Creating a Dynamic Regional Model of the U.S. Corn Belt

Creating a Dynamic Regional Model of the U.S. Corn Belt

Christopher R. Laingen (Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/IJAGR.2017100102
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture last delineated the regional boundary of the Corn Belt in 1950. Mixed-grain and livestock farming practices have today transitioned to annually rotating corn and soybeans, which has altered the geographic bounds of this region. To illustrate the changing geography of the Corn Belt, ArcGIS geoprocessing and spatial analysis tools, along with a simple, summative assessment using Census of Agriculture data, were used to map how the region's boundary has changed as myriad internal and external driving forces influence where farmers grow corn. Since 1950 the region's core has remained spatially stable as corn production has intensified, while the region's periphery has shifted to the northwest. The methods used to create this contemporary Corn Belt region illustrate how a regional boundary and internal regional intensities can be used to map agricultural land use change.
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The Corn Belt

The vernacular region we call the Corn Belt has been in existence since the late 1800s, and as will be discussed later, could be as easily referred to today as the Corn-Soybean Belt (Napton, 2007). In 1892 The Nation first printed the term “Corn Belt”, and in 1903 it was first used academically when Harvard University economist T.N. Carver wrote of “a tolerably compact strip where corn is the principle crop, and which may properly be called the corn belt” (Carver, 1903a), and later that year Carver again referred to the region as “the most considerable area in the world where agriculture is uniformly prosperous” (Carver, 1903b). These earliest references most likely refer to areas of western Ohio and central Indiana, where the first hint of what would become the contemporary Corn Belt were found (Auch et al., 2013).

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