Geoscience for Prairie communities
Food from the land: different landscapes, different harvests
How landscape controls agriculture
Any farmer will tell you that different landscapes are suited to different types of agriculture. For example, flat plains (floors of ancient glacial lakes) with rich soils are ideal for growing wheat and canola. Rolling hills of glacial deposits are suitable for pasture or grain farming, depending on the proportions of clay, silt, sand, pebbles, and boulders and on the amount of local precipitation. The floors of major valleys have rich stream deposits of silt and clay and provide important sites for market-garden farming where irrigation water is available.
How to build a 3-D map of the land
Start with the shape of the land
...add earth materials
...and add the picture of Earth from space
Seeing patterns in the complexity: modern management of the land
Because landscapes are complex, land management is also complex. Computer-based geographic information systems (GIS) can store complex information in 'layers' that can be combined to produce a map useful for land management. Which areas are best for cultivation? for pasture? for conservation? The map shown here combines topographic data (shape of the land) with earth-material and satellite data in order to illustrate slope, earth materials, and land cover, each of which affects the potential use of the land.
Many people who grew up on farms have memories, rarely good, of long days spent picking rocks from fields. Why are some farm soils full of rocks whereas others have no rocks at all?