USA was once known as the ‘Bread Basket of the World’ owing to the high quantity of wheat production in the Great Plains. The Great Plains soon turned the ‘Bread Basket of the World’ into a ‘Dust Bowl’. One of the major issues was that the Great Plains were covered with a thick layer of grass with deep roots which was difficult to unearth with the existing equipment. Different types of new ploughs were designed locally some even 12 feet long, to overcome this problem.
Over time technologically advanced disk ploughs and tractors were introduced for clearing the vast stretches for wheat cultivation. Before the 1830s, the grain used to be harvested with a cradle or sickle by several men and women.
In the year 1831, the first mechanical reaper was invented by Cyrus McCormick which quickened the lengthy process of harvesting. Later, combined harvesters were invented to cut grain which could harvest 500 acres of wheat in two weeks.
These huge machines replaced large amounts of human labour leading to poor plight of labourers. Many poor farmers tried to keep up by buying these machines with loans from banks. However, the Great Agrarian Depression set in during the 1930s due to the large surplus of grains that had piled up during and after the war. The poor farmers could neither repay their debts to the banks nor find jobs due to the mechanisation of the harvest process.
The1930s witnessed disturbance in the ecological balance of the Great Plains. Coupled with the droughts and the large scale removal of natural vegetation for wheat cultivation over the years, the Great Plains were now covered by dry soil.
These huge expanses of dry soil were exposed to the ferocious winds that blew across the open landscape, causing dreadful dust storms and blizzards rising to heights of 7000 to 8000 feet. People were blinded and choked; cattle and fish suffocated to death.