Agricultural land

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Photo showing piece of agricultural land irrigated and ploughed for paddy cultivation. Farmland Ready For Paddy Cultivation.jpg
Photo showing piece of agricultural land irrigated and ploughed for paddy cultivation.

Agricultural land is typically land devoted to agriculture, [1] the systematic and controlled use of other forms of life particularly the rearing of livestock and production of crops to produce food for humans. [2] [3] It is thus generally synonymous with both farmland or cropland, as well as pasture or rangeland.

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Organism Any individual living physical entity

In biology, an organism is any individual entity that exhibits the properties of life. It is a synonym for "life form".

Livestock Domesticated animals

Livestock is commonly defined as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce labor and commodities such as meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool. The term is sometimes used to refer solely to those that are bred for consumption, while other times it refers only to farmed ruminants, such as cattle and goats. Horses are considered livestock in the United States. The USDA uses livestock similarly to some uses of the term “red meat”, in which it specifically refers to all the mammal animals kept in this setting to be used as commodities. The USDA mentions pork, veal, beef, and lamb are all classified as livestock and all livestock is considered to be red meats. Poultry and fish are not included in the category.


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and others following its definitions, however, also use agricultural land or agricultural area as a term of art, where it means the collection of: [4] [5]

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established after World War II, with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. Its headquarters, which are subject to extraterritoriality, are in Manhattan, New York City, and it has other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.

Food and Agriculture Organization Specialised agency of the United Nations

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate arguments and debate policy.

Arable land Land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops

Arable land is, according to one definition, land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops. In Britain, it was traditionally contrasted with pasturable land such as heaths which could be used for sheep-rearing but not farmland.

Grassland areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses (Poaceae)

Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses (Poaceae); however, sedge (Cyperaceae) and rush (Juncaceae) families can also be found along with variable proportions of legumes, like clover, and other herbs. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica. Grasslands are found in most ecoregions of the Earth. For example, there are five terrestrial ecoregion classifications (subdivisions) of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome (ecosystem), which is one of eight terrestrial ecozones of the Earth's surface.

Shrubland plant community characterised by vegetation dominated by shrubs

Shrubland, scrubland, scrub, brush, or bush is a plant community characterised by vegetation dominated by shrubs, often also including grasses, herbs, and geophytes. Shrubland may either occur naturally or be the result of human activity. It may be the mature vegetation type in a particular region and remain stable over time, or a transitional community that occurs temporarily as the result of a disturbance, such as fire. A stable state may be maintained by regular natural disturbance such as fire or browsing. Shrubland may be unsuitable for human habitation because of the danger of fire. The term "shrubland" was coined in 1903.

This sense of "agricultural land" thus includes a great deal of land not devoted to agricultural use. The land actually under annually-replanted crops in any given year is instead said to constitute "sown land" or "cropped land". "Permanent cropland" includes forested plantations used to harvest coffee, rubber, or fruit but not tree farms or proper forests used for wood or timber. Land able to be used for farming is called "cultivable land". Farmland, meanwhile, is used variously in reference to all agricultural land, to all cultivable land, or just to the newly restricted sense of "arable land". Depending upon its use of artificial irrigation, the FAO's "agricultural land" may be divided into irrigated and non-irrigated land.

A tree farm is a privately owned forest managed for timber production. The term, tree farm, also is used to refer to tree plantations, tree nurseries, and Christmas tree farms.

Forest dense collection of trees covering a relatively large area

A forest is a large area dominated by trees. Hundreds of more precise definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing and ecological function. According to the widely used Food and Agriculture Organization definition, forests covered 4 billion hectares (9.9×109 acres) (15 million square miles) or approximately 30 percent of the world's land area in 2006.

Wood Fibrous material from trees or other plants

Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of trees and other woody plants. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers that are strong in tension and embedded in a matrix of lignin that resists compression. Wood is sometimes defined as only the secondary xylem in the stems of trees, or it is defined more broadly to include the same type of tissue elsewhere such as in the roots of trees or shrubs. In a living tree it performs a support function, enabling woody plants to grow large or to stand up by themselves. It also conveys water and nutrients between the leaves, other growing tissues, and the roots. Wood may also refer to other plant materials with comparable properties, and to material engineered from wood, or wood chips or fiber.

In the context of zoning, agricultural land or agriculturally-zoned land refers to plots that are permitted to be used for agricultural activities, without regard to its present use or even suitability. In some areas, agricultural land is protected so that it can be farmed without any threat of development. The Agricultural Land Reserve in British Columbia in Canada, for instance, requires approval from its Agricultural Land Commission before its lands can be removed or subdivided. [6]

Zoning describes the control by authority of the use of land, and of the buildings thereon

Zoning is the process of dividing land in a municipality into zones in which certain land uses are permitted or prohibited. In addition, the sizes, bulk, and placement of buildings may be regulated. The type of zone determines whether planning permission for a given development is granted. Zoning may specify a variety of outright and conditional uses of land. It may also indicate the size and dimensions of land area as well as the form and scale of buildings. These guidelines are set in order to guide urban growth and development.

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is a collection of agricultural land in the Canadian province of British Columbia in which agriculture is recognized as the priority. In total, the ALR covers approximately 47,000 square kilometres (18,000 sq mi) and includes private and public lands that may be farmed, forested or are vacant. Some ALR blocks cover thousands of hectares while others are small pockets of only a few hectares. The reserve is administered by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), consisting of a chair and six vice-chairs appointed by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council of British Columbia (cabinet) and twelve regular commissioners appointed by the provincial Minister of Agriculture.

British Columbia Province of Canada

British Columbia is the westernmost province of Canada, located between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. With an estimated population of 5.016 million as of 2018, it is Canada's third-most populous province.


Under the FAO's definitions above, agricultural land covers 38.4% of the world's land area as of 2011. Permanent pastures are 68.4% of all agricultural land (26.3% of global land area), arable land (row crops) is 28.4% of all agricultural land (10.9% of global land area), and permanent crops (e.g. vineyards and orchards) are 3.1% (1.2% of global land area). [7] [8]

Pasture land used for grazing

Pasture is a concrete spatial area where farmers keep livestock for grazing.

Vineyard Plantation of grape-bearing vines

A vineyard is a plantation of grape-bearing vines, grown mainly for winemaking, but also raisins, table grapes and non-alcoholic grape juice. The science, practice and study of vineyard production is known as viticulture.

Orchard Intentionally planted trees or shrubs that are maintained for food production

An orchard is an intentional planting of trees or shrubs that is maintained for food production. Orchards comprise fruit- or nut-producing trees which are generally grown for commercial production. Orchards are also sometimes a feature of large gardens, where they serve an aesthetic as well as a productive purpose. A fruit garden is generally synonymous with an orchard, although it is set on a smaller non-commercial scale and may emphasize berry shrubs in preference to fruit trees. Most temperate-zone orchards are laid out in a regular grid, with a grazed or mown grass or bare soil base that makes maintenance and fruit gathering easy.

Globally, the total amount of permanent pasture according to the FAO has been in decline since 1998, [9] , in part due to a decrease of wool production in favor of synthetic fibers (such as polyester) and cotton. [10]

The decrease of permanent pasture, however, does not account for gross conversion (e.g. land extensively cleared for agriculture in some areas, while converted from agriculture to other uses elsewhere) and more detailed analyses have demonstrated this. For example, Lark et al. 2015 found that in the United States cropland increased by 2.98 million acres from 2008-2012 (comprising 7.34 million acres (29,700 km2) converted to agriculture, and 4.36 million acres (17,600 km2) converted from agriculture). [11]

Agricultural Land Area ('000 km2)
Flag of the United States.svg  USA 4,0444,0354,1094,113
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 169169167167

Source: Helgi Library, [12] World Bank, FAOSTAT


The cost of Russian farmland is as little as €1,500-2,000/ha (£1,260-1,680/ha). [13] Farmland can be available in France for roughly €10,000/ha, but this is a bargain; for quality soil, realistic prices vary between €50,000-100,000/ha . Farmland has been seen to be available on the Spanish market for as little as €10,000/ha, but this is non-irrigated land.

The average Russian farm measures 150ha. [13] The most prevalent crops in Russia are wheat, barley, corn, rice, sugar beet, soy beans, sunflower, potatoes and vegetables. [13] The Krasnodar region in Russia has 86,000ha of arable land. [13] Russian farmers harvested roughly 85-90 million tonnes of wheat annually in the years around 2010. [13] Russia exported most to Egypt, Turkey and Iran in 2012; China was a significant export market as well. [13] The average yield from the Krasnodar region was between 4 and 5 tonnes per ha, while the Russian average was only 2t/ha. [13] The Basic Element Group, which is a conglomerate owned by Oleg Deripaska, is one of Russia's leading agricultural producers, and owns or manages 109,000ha of Russian farmland, out of 90m actual and 115m total (0.12% actual). [13]


In 2013, Ukraine was ranked third in corn production and sixth in wheat production. [14] It was the main supplier of corn, wheat, and rape to Europe, [14] although it is unclear whether the internal supply from countries like France were accounted in this calculation. Ukrainian farmers achieve 60% of the output per unit area of their North American competitors. [14] UkrLandFarming PLC produces from 1.6m acres corn wheat barley sugar beet and sunflowers. [14] Until 2014, the chief Ukrainian export terminal was the Crimean port of Sebastopol. [14]

United States

Prime farmland in Illinois is valued, as of August 2018, at $26,000 a hectare. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

Open-field system

The open-field system was the prevalent agricultural system in much of Europe during the Middle Ages and lasted into the 20th century in parts of western Europe, Russia, Iran and Turkey. Under the open-field system, each manor or village had two or three large fields, usually several hundred acres each, which were divided into many narrow strips of land. The strips or selions were cultivated by individuals or peasant families, often called tenants or serfs. The holdings of a manor also included woodland and pasture areas for common usage and fields belonging to the lord of the manor and the church. The farmers customarily lived in individual houses in a nucleated village with a much larger manor house and church nearby. The open-field system necessitated co-operation among the inhabitants of the manor.

A permanent crop is one produced from plants which last for many seasons, rather than being replanted after each harvest.

Agriculture in Nigeria

Agriculture in Nigeria is a branch of the economy in Nigeria, providing employment for about 30% of the population as of 2010. The sector is being transformed by commercialization at the small, medium and large-scale enterprise levels.

The Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT) website disseminates statistical data collected and maintained by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAOSTAT data are provided as a time-series from 1961 in most domains for 245 countries in English, Spanish and French.

Agriculture in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a highly agrarian country, with its rural population at more than 70% and agriculture accounting for 60% of employment and around 30% of GDP. As is typical of economies dependent on agriculture, Tajikistan has low income per capita: back in the Soviet period (1990) Tajikistan was the poorest republic with a staggering 45% of its population in the lowest income “septile”. In 2006 Tajikistan still had the lowest income per capita among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries: $1,410 compared with nearly $12,000 for Russia. The low income and the high agrarian profile justify and drive the efforts for agricultural reform since 1991 in the hope of improving the population’s well being.

Agriculture in Mongolia

Agriculture in Mongolia constitutes over 10% of Mongolia's annual Gross domestic product and employs one-third of the labor force. However, the high altitude, extreme fluctuation in temperature, long winters, and low precipitation provides limited potential for agricultural development. The growing season is only 95 – 110 days. Because of Mongolia's harsh climate, it is unsuited to most cultivation. Only 1% of the arable land in Mongolia is cultivated with crops, amounting to 1,322,000 hectares in 1998. The agriculture sector therefore remains heavily focused on nomadic animal husbandry with 75% of the land allocated to pasture, and cropping only employing 3% of the population. Crops produced in Mongolia include corn, wheat, barley, and potatoes. Animals raised commercially in Mongolia include sheep, goats, cattle, horses, camels, and pigs. They are raised primarily for their meat, although goats are valued for their hair which can be used to produce cashmere.

Agriculture in Central Asia provides a brief regional overview of agriculture in the five contiguous states of former Soviet Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Two other countries that are sometimes classified as Central Asian – Afghanistan and Mongolia – are not included in this overview because of their substantially different background.

Agriculture in Pakistan

Pakistan's principal natural resources are arable land and water. About 25% of Pakistan's agriculture accounts for about 21% of GDP and employs about 43% of the labour force. In Pakistan, the most agricultural province is Punjab where wheat and cotton are the most grown. Mango orchards are mostly found in Sindh and Punjab provinces that make Pakistan the world's 4th largest producer of mangoes.

Agriculture in Chad

In 2006 approximately 80% of Chad's labor force was employed in the agricultural sector. This sector of the economy accounted for almost half of the GDP. With the exception of cotton production, some small-scale sugar cane production, and a portion of the peanut crop, Chad's agriculture consisted of subsistence food production. The types of crops that were grown and the locations of herds were determined by considerable variations in Chad's climate.

About 90 percent of the population(Burundi) depends on agriculture for a living. Most agriculture consists of subsistence farming, with only about 15 percent of the total production marketed. An estimated 1,351,000 hectares (3,338,000 acres), or about 52.6 percent of the total land area, is arable or under permanent crops; about 5.5 percent of cropland is irrigated. The average farm family plot is 0.8 hectares. Agriculture accounted for 51 percent of the GDP in 2004. Coffee and tea exports comprise the majority of foreign earnings; coffee alone accounted for 39 percent of exports of goods in 2004. Agricultural exports accounted for 48 percent of exports in 2004. Principal crops for local consumption are manioc, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, corn, and sorghum. Production in 2004 included bananas, 1,600,000 tons, mostly for wine; manioc, 710,000 tons; sweet potatoes, 834,000 tons; beans, 220,000 tons; sorghum, 74,000 tons; corn, 123,000 tons; peanuts, 8,800 tons; and yams, 9,900 tons.

Agriculture in Armenia

Armenia has 2.1 million hectares of agricultural land, 72% of the country's land area. Most of this, however, is mountain pastures, and cultivable land is 480,000 hectares, or 16% of the country's area. In 2006, 46% of the work force was employed in agriculture, and agriculture contributed 21% of the country's GDP. In 1991 Armenia imported about 65 percent of its food.

Agriculture in Jordan

Agriculture in Jordan contributed substantially to the economy at the time of Jordan's independence, but it subsequently suffered a decades-long steady decline. In the early 1950s, agriculture constituted almost 40 percent of GNP; on the eve of the June 1967 War, it was 17 percent.

Despite six years of crisis in Syria, agriculture remains a key part of the economy. The sector still accounts for an estimated 26 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and represents a critical safety net for the 6.7 million Syrians – including those internally displaced - who still remain in rural areas. However, agriculture and the livelihoods that depend on it have suffered massive loss. Today, food production is at a record low and around half the population remaining in Syria are unable to meet their daily food needs.

Irrigation in India

Irrigation in India includes a network of major and minor canals from Indian rivers, groundwater well based systems, tanks, and other rainwater harvesting projects for agricultural activities. Of these groundwater system is the largest. In 2013-14, only about 47.7% of total agricultural land in India was reliably irrigated. The largest canal in India is Indira Gandhi Canal, which is about 650 km long. About 2/3rd cultivated land in India is dependent on monsoons. Irrigation in India helps improve food security, reduce dependence on monsoons, improve agricultural productivity and create rural job opportunities. Dams used for irrigation projects help produce electricity and transport facilities, as well as provide drinking water supplies to a growing population, control floods and prevent droughts.

Agriculture in Liberia

Agriculture in Liberia is a major sector of the country's economy worth 38.8% of GDP, employing more than 70% of the population and providing a valuable export for one of the world’s least developed countries. Liberia has a climate favourable to farming, vast forests, and an abundance of water, yet low yields mean that over half of foodstuffs are imported, with net agricultural trade at -$73.12 million in 2010. This was dismissed as a "misconception" by Liberia’s Minister of Agriculture.

Peak farmland is the maximum usable amount of land needed for crop cultivation for a given region. Supporters of the peak farmland theory argue that even with the growing world population, the need for more farmland is decreasing, as food production yields per acre of farmland are rising faster than the global demand for food. This is supported by the fact that the area dedicated to farmland in some countries, both developed and developing, has already begun to decline. Globally, while the total amount of arable land is still increasing, the area of permanent pasture has been in decline since 1998, with at least 60 million hectares no longer grazed. It is argued that other countries, such as the United States, are at their peak farmland now.

Agriculture is the third economic activity in Djibouti. Agriculture makes up 3 percent of the wider economy value. Djibouti depends on imports in most foods. Climatic conditions and poor soils limit farm output, and domestic food production meets about 15% of demand. 10% of the Djiboutian workforce are employed in agriculture.

Agricultural expansion describes the growth of agricultural land in the 21st century as a direct consequence of human overpopulation with an estimated 10 to 11 billion humans by end of this century and the required food and energy security. It is foreseen that most nonagricultural terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the world will be affected adversely. The intensified food and biofuel production will particularly affect tropical regions.


  1. Oxford English Dictionary , 3rd ed. "agricultural, adj." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2012.
  2. Oxford English Dictionary , 3rd ed. "agriculture, n." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2012.
  3. See also, e.g., Provincial Agricultural Land Commission. "What is Agricultural Land? Archived August 11, 2014, at the Wayback Machine " The Province of British Columbia. Accessed 1 Aug 2014.
  4. FAO. FAOSTAT Glossary Archived May 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine : "Agricultural area".
  5. OECD. Glossary of Statistical Terms: "Agricultural land".
  6. Provincial Agricultural Land Commission. Official website. Accessed 1 Aug 2014.
  7. FAOSTAT data on land use, retrieved December 4, 2015
  8. WDI –World Development Indicators online database, retrieved on July 18, 2008 (may require subscription for access; print edition [ permanent dead link ] from the World Bank).
  9. Poore, Joseph (January 2016). "Call for conservation: Abandoned pasture". Science. 351 (6269): 132. doi:10.1126/science.351.6269.132-a. PMID   26744398.
  10. "Back to the wild: How nature is reclaiming farmland".
  11.; "Cropland expansion outpaces agricultural and biofuel policies in the United States"
  12. "HelgiLibrary - Agricultural Land Area".
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "The future of farming in Russia - Farmers Weekly". 9 December 2013.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 "Ukraine crisis sends grain prices soaring" via The Globe and Mail.
  15. Doran, Tom C. (9 September 2018). "Survey finds farmland values down slightly". AgriNews Publications. Retrieved 10 September 2018.