North and Central America

In the American Midwest, corn and soybeans dominate, and their cultivation requires a relatively large amount of water. Further to the west, there are regions in the north and south that are characterized by the cultivation of millet and spring wheat. In the northern Great Plains, summer wheat is mainly grown due to the harsh winters; in the southern area around Texas, frugal millet is of great importance. In areas where the short grass prairie originally dominated, arable farming has repeatedly led to severe wind erosion.

In the central western area of ​​the Great Plains there is a belt in which cattle breeding dominates. In comparison to the traditional “Corn Belt”, clear spatial and structural differences can be identified. There are a large number of small fattening farms there, which mostly operate on the basis of their own feed production, in particular the cultivation of maize or soybeans. In contrast, in the West, mainly large fattening farms, so-called feedlots, have established themselves on the basis of feed cultivation (sorghum millet) and irrigation farming (maize). Irrigated agriculture is primarily based on the availability of groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer. This extends over an area of ​​around 450,000 square kilometers (1.3 times the size of Germany; around a quarter of the Great Plains).

The map shows the strong wind erosion, an important environmental problem in the region. Because of the resulting dust content in the air, the foreland of the Rocky Mountains between Texas and Wyoming is also known as the “Dust Bowl”.

In the area of ​​the Ogallala aquifers, the focus is on ensuring sustainable use of the groundwater. In the 1980s and 1990s, the use for agriculture led in some cases to a drop in the groundwater level by 1.50 meters per year. Since the groundwater is only very slowly renewed by small amounts of seepage rainwater and there are no underground inflows, such values ​​mean that the reservoir will dry out in the long term – in an area in which a good quarter of all areas of irrigated agriculture in the USA are located. Attempts were therefore made early on to reduce water consumption. Nevertheless, the water withdrawal is still very high and is viewed critically. For more information about the continent of North America, please check