Let Them Plant Their Own: Implications of Interactive Crop-Loss Processes During Drought in Hopi Maize Fields

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 10:45
, Steven - US Fish and Wildlife

The role of drought in the 13th century abandonment of the North American Southwest remains poorly understood. Computer simulations of prehistoric crop production suggest that production in the Mesa Verde region never dropped sufficiently low to force abandonment. However, data from the Hopi Reservation indicate that grain-loss processes are highly complex, and that during severe and extreme droughts the declines in vegetative and grain production also involve declines in plant health and ability to survive shocks, and increased plant mortality. These are exacerbated by increased frequency and magnitude of animal damage. Data from Hopi indicate that losses impose a severe penalty on those who cannot provide sufficient personnel for crop protection, and loss during extreme drought can be nearly complete. Results also suggest that farmers’ options to cope with those processes are shaped by hydrologic and geomorphic factors as well as social relationships.