Journal of Global History


In the Russians’ steppes: the introduction of Russian wheat on the Great Plains of the United States of America*

David Moona1

a1 Department of History, Durham University, 43 North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3EX, UK E-mail:


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wheat varieties from the Russian steppes were introduced on the Great Plains of the USA, a region with a similar environment. The introduction was partly a by-product of the migration of German farmers from the steppes to the Great Plains in the 1870s. The US Department of Agriculture, eager to promote American wheat production in a competitive world market for grain in which Russia was in the lead, sought out wheat varieties on the steppes that were suitable for the Great Plains. Russian wheat varieties became mainstays on the Great Plains for the next few decades, while Russian agriculture declined under Soviet power. On the basis of research on both sides of the Atlantic, this article sheds light on an important aspect of the global exchange of peoples and crops that has shaped the agricultural and economic history of societies around the world since the invention of agriculture.

David Moon is Professor of Russian History at Durham University, UK


* Research for this article was supported by the British Academy, the Kennan Institute, Washington, DC, and Durham University. The author would like to thank Douglas Helms of the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).