As a result of climate change, and in particular rainfall changes, agricultural production is likely to change across the globe. Until now most research has focused on areas which will become unsustainable for agricultural production. However, there are also regions where climate change might actually improve conditions for growth. In the western Pampas region of Argentina, average annual rainfall has increased by 100–200 mm over the last 70 years, mainly during summer. Wheat is grown during winter, primarily on stored soil water and the main factor limiting plant production in this area is rainfall. Using the well tested simulation model APSIM-NWheat, we studied whether recent climate change has potentially opened new opportunities for wheat cropping in Argentina. Simulation results indicated that the additional rainfall in the Pampas of Argentina has increased the achievable yield (defined as the yield limited by solar radiation, temperature, water and nitrogen supply) of wheat in the currently cropped region, but less than expected based on the large amount of additional rainfall. The higher achievable yield from additional rainfall could potentially allow an expansion of profitable wheat cropping into currently non-cropped areas, where the achievable wheat yield increased in average from 1 t/ha to currently 2 t/ha. However, the poor water-holding capacity of the sandy soils which dominate the region outside the current cropping area limits the systems ability to use most of the increased summer rainfall. Nevertheless, the current higher achievable yield indicates a suitability of the region for cropping, which will slightly decline or remain unchanged depending on summer rainfall storage, with current and future climate change, including projected changes in rainfall, temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration. Factors other than just the achievable yield will eventually influence any future development of this region for cropping, including the high sensitivity of the sandy soils to erosion and nutrient leaching, current relatively high land prices, restrictions on clearing for cropping, the distance to the nearest port and current unsuitable cultivars withstanding the high frost risk.
- mediterranean-type environment
- change impacts