The total land area of Argentina is 274 million ha, of which 142 million ha is under permanent pasture, 34 million ha under arable crops and one million ha under permanent crops. About 1.6 million ha are irrigated (FAO).
Argentina can be divided into three large agricultural regions:
The humid region covering about 68 million ha (25 percent).
The semi-arid region, 48 million ha (15 percent), where irrigation is often necessary.
The arid region, 170 million ha (60 percent), consists of practically all of Patagonia to the south of Rio Colorado. As there is little agricultural activity, this region is not covered in this report.
Figure 1 shows the agro-ecologial regions of Argentina.
For the purposes of this agricultural study, three large regions are examined.
This region includes the three most important provinces of the country, Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Santa Fe. The annual rainfall varies from 800 mm in the west to 1 000 mm in the east.
The northern region comprises:
Noroeste (NOA): Salta, Jujuy, Tucumán, Santiago de Estero and Catamarca
Nordeste (NEA): Corrientes, Chaco, Misiones and Formosa
The climate is subtropical with rainfall concentrated in spring and summer, the annual average being 1 500 mm and the average temperature 20.7 °C.
Source: Adapted from Diffrieri (1958).
This region comprises:
Cuyo: La Rioja, San Juan and Mendoza
Comahue: Rio Negro and Neuquén
San Juan and Mendoza account for 41.5 percent of the irrigated area in the country.
Generalizing, most grain crops are produced in the Pampa region, while the northern regions are the main producers of industrial crops. The irrigated valleys region is important for the production of higher value crops, such as fruits and horticultural crops. Mendoza is the main wine-producing region of the country. Horticultural crops are also produced around the main urban centers.
Livestock production is not examined in this study. The main activities are the production of meat (51 percent), milk (27 percent), poultry (13 percent), eggs (6 percent) and pigs (3 percent). Bovine meat is produced using both the traditional extensive system and in feedlots.
Soil mapping has a long history in Argentina. Following the establishment of the Ministry of Agriculture in 1898 several soil maps based on geological criteria were produced. Between 1930 and 1940, when large hydroelectric dams were constructed, knowledge of land suitable for irrigation was required (Gomez and Scoppa, 1994). During the 1950s there were long periods of drought resulting in wind erosion in the semi-arid regions and a substantial reduction in grain production. Soil studies were carried out to determine measures required to prevent desertification. Figure 2 shows the dominant soil map of Argentina. Land mapping also became a political necessity for land reform. In the 1960s the Soil map project for the Pampa region, was carried out by Insituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaría (INTA). In the 1980s a United Nations project Soil Atlas of Argentina (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería y Pesca (SAGyP)-INTA, 1990) was implemented.