More Land Means More Food, Or Does It?

russia grain2

After the end of WWII, Russia was faced with another enemy.  One that had been fighting them long before Nazi Germany.  Feeding their people was again a top concern of the Russian government resulting in a decision to expand their agricultural boundaries.    In 1954 Russia started a virgin land campaign which meant land that previously had been steppes( prairie like land) was now being tilled up and planted in grain.   In the first year of this campaign alone, nearly 50 million acres was transformed into cropland.  By the second year a total of about 80 million new acres had been planted in grain.  The need to tend this massive amount of new farmland lead the Russian government  to import workers from Ukraine and the RSFSR(Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic).   About 300,000 people were permanently moved to this area , along with many others on a seasonal basis.

As with moth movements, the virgin land campaign held a certain political aspect.   Nikita Khrushchev was often paired with the movement since he stood for popular identification with state economic initiatives.  This coatailing led to conflict within the party itself, especially the leaders.   If interested, check out what Khrushchev said about the movement.  I think its funny how he makes sure he throws “peace” and “peaceful” in everywhere he can.

Russia grain

The virgin land campaign at first seems like a flawless plan.  Take dry, good for nothing steppe land, till it up and plant wheat.  In addition to the already fertile lands in the bread basket of Russia, surely it will be enough to feed to population.  However, this was not always the case.  In the first year of the movement harvests were remarkably low for the acreage planted.  The harvest did yield a record high in 1956 though, but soon started decreasing, never to reach the “56′ High” again.  In fact, by the early 60s grain harvests were back to being low.  To top it all off, soil degradation had also took its toll on the sensitive steppe land.  A single crop cultivation paired with a lack of erosion minimizing techniques turned the once fertile topsoil to dry dust which literally blew away in the wind.