Campus News

Historian writes about the world’s breadbasket

Scott Reynolds Nelson, Georgia Athletic Association Professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ history department, discussed his historical research from his own book, “Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World,” with the Canada National Observer.

“Ukraine has what may be the richest soil in the world,” Nelson said. “In 1768, Tzarina Catherine II sent a hundred thousand Russian troops through this region and across the Black Sea to capture it.”

Ukraine was essential as a gateway to the European wheat markets, and therefore the land has been historically very valuable. Many times, over history, Ukraine has been the ground for conflict as other countries or groups try to take advantage of their lucrative land.

This is a backdrop for the current conflict in which Russia has invaded Ukraine, part of a complicated political history. The global wheat market is feeling the pressure from this conflict, and there will likely not be relief until the fighting stops and supply chain can be restored.

Both Russia and Ukraine are essential wheat growers. Russia is the world’s No. 3 producer of wheat and the No. 1 exporter. Ukraine is also a major wheat producer, and has also started providing large amounts of corn to China, supplying nearly one-third of its feed corn imports.

The Russia invasion of Ukraine has put these industries on hold, causing the prices to rise and production to fall. Combined, they produce one-fifth of the world’s food calories.

“It’s a core food,” Nelson said, “and when you double its price, it just changes everything.”