Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Published in Ecological Monographs, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 1942), pp. 23-51. Copyright 1942 Ecological Society of America. Used by permission.


When the pioneers came from the East to make new homes in the Great Plains region, they found a dense cover of native vegetation. It was disturbed only by buffaloes, prairie dogs, other plains animals, Indians, and prairie fires. The Federal Government required that a certain amount of land be broken and put under cultivation, whether the land was obtained as a homestead or as a timber claim (McArdle and Costello, 1936).

The practice of the settlers was to break up a small tract of the prairie on which they could grow enough winter feed to sustain their cattle, horses, and other animals. The remainder was kept for pasture. Frequently the cultivated fields were cropped for a number of years and then abandoned to return to native prairie. Then the pioneers broke up and put under cultivation other similar areas (Clements and Chaney, 1937).