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With demands for more supplies and food flowing into Canada during World War I, more prairie land was brought under the plough and planted with wheat. This demand slowed down after the war and much of the new farm land was returned to use for grazing of cattle. This marginal land had been exhausted by a few years of extensive farming. The return of cattle and horses hoofs to the exposed soil destroyed its consistency and made it vulnerable to being blown away by wind.

 

The Palliser Triangle is a large area that runs roughly from Qu'Appelle to the North Saskatchewan River to Battle River and was named after the explorer Palliser who had described the area as an arid dry area with not much productive value. This are however was also described by later visitors as a land of lush rich soil, ideal for farming and or ranching. These conflicting descriptions were presented because of the cyclic nature of the area which could be a productive area for several decades and then suffer a drought period where no agriculture was really practical.

A limited drought hit the area in 1920 which caused a partial departure in some areas by farmers. Starting in 1929 and continuing for 9 years to 1937 the rainfall was below average and with previous over farming having depleted to soil it began to dry up and turn to a powder. The dust was blown from the land and drift across the prairies. It formed dunes, it drift across the roads, it settled on houses, in houses, it got into machinery and with strong storm winds if became a massive dust storm which enveloped everything in its path.

With the heat, the lack of rain and the dust, the conditions were perfect for grasshoppers to breed. Enormous swarms of the pests exploded across the prairies devouring everything in their path. They could eat wheat, grass, tree bark , even the linen on the clothes lines. The departure of the people from the devastated, drought ridden, insect invaded farms began to give up and leave, By 1936 over 13,900 farms in the southern parts of the prairies had been given back to nature and lie abandoned.

As the depression progressed the Federal and Provincial governments financed land reclamation projects which rejuvenated and protected the soil, developed water reservoir and irrigation systems, and encouraged new types of farming and ranching more suitable for the area.



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Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/eras.html