What caused the Dust Bowl conditions on the Great Plains?

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Dust Bowl is a term that describes the horrible conditions farmers faced in the Great Plains in the 1930s. There were several reasons for the occurrence of the Dust Bowl. One of these was the use of questionable farming methods. Because farmers were producing too many crops, they were getting very low prices for them. As a result, farmers began to leave some parts of their fields unplanted. However, because the farmers used their plows to uproot the grasses and because the fields weren’t planted, there was nothing to hold the soil in place. When a drought hit the Great Plains in the 1930s, the soil dried up and the wind blew away the fertile topsoil. As a result, the fields were now useless for planting crops. When farmers couldn’t pay their mortgage because they weren’t producing crops, they lost their farms to the bank. The Dust Bowl brought many hardships to the farmers on the Great Plains in the 1930s.

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bguizar1 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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The causes of the dust bowl are more complex than the farming practices and drought conditions.  Europe was in shambles after World War I with a great amount of infrastructure destroyed.  The European countries were just not able to grow their own crops as they struggled to get back on their feet and so they had to import crops from abroad.  The demand for food was so high that American farmers just could not keep up but the prices were good and there was a great amount of money to be made so the plains farmers began using questionable farming practices. Since they were making so much money, they were buying and planting on more and more land just to keep up with demand.

Eventually however, the Europeans countries were able to rebuild and could once again grow food to themselves.  Demand for crops dropped and the oversupply led to a sharp decrease in prices. Farmers were left with rotting food they could not sell and huge mortgages on land they had purchased.  Couple this with the extreme drought conditions that set in and you have a recipe for disaster.  So overproduction of crops, destruction of natural topsoil and grass that weighed the dust down, and the extreme drought, you have one of the worse weather disasters ever.

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