1. Prologue
  2. Wheat: Prairies, Canada
  3. Rice: China
  4. USA corn & livestock belt
  5. Corn Belt: Geographical Factors


So far under the [Location Factor] article series, we’ve see timber, paper-pulp, fish, wool, cotton, textile, silk and jute industry.

  • Now let’s take a look at wheat, corn, rice, milk, meat, vegetables and wine. Since UPSC syllabus contains separate topic of Indian agriculture, I’m not dwelling much into Indian food crops: wheat, corn, rice or food processing here.
  • This article contain lot of place-names from USA. Because books mainly use American dairy-meat industry to explain the “location factors”. To get a better grasp over the topic, keep refering to American map simultanously while reading the article. click me for a large political map of USA
  • Disclaimer as usual: I haven’t bothered much to dig internet, this is mere compilation of wisdom, a few big examples from books. It is your job to dig further as and where necessary.

Wheat: Prairies, Canada

Factor Impact
  • The prairies = temperate grasslands. centuries of grass rotting has produced fertile soil
  • high phosphorus content= good for wheat
  • topography suitable for wheat cultivation because wheat cannot tolerate stagnant water
  • Flat terrain= machines can be employed @every production stage (=useful because population is scarce=laborers hard to find, and expensive to hire, unlike Asia).
Land Holding
  • in the early days of colonization, land was abundant in the Canadian prairies
  • European settlers seized opportunity, bought large farm holdings @throwaway prices=> farms have area of several thousand acres.
  • Since farm is large=mechanization possible= don’t need many farm-workers.
  • Canada =less population density =hard to find cheap labour, but since farm holdings are large and on flat terrain=most of the work is mechanized.
  • Railroad connectivity via Canadian Pacific Railway
  • Many branch lines are constructed to connect even the remotest farm regions with the mainline = easy to send your produce to market.
  • most of the wheat moves by rail through Rocky Mountains to Vancouver /Prince Rupert for export
  • Grain elevator storage facilities along the railway lines: here wheat is cleaned, graded, processed and stored.
  • storage complexes and milling operation @bulk of the bulk location, where Railways intersect major waterways
Government Policy
  • Canadian wheat board, a statutory body= sole purchaser and seller of foodgrains for export.
  • The board coordinates movement of wheat to major terminals.
  • Farmers are given schedules to send their wheat to nearby railway station.
  • This system minimizes price fluctuations/distribution inefficiencies
  • + provides quality control for exported wheat.

wheat canada vs india

Rice: China

Concentrated South of Yangtze River
Climate mild temperature, good rainfall= can grow two crops on the same farm in a year
Soil Suitable for rice cultivation + as we saw earlier in the silk article, the waste from sericulture is used as fertilizer.
Water good rainfall + irrigation from Yangtze and numerous other rivers and streams
Labor obvious
Technology with government help, farmers now

  • use diesel operated special tractors to plough rice field
  • Mechanical rice planters to plant the rice seedlings.
  • high yielding seed varieties
Transport Yangtze river=inland transport, connects many important markets/cities.+good railway network.

Government policy

Let’s examine the factors why China is leading producer of Rice? (Other than soil, climate)

  1. When Mao assumed control of the nation, he emphasized more on food crops rather than cash crops. (Because famine was a problem in China)
  2. Therefore, he setup an Agriculture collective system
hierarchy in Agriculture collective system
tier size (Approx.) function
  1. commune
3000 households supervision and coordination of tiers below it
  1. brigade
300 households Leasing land to “team”, soil conservation, Road construction, small scale plants, reforestation and other local Administrative functions.
  1. team
30 households Producing crop as per the ‘quota’ given to them.

Later more reforms were taken viz.

  1. Work points/cash: farmers were given these rewards for producing more than the quota given to them.
  2. “Responsibility system”: farmers leased land directly from collectives, if they produced more than “quota”, they could use/sell the surplus on their own.
  3. Loans directly made to farmers (instead of brigade/teams). Private ownership of agro-machinery allowed.

Rice cultivation China vs. India

  1. China has more area under irrigation
  2. China grows food crops grown on its best lands. India grows cash crops (Cotton, sugarcane, Jute) on its best lands.

US corn Belt & livestock belt

  • It extends nearly thousand miles from Central Ohio to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and eastern Nebraska.
  • In the heart of US Corn Belt, most of the revenue is earned from beef and pigs. Some large-scale operation have more than one lakh cattle at a time.
  • Therefore some observers label the corn belt as “feed grain and livestock region”

American farmers prefer to grow corn because of two reasons

  1. corn gives high yield per acre compared to wheat
  2. It is effective for fattening animals.

We already saw that location away from market:= product is ‘concentrated’ to compensate for transport cost. Same happens here.
Corn=>fed to cattle/pigs/poultry=>meat exported.

Corn Belt in United States of America

Geographical Factors
factor effect
soil, climate chernozem soil= good for corn. Soil-climate suitable
  • Most of the corn produced=used for fattening animals=> animals sent to slaughterhouses in Chicago and Omaha.
  • Railroad transport well developed.
government policy
  • Federal Government spends billions of dollars per year in subsidy to corn farmers.

Labor factor in Corn belt

  • only small labour force needed because planting+harvesting =highly mechanised
  • once seeds are planted, no labour needs arise other than spraying pesticides for weed control and fertilization but that too is done with help of aero planes because farm holdings are so large.
  • for harvesting, outside contractors with crew and machines are hired.
  • This has led to new type of farmers known as suitcase farmers: they live more than 30 miles away from their farm, in large urban cities.

These farmers also grow soya bean, because

  1. Soyabean =high amount of protein=good for fattening animals
  2. Soyabean = hundreds of industrial and commercial uses from plastic, cosmetic and candy

In the next article will discuss the geographical factors of affecting the location of milk and dairy industry in USA, Europe and New Zealand.