Dissertations and Theses @ UNI

Award Winner

Recipient of the 1993 Outstanding Master's Thesis Award - First Place.

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Open Access Thesis


Agriculture--Middle West--History--20th century; Industrialization--Middle West--History--20th century;


This study concerns both the causes and effects of the industrialization of Corn Belt agriculture during and after World War II. Although industrialization is certainly a fully cultural phenomenon, with a multiplicity of competing and augmenting causal agents involved in its genesis, industrial processes are the most salient and identifiable bases of modern economies. In their application to the Corn Belt's agricultural structure, techniques of industrial farming revolutionized almost every aspect of the agricultural experience. Farm size, machinery, power sources, capitalization, supplies, and populations have all changed in response to an almost single-minded adherence and adoption of a mechanicalchemical based technological vision of what security, progress, and . utopian ideals entail for American culture. This study identifies and analyzes five capital inputs which were fundamental to the previously mentioned massive transformation of Corn Belt agriculture. First, the development of engine-powered machinery allowed farmers to fully manifest and implement endemic cultural drives to achieve larger output and greater control over the land. Second, the application of substantial quantities of commercial fertilizers stimulated larger yields from the same amount of land. The ability to manipulate crops and the larger environment was enhanced and forced up production levels. Third, monocultural cropping patterns grew along with farmers' increasing capacity to "mass produce" field crops. Agriculturalists generally countered rising pest and disease threats with synthetic pesticides discovered shortly before, during, and after World War II. Fourth, crop technology itself changed with the emergence of hybrid varieties, especially corn and soybean hybrids, and caused some farmers to abandon livestock raising altogether. Specialization produced greater risks. Fifth, the remaining livestock producers changed to intensive, high energy, chemically-laden factory methods. They sought total control over livestock environments and the animals themselves. Developments in breeding, feeds, animal drugs, and confinement ~structures drove this shift. This study suggests a link between a whole host of problems and the adoption of the industrial farming system. It has exacerbated difficulties associated with the traditional "farm problem" and has created new problems such as polluted ground water and disrupted rural communities. Finally, it is felt that this system represents a mere pretense at place construction, and therefore is inherently unstable and destructive of agricultural social ecology.

Year of Submission


Year of Award

1993 Award

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

Charles E. Quirk, Chair


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vi, 193 pages)



File Format


Included in

Agribusiness Commons