What were the causes of the Dust Bowl?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The dust bowl was the result of a "perfect storm" of events, all of which served to obliterate the soil in Midwestern and western farms. A substantial factor was poor farming practices. Farmers consistently planted hard red wheat in straight rows with no consideration for crop rotation, cover crops, etc. Fields were planted continuously and never allowed to remain fallow, as a result of which the soil was soon exhausted. Deep plowing removed the native prairie grass which had held the soil in place, and also allowed moisture in the soil to dissipate quickly. All this was followed by an unusually severe drought which reduced the topsoil to dust. Farmers continued to plant; but with no moisture, the seeds would not germinate. Then strong winds, often called "dusters" blew in and blew away tons of topsoil and the seeds farmers had planted. With no crops, farmers in the area lost everything.

John Steinbeck offers a compelling story of life for those displaced by the Dust bowl in The Grapes of Wrath.

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