What Types of Crops Are Grown in the American Midwest?

Agriculture is one of the primary economic forces in the American Midwest with the cash grains of soy and corn representing two of the regions most versatile crops. In the Midwestern Great Plains region wheat, flax and sorghum are dominant. Rapeseed, the principal source of canola oil, is also farmed in the Great Plains, along with alfalfa, which is used in livestock feed.

Midwestern agriculture provides thousand of jobs for the region’s population and accounts for exports in the billions of dollars. The soil in the American Midwest, however, initially presented a challenge to agriculture because of its high density. The wooden and cast iron plows used in the first farming attempts were more suited to loose soil. In the prairie sections of the region, the soil stuck to the plows, which also bounced around in the fields. John Deere, a blacksmith in Illinois, solved the problem in 1837 through his development of a specially designed plow made of highly polished steel moldboard. The soil did not stick to the new plow, and the user no longer had to continually stop work to clean it. Deere also shaped his plow differently and based it on a parallelogram with a concave curve. This improved the manner in which the soil turned over after the cut.

The invention of the new plow, combined with the fertile soils within the Midwest, made it possible for the region’s farmers to produce abundant yields of the major cereal crops of wheat, oats and corns. Within a short time, the Midwest became known as “America’s breadbasket.”