Comparison of adaptive strategies to climate variability in rural areas of Argentine Chaco and US Southern Plains during the last century

Published in Journal of Arid Environments, v. 123:68-80 

Ricard, M.F., Viglizzo, E.F. and Podestá, G.P.

Publication year 2015
  • INCITAP-CONICET (Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra y Ambientales de La Pampa -Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas), Mendoza 109, 6300 Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina
  • INTA (Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria) EEA "Guillermo Covas", Ruta 5 Km 580, 6326 Anguil, La Pampa, Argentina
  • Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, Uruguay 151, 6300 Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina
  • Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149-1098, United States
IAI Program


IAI Project CRN3035


•We compared rural historical adaptative strategies to face climate variability.

•Land use decision and technology adoption were assessed as adaptative options.

•A proxy for maize yield was used to represent and quantify the process of technology.

•Land-use strategies have driven farmers' decisions during a first adaptation stage.

•Technology adoption replaced land-use as adaptation strategy in the second stage.


Considering uncertainties regarding climate variability, the objective of this study was to make a long-term (1901-2011) comparative assessment of the impact of land-use decision (changes in the cultivated area) and technology adoption as adaptative mechanisms of the rural sector in the Argentine Chaco and the US Southern Plains. Different sources of data on climate (precipitation, minimum, mean and maximum temperature and evapotranspiration), land-use change (proportion of cultivated area) and technology adoption were used. This work involved three main analytical steps: i) Principal Components Analysis (PCA) was applied to identified the dominant components of data variance, ii) the relationship between the residuals of precipitation and land-use change was assessed by means of a simple regression analysis and iii) technology adoption was evaluated through a proxy based on historical changes in the yield of maize (Zea mays L.). The results showed that farmers in both countries relied on two common adaptative strategies to face climate perturbations during the study period: i) land-use change (a simple binary decision of planting or not planting in response to climate conditions) during a first stage, and ii) the introduction of adaptative technologies to smooth the impact of climate during the second one. That substitution of adaptative strategies begun during the 1940 decade in the US Southern Plains, and around 30 years later in the Argentine Chaco. The adoption of technologies and agronomic practices explained the sensitivity decay of the cultivated area to the climatic variability during the second stage. The incorporation of improved hybrids with higher drought resistance plus the adoption of tilling practices like minimum tillage or no-till, the input of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation water (the last one in US, only) became a successful strategy to mitigate the risk of climate perturbation.