Cropping Patterns

Cropping Patterns

Different crops are grown in different places in the United States. Different crops have been grown in different places at different times throughout history. As new varieties and hybrids are developed, crops may be introduced into new areas.

When you look at a national map of cropping patterns, Nebraska is on the western edge of the great American Corn Belt. The Corn Belt extends east through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio with other major areas in the Southeast back to Texas. In the 1920s and 30s, corn was a major crop for Nebraska farmers. Along with oats, sorghum and alfalfa, corn was used to feed cattle and pigs. Livestock was the main source of cash for farmers. If farmers harvested a big crop, they sold some of the corn and grain to other farmers who needed feed.

Nebraska was also part of the winter wheat belt that extended south through the Great Plains states of Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas. Winter wheat is planted in the fall, goes dormant over the winter and is harvested during the summer. In the northern plains and parts of Minnesota, quick growing varieties of spring wheat was planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. Wheat was grown primarily for human consumption in the form of flour.

Across the country, the development of hybrids, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation and new machines has changed cropping patterns today. In this Then & Now story, you can see today’s cropping patterns.

In the American South during the 1920s and 30s, cotton was king, along with cattle and corn.

Raising cattle was a major activity for farmers across much of the United States. But the highest concentration of cattle was in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Texas. Hogs were not quite as widespread as cattle. Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana were major centers of hog production.

Dairy products were produced primarily in the Northeast and North Central parts of the U.S., as well as the central valley of California and Oregon.

California produced fruits, vegetables, cattle and dairy products. In 1930, California was a sleeping agricultural giant waiting to be awakened. All that was missing was water to make the massive central valleys of the state even more productive. In 1935, the Hoover Dam was completed just to the east of California on the Colorado River providing water to California cities and farms.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.

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