt, Corn Belt, and Wheat Belt are three agricultural areas in the continents cool temperate zones.
Dairy animals, including cows, goats, and sheep, feed on the hay and hardy small grains that thrive in New England and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region along the Atlantic coast. This is the Dairy Belt.
The Corn Belt, located between the Ohio River and the lower Missouri River, receives ample water and strong summer sun, ideal for corn and soybeans.
West of the Corn Belt, the Wheat Belt stretches from the U.S. state of Kansas through the Canadian Prairie Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. This vast area of the Great Plains allows wheat to be cultivated in both winter and spring.
Dry zones, common in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, are ideally suited for livestock ranching. Ranches with thousands of cattle are common in this region. Traditionally, livestock fed on locally grown fodder such as prairie grasses. However, irrigation for fruit and cotton farming has drained water supplies in the region. Native grasses cannot nourish the huge herds of livestock kept by ranchers. Cattle, sheep, hogs, and other livestock are less likely to graze than to eat corn-based feed. In fact, most of the corn grown in the Corn Belt is feeder corn used for livestock feed.
The Corn Belt is a region of the Midwestern United States where corn (maize) has, since the 1850s, been the predominant crop, replacing the native tall grasses. By 1950, 99% of the corn was grown from hybrids. Most corn is fed to livestock, especially hogs and poultry. In recent decades soybeans have grown in importance. The U.S. produces 40% of the world crop.
Geography of corn belt
Geographic definitions of the region vary. Typically, it is defined to include: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, southern Michigan, western Ohio, eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, southern Minnesota and parts of Missouri. As of 2008, the top four corn-producing states were Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota, together accounting for more than half of the corn grown in the United States.The Corn Belt also sometimes is defined to include parts of South Dakota, North Dakota,Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Kentucky. The region is characterized by relatively level land and deep, fertile soils, high in organic matter.[
More generally, “Corn Belt” represents the most intensively agricultural region of the Midwest, connoting a lifestyle based on ownership of family farms, with supporting small towns and powerful farm organizations that lobbied to obtain higher prices.
History of corn belt
In the era from 1860 to 1970, new agricultural technology transformed the Corn Belt from a mixed crop-and-livestock farming area to a highly specialized cash-grain farming area. While the landscape was substantially modified, the family farm remained the standard form. Its acreage doubled, as farmers bought out their neighbors (who then moved to nearby towns). After 1970 increased crop and meat production required an export outlet, but global recession and a strong dollar reduced exports, depressed prices below costs of production, and created serious problems even for the best farm managers.
Vice President Henry A. Wallace, a politician and pioneer of hybrid seeds, declared in 1956 that the Corn Belt developed the “most productive agricultural civilization the world has ever seen”.
Wheat Belt, the part of the North American Great Plains where wheat is the dominant crop. The belt extends along a north-south axis for more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) from central Alberta, Can., to central Texas, U.S. It is subdivided into winter wheat and spring wheat areas. The southern area, where hard red winter wheat is grown, includes parts of the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, and Colorado. This area is hot and dry in summer and is thus well suited to winter wheat, which is planted in fall, when it draws on moisture provided by autumn rains. Cattle often graze on the young wheat. As the summer heat hits, the wheat ripens and is harvested in July. Hard red spring wheat is grown in parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, where the climate is more severe and the winters are too cold for winter wheat. Thus, the wheat is planted in spring and takes advantage of the long summer days of this high-latitude area to mature by fall.
First map from Notes of Professor Abdul Munir