Overview

The terrible conditions of the Great Depression pushed experts and farmers to work together to find solutions for the extreme soil erosion. Farmers, agronomists, and farm equipment manufacturers struggled over the next several decades to find plowing strategies that didn’t leave soil exposed to the wind and water. They discovered several solutions which were used immediately across the Prairies and still shape agriculture today.

Examples of shelterbelts and strip farming can be seen in this photo. Both of these were new innovations to stop soil erosion.

Strip Farming

Strip farming is where the land is farmed in strips. Farmers will plant a crop in one strip and either native plants or another type of cover crop will be grown in the next strip.

This photo shows how strip farming looks from above.

An aerial view of strip farming is shown. Each field is a different colour of green, brown, or yellow, indicating that different crops are growing on each field.

Did You Know?

Strip farming is an important method of farming that helps to prevent soil erosion.

Crop Residue

Crop residue is left over pieces of the previous year’s crops. Stalks, stems (stubble), leaves, and seed pods are considered crop residue. Sometimes farmers would cover the soil in between rows with crop residue to keep the soil from blowing away.

One type of crop residue is the plant stalks that are left over in the field after harvest and this is called ‘stubble’.

The plant parts on crops that are left over in a field are called ‘crop residue’.

Shelterbelts

Planting rows of trees and bushes to provide a break from the wind resulted in the creation of shelterbelts. These shelterbelts were planted around homesteads and in rows between fields. You can still see shelterbelts today as you drive across the Prairies. Shelterbelts are important in stopping strong winds from causing as much soil erosion.

Shelterbelts like this one are one of the solutions experts in Saskatchewan came up with to battle extreme soil erosion.

Improved Equipment

One of the early inventions that helped with soil erosion was the Noble Blade, which was invented in Alberta in 1935. It was a heavy blade that cut off weeds without burying the crop residue. A one-way disc plow was also invented in Kansas and it became the plow that was the most recommended at the time. It would turn the soil without burying the crop residue.

This is the one-way disc harrow that was invented in Saskatchewan.

In 1940, another one-way disc harrow was invented in Saskatchewan. Cultivators were used next. They were invented in Oklahoma and helped to stop soil from drifting away by ripping into the soil and bringing lumps of soil to the surface. This method was added to the modern seeding equipment, where seeders and cultivators are on the same piece of equipment.

An aerial view of a homestead with a shelterbelt around it is shown. There are fields around the homestead that have alternating crops on them, as a way of strip farming.
Improved Equipment
Improved equipment such as one-way disc harrows helped to stop soil from blowing away.
Strip Farming
Different types of crops are being planted next to each other, including a pasture with native plants in a method called strip farming.
Shelterbelt
This farm has a shelterbelt around it to help break any big winds.