North Dakota agriculture is vital to providing food, feed, fiber and fuel for citizens of the state, country and world. But you might not realize just how diverse North Dakota’s industry is – the state produces at least 50 different types of agricultural commodities, and 90 percent of total land area is used for agriculture. Thanks to distinct regions with varying geographical benefits, North Dakota farmers and producers are able to grow and raise a wide variety of commodities.
Red River Valley
Located along the eastern edge of North Dakota, the Red River Valley region is known for fertile lands, due to its close location to the Red River. It is broad and flat, and contains thick black loam soil, making it one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. The region also provides a climate of warm days and cool nights, which is ideal for several root crops.
Some of North Dakota’s most prominent commodities are grown here, including soybeans, sugarbeets, spring wheat, dry edible beans and most of the corn for grain, though corn is grown in other parts of the state as well. In 2014, several Northeast counties in this region combined produced a total of 2.9 million tons of sugarbeets – the most in the state. The region also contains a high concentration of hog farms.
The Drift Prairie region’s soil is actually called “drift,” consisting of a mixture of clay, sand and gravel. Prominent commodities of this region include honey bees and honey, and grain farming including spring wheat, canola and barley, as well as soybeans, dry beans and corn. North Dakota ranks No. 1 in the nation for canola and honey production, as well as spring wheat. In fact, the state produced 53.3 percent of total U.S. spring wheat production in 2015.
The Missouri Coteau region of North Dakota extends east from the Missouri River to the edge of the Drift Prairie region. The eastern border of the region has lots of wetlands that diminish as it gets closer to the Missouri River. Commodities produced in this region include durum wheat, lentils, oats, flaxseed, honey bees and honey, and dry edible peas.
Missouri Slope and Badlands
Livestock grazing is dominant in the Missouri Slope region, which features buttes occasionally rising above the landscape. Beef cattle, dairy cattle and sheep are raised in the region. It also supports alfalfa production used as livestock feed, as well as one of the state’s most well-known crops – sunflowers. North Dakota is No. 2 in the U.S. for both oil and confection sunflower production, producing a whopping 1.06 billion pounds of sunflower seeds in 2015. Honey bees are also raised in the region, along with potatoes in the upper northwest corner.
Located within the Missouri Slope, the Badlands are exposed surfaces of clay and stone that have been carved into beautiful formations due to erosion. The area’s soil contains lots of clay, as well as steep slopes and a high probability of erosion. There is some honey bee production in the region.