Agriculture. – If the most useful mineral products are scarce, the same does not happen for agricultural ones; on the contrary, these, after having satisfied the national consumption, feed an export which in quantity and value is superior to that of all the other products combined. Only in 1878 did wheat begin to be exported: Argentine agricultural progress dates back to the last fifty years and coincides with the political period, after wars and revolutions disappeared; it also coincides with the great immigration, particularly with the Italian one, since the farmers of the cereal area were immigrants.
A quick glance at the map shows how Argentine soil is suitable for crops to varying degrees and how these in their variety depend on the conditions of the climate and soil. In fact, if on the one hand mountains and hilly regions abound, the plains, on the other, are immense; the country extends for many degrees of latitude; the rains are unevenly distributed; the rivers belong to various types and the soil is of different constitution: all this effectively contributes to the characteristic agriculture of the various areas in which Argentina can be divided.
According to top-medical-schools, the northern region, which goes from Misiones to the foothills of the Andes and includes the north of Mesopotamia, the Gran Chaco and some part of the central area, has these characteristics: flat and low in height, very rainy in the east, less so in the west; many rivers and ponds, subtropical temperature. So that the agricultural products are subtropical, common to the whole area, or with the possibility of becoming so in those cases in which the cultivation area is more restricted: such is the case of yerba maté, whose cultivation is progressing in Misiones, while it is still imported from Brazil and Paraguay. The most important crops are: tobacco, oranges, cotton that is grown a lot in recent years in the Chaco, and some tropical fruit trees. But the first place undoubtedly goes to sugar cane, a crop that is widespread in almost the entire region, but more developed in Jujuy, and particularly in Tucumán, which cultivates and produces more than all the other areas combined.
The cereal region that corresponds to southern Mesopotamia, and to the Pampean area (province of Buenos Aires, a large part of the province of Santa Fe and Córdoba, the north-east area of the Pampa and the east of San Luis), is flat, rainy in the east and less in the west, more in the north than in the south; fertile soil, temperate climate. Here you will find the best conditions for the cultivation of cereals, which make Argentina one of the most important producing countries in the world. The production per hectare is not very high, but the total production is considerable, given the extension of the crop. The extensive system predominates, due to the use of the most modern agricultural machinery, which, even with a small agricultural population, produces a huge product at a low price. Agricultural property is called chacra. Intensive agriculture is developing widely near large cities, especially with vegetables.
The Mediterranean or western region, which extends west of the previous two as far as the Chilean border, and from Bolivia to Patagonia, is dry, with very little rainfall; very mountainous in the west; there are frequent salinas. In the region, a large development of agriculture is not always possible, due to a lack of water or because it is brackish. Where, on the other hand, there is the possibility of regular and abundant irrigation works, there are real oases very dense with residents and with intensive agriculture, such as Fr. ex. in San Juan, Mendoza and along the Río Negro. Each river that descends from the Andes gives rise to a more or less rich and extensive oasis in the valley or reaching the plain. The most cultivated plants are vines and fruit trees. For several years, table or wine grapes have been sufficient for national consumption. The largest production is that of Mendoza, followed by San Juan and the Río Negro is also very important. Other places in the same region have agricultural production of local importance.
The Patagonian region is the least agricultural; if we consider the Río Negro as a border, we can say that there are no crops, except along the lower course of the Chubut in irrigated fields; but for some time agriculture has been spreading in the western area, which will have a good future because it is humid; Patagonian agricultural poverty derives from the scarcity of rains.
Breeding. – Alongside agriculture, as a large industry, there is the breeding of livestock; although the export of its products is somewhat lower than that of agricultural products, livestock farming is a much older industry and was for a long time the only major rural occupation. In the last fifty years the progress was notable, particularly in the quality of the products, sacrifices are not neglected to obtain better animals; the most chosen animals are sought for crossings, and the results compensate for the efforts since Argentine cattle are very well known in the most demanding markets, such as England. The primitive breeding of the past has now disappeared; it tends to become more and more scientific; rural properties called estancias they are carefully administered; animals are supervised, selected, and the best types are sought for each special need; at the same time, vast fields of alfalfa have been created.
The estancias are wont to be far more extensive European properties similar; they measure thousands of hectares, and sometimes they reach several tens of thousands, so that the area where farming predominates is of low population density.
The attached geographical map indicates the regions where the various species of livestock are found in greater quantities, regions that respond to climatic, phytogeographical, topographical and historical conditions; for example, the goat abounds in the dry and mountainous area; sheep predominate in Patagonia; the llama is still bred on the Puna plateau and in the nearby valleys, it contributes to the local color, but its national economic importance is very low.