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  Fertile Soils    
Prairie Ecosystems
Prairie Plants
Underground Prairie
Roots and Erosion
Roots Add Nutrients
Fertile Soils
Field Guide
Prairie Peninsula
Illinois Prairies
Prairie Restoration
Planting a Prairie Garden
Human Voices
Inspiration for Art
Restoration Game
Teacher Orientation
"I am the Heartland
On this soil
Live those who through the seasons toil"
- from Thomas Y. Crowell's Heartland

Illinois' most productive farm land used to be open prairie. The settlers found rich black soil under the thick grasses. This fertile soil was the foundation of farming that continues today.

The plants that are grown on Illinois prairie soil today do not leave as much organic material behind to keep the soil rich. The nutrient content of the soil continues to decrease as the land is farmed.

The root systems of cultivated plants are not as large as the root systems of prairie plants. They do not stabilize the soil as well as the deep roots of prairie grasses do. Soil erosion on farms is much higher than on prairie sites.

Farmers try to decrease soil erosion and nutrient depletion by rotating crops that put different nutrients back into the soil. They also use low-till and no-till methods of planting instead of plowing. 

Another way to preserve soil from erosion is to plant windbreaks and hedgerows around the boundary areas of their fields and farms.


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