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  Prairie to Farmland    
People on the Prairie
Temperature Extremes
Prairie to Farmland
Prairie Ecosystems
Prairie Restoration
Planting a Prairie Garden
Human Voices
Inspiration for Art
Restoration Game
Teacher Orientation
      Goose Lake Prairie
"At first, when we were told of these treeless lands, I imagined that it was a country ravaged by fire, where the soil was so poor that it could produce nothing. But we have certainly observed the contrary; and no better soil can be found, either for corn, for vines, or for any fruit whatever."
-from Paul M. Angle's Prairie State

Increasing numbers of people settled in Illinois and plowed much of the land. At first, the settler farmers used oxen or horses to pull a single bladed plow through the tough roots of the prairie grass. By the 1880s, Illinois inventors were coming up with designs for disc plows, disc harrows, and barbed wire that made it easier for farmers to plow fields and fence their pastures. The farmers were then able to farm larger acreage with the more efficient self-cleaning plows. 

By the middle of the nineteenth century, when the natural prairie habitat decreased and became fragmented, bison and elk disappeared from the landscape. The diverse habitat that once supported thousands of plant and animal species almost disappeared. It was replaced by soybeans, corn, and grazing cattle. A domesticated farmland replaced the wild prairie.

An edition of the 1838 Hillsboro Beacon newspaper column has an eyewitness account of the eroding of the prairie by the presence of settlers.

Today, most of Illinois is covered by farms and pastures-- important land that produces food resources for the world. This productivity is supported by the organic material from thousands of years of prairie growth. As the land is used for crops and grazing, the soil is eroded and its nutrients are reduced. There are remnants, little pieces, of prairie left -- totaling just one tenth of one per cent of the original size of the prairie of Illinois.


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