The absence of dry farming techniques is the key element that many Canadian scholars use to explain the decade of delay in the agricultural development of the prairie region after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. They have assumed that American farmers had developed an unproblematic set of techniques, the presence of which was essential before large-scale European settlement of the Prairies could begin. American historians of Great Plains agriculture present a far different picture of those American farmers. Dry farming in the United States did not designate an agreed-upon set of techniques, but a lively field of debate that remained unresolved for decades. Summer fallow comprised the essential practice on the driest Canadian Prairies for the conservation of moisture. Americans neither pioneered nor promoted it first; summer fallow only became general practice on the northern Great Plains after Canadian farmers had demonstrated how it could be practicably done. The flow of this agricultural innovation turns out to have been the opposite of what most Canadian scholars had assumed.

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