The Prairies


The Pacific Coast
The Cordillera
The Prairies
The Canadian Shield
The Great Lakes
The Appalachian Region
The Arctic
Geography and identity



Part of the vast central plains of North America, the Canadian Prairies extend east from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes. Here, cold winters and hot summers are the norm, with relatively light precipitation. For instance, in the dry southern portion of Saskatchewan, annual precipitation averages less than 300 millimetres. Spring rains and dry autumn conditions have helped make the Prairies one of the top grain-growing areas of the world. Farming is not without its risks, however, in the form of wind erosion, drought, floods, thunderstorms and hailstorms and unseasonably early autumn frosts.

Click here for Alberta climate graph / Saskatchewan climate graph / Manitoba climate graph


To drive across the Prairies is to see endless fields of wheat ripening under a sky that seems to go on forever. The plains of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are among the richest grain-producing regions in the world.


Credit: Saskatchewan: wheat field. Photograph. Britannica Online for Kids. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.



Learn about the Canadian Wheat Board and its future:

"Prairie farmers vote to keep Canadian Wheat Board", PAUL WALDIE, The Globe and Mail, Sep. 12, 2011







Canada is one of the largest producers and exporters of high quality wheat in the world. On average (2005/2009), global wheat production is around 637 million tonnes (Mt). The major wheat producing countries are: the European Union-27 (EU-27) which produces 133 Mt or 21% of global production, China with 108 Mt, India with 75 Mt, United States (US) with 58 Mt, Russia with 54 Mt, Canada with 25 Mt or 4% of global production, and Australia with 18 Mt.

Most wheat production is consumed in the country of origin and only around 20% (123 Mt) is traded internationally (average 2005/2009). The major exporting nations are: the US at 27 Mt or 22% global share, Canada at 17.5 Mt (14% global share), the EU-27 at 17 Mt, Russia at 14 Mt and Australia at 12 Mt.

The majority of Canadian wheat is grown in the Prairie Provinces of Western Canada: Saskatchewan with 46% of total production, Alberta with 30% and Manitoba with 14%, based on the five year average of 2005-2009.

However, in the recent past, the production of canola, a rapeseed variety used to produce vegetable oil, has increased. Originally used as a rotation crop with wheat, the production of canola is increasing in relation to that of wheat, although the planted area for both crops continued to increase. Learn more on "Canola: a Canadian success story":


Analysis from Statistics Canada: Field Crops in Canada




Alberta is also rich in bitumineous sands, a key ressource for the production of oil.



Oil processing plant, Athabasca Oil Sands

Aerial photograph of an oil processing plant in the Athabasca Oil Sands, Alberta, Canada. Settling ponds, with oil deposits, are seen surrounding the processing plant. This oil processing plant is operated by Suncor Energy. This company was the first to extract crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands, doing so in 1967. The oil-bearing sands are excavated, and then processed to obtain crude oil and bitumen. In 2007, Suncor produced more than 260,000 barrels of oil a day. The Athabasca oil reserves are among the largest in the world



T110/0668 Rights Managed








Yet, even here there are surprises. If you leave the road at Brooks, Alberta, and drive north, you descend into the Red Deer River Valley. Here, in desert-like conditions, water and wind have created strange shapes in the sandstone called "hoodoos." The same forces of erosion have uncovered some of the largest concentrations of dinosaur fossils in the world.