Canadian Geographic
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Central Plains

Farming belts

The dry and the fertile
Soils, climate, and natural grassland vegetation define the two prairie agricultural zones. Most grassland soils are black, dark brown, and brown soils, all classified as chernozemic (Russian for “black earth”). Farming belts The tall grasses that thrive on black or dark-brown humus-rich soils have fibrous roots that absorb water and nutrients from moist clays in the subsoil. The tallgrass zone extends from southwestern Manitoba to Edmonton and north to the prairie parkland. This zone — the Fertile Belt 1) — is ideal for crops and livestock. South of this belt, evaporation rates increase, transforming the land from tallgrass to short-grass prairie. Short grass is characteristic of this semiarid region — the Dry Belt 2) — that Map stretches across the southern Prairies from Estevan, Sask., to the Alberta foothills, and almost reaches Saskatoon. Here, brown, sandy, humus-poor soil is a half-metre deep. Beyond this point, roots and rainwater rarely penetrate, and the subsoil is permanently dry. But in recent years, irrigation has overcome this obstacle and made possible the cultivation of potatoes and lentils, crops new to this region.


On the next page:

Leaving prairie farms

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Quiz :

By 2025, what estimated percentage of Canada's oil will come from the tar sands?