Cotton Belt


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Cotton Belt,

former agricultural region of the SE United States where cotton was the main cash crop throughout the 19th and much of the 20th cent. Located on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains and on the Piedmont upland, it extended through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, W Tennessee, E Arkansas, Louisiana, E Texas, and S Oklahoma, and also into small areas of SE Missouri, SW Kentucky, N Florida, and SE Virginia. Cotton is still grown in certain parts of the region but has ceased to be the dominant crop. The intensive production of corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, beans, and livestock has largely replaced cotton. Commercial timber production is also widespread on many former cotton plantations. Until the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, the Cotton Belt was confined to the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia; by the mid-1800s, it extended from S Virginia to E Texas. The belt's climatic conditions allowed cotton to thrive, but post–Civil War reforms, soil depletion, and the boll weevil (a type of beetle that eats cotton) combined to push cotton west. Today large quantities of cotton also are grown are irrigated land in the Southwest—W Texas, S New Mexico, S Arizona, and S California (see Black BeltBlack Belt,
term applied to several areas of Mississippi and Alabama, the heart of the Old South, which are characterized by black soil and excellent cotton-growing conditions. The Black Belt area was historically important as the nation's main cotton producer in the mid-1800s.
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; Imperial ValleyImperial Valley,
fertile region in the Colorado Desert, SE Calif., extending S into NW Mexico. Once part of the Gulf of California, most of the region is below sea level; its lowest point is −232 ft (−71 m) at the southern shore of the Salton Sea. Receiving only c.
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). The dryness of those areas makes it easier to control insect pests. Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas are the leading producers of the old cotton belt; California ranks after Texas nationally.

Bibliography

See G. C. Fite, Cotton Fields No More: Southern Agriculture, 1865–1980 (1984); A. Burton, The Rise and Fall of King Cotton (1985).

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