The enormous tapestry of farmland and fields in the American Midwest is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. However thousands of years ago this opulent agricultural region was a glacial wasteland devoid of major vegetation and constantly swept by wind, rivers and freezing temperatures. Today, the remains of the glaciers and ice sheets give the region the ideal soils for agricultural production. The key ingredient for the soils are the millions of tonnes of fine sediment created by the glaciers. As the glaciers slide their way across the Earth’s surface, they pick up rocks and material which is then ground into a fine powder by the slow crunching movements of the glaciers over thousands of years. This fine powder, known as glacial drift, is then carried by wind and melt-water from the glacier and deposited in huge thick layers covering thousands of square kilometres.
The fine, almost flour like soil provides ideal conditions to create a store of nutrients and water which the crops can readily access through their subterranean roots. Much of the soil in Illinois is known as Drummer Soil; this is considered such an integral part of the State’s identity that it has been designated as Illinois’ State Soil. Thanks to this glacial history, 89 percent of Illinois’s cropland is considered prime farmland by the United States Government.However, productivity is only part of the production process; transporting the goods also is a key part of Illinois’s agricultural success. Illinois has a competitive edge over many other states thanks to its central position in the USA and comprehensive transport infrastructure allowing transport across the nation and globe. The state boasts 3,200 kilometres of Interstate highway, 1,100 airports, landing areas and heliports, 1,780 miles of water way and the largest rail gateway in the nation in the city of Chicago.