prairies, generally level, originally grass-covered and treeless plains of North America, stretching from W Ohio through Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa to the Great Plains region. The prairie belt also extends into N Missouri, S Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, E North and South Dakota, and S Canada. Many of the prairies of the world were formerly used for grazing purposes, but more and more are now coming under cultivation; hence they are often referred to today as the "vanishing grasslands." The soil of the prairies is basically a black chernozem, which is extremely fertile. The prairies correspond to the Pampa of Argentina, the llanos in northern South America, the steppe of Eurasia, and the highveld (see veld) of South Africa. Because they have the favorable climate and soil fertility characteristic of prairies, the wheat belts in the United States, Ukraine, and the Pampa of Argentina are among the world's most productive agricultural regions.
See R. Manning, Grassland (1995); S. R. Jones and R. C. Cushman, The North American Prairie (2004).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.