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, [2] the systematic and controlled use of other forms of life particularly the rearing of livestock and production of crops to produce food for humans. [3] [4] It is generally synonymous with both farmland or cropland, as well as pasture or rangeland.


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and others following its definitions, however, also use agricultural land or agricultural area as a term of art, where it means the collection of: [5] [6]

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.

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. [7]


Change in agricultural area over time Agricultural area over the long-term, OWID.svg
Change in agricultural area over time

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). [9] [10]

Globally, the total amount of permanent pasture according to the FAO has been in decline since 1998, [11] in part due to a decrease of wool production in favor of synthetic fibers (such as polyester) and cotton. [12]

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). [13]

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, [14] World Bank, FAOSTAT


The cost of Russian farmland is as little as €1,500-2,000/ha (£1,260-1,680/ha). [15] This is comparatively inexpensive. Poor quality farmland in France and Spain goes no lower than €10,000/ha.

The average Russian farm measures 150ha. [15] The most prevalent crops in Russia are wheat, barley, corn, rice, sugar beet, soy beans, sunflower, potatoes and vegetables. [15] The Krasnodar region in Russia has 86,000ha of arable land. [15] Russian farmers harvested roughly 85-90 million tonnes of wheat annually in the years around 2010. [15] Russia exported most to Egypt, Turkey and Iran in 2012; China was a significant export market as well. [15] The average yield from the Krasnodar region was between 4 and 5 tonnes per ha, while the Russian average was only 2t/ha. [15] 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). [15]


In 2013, Ukraine was ranked third in corn production and sixth in wheat production. [16] It was the main supplier of corn, wheat, and rape to Europe, [16] 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. [16] UkrLandFarming PLC produces from 1.6m acres corn wheat barley sugar beet and sunflowers. [16] Until 2014, the chief Ukrainian export terminal was the Crimean port of Sevastopol. [16]

United States

Prime farmland in Illinois is valued, as of August 2018, at $26,000 a hectare. [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

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

Arable land is any land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops. Alternatively, for the purposes of agricultural statistics, the term often has a more precise definition:

"Arable land is the land under temporary agricultural crops, temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market and kitchen gardens and land temporarily fallow. The abandoned land resulting from shifting cultivation is not included in this category. Data for 'Arable land' are not meant to indicate the amount of land that is potentially cultivable."

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 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 religious authorities, usually Roman Catholics in medieval Western Europe. 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.

Agriculture in the United States Major industry in the United States

Agriculture is a major industry in the United States, which is a net exporter of food. As of the 2007 census of agriculture, there were 2.2 million farms, covering an area of 922 million acres (1,441,000 sq mi), an average of 418 acres per farm.

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

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 Uzbekistan employs 28% of the country's labor force and contributes 24% of its GDP. Crop agriculture requires irrigation and occurs mainly in river valleys and oases. Cultivable land is 4.5 million hectares, or about 10% of Uzbekistan's total area, and it has to be shared between crops and cattle. Desert pastures cover fully 50% of the country, but they support only sheep.

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: Soviet 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 included in this overview because of their substantially different background.

Agriculture in Chad

In 2016, approximately 86% of Chad's labor force was employed in the agricultural sector. This sector of the economy accounted for almost half of the GDP as of the late 1980s. 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.

Agriculture in Madagascar

Agriculture employs the majority of Madagascar's population. Mainly involving smallholders, agriculture has seen different levels of state organisation, shifting from state control to a liberalized sector.

About 90 percent of the population (Burundi) depends on agriculture for a living. Most agriculture consists of subsistence farming, with only about 15% of the total production marketed. An estimated 1,351,000 hectares (3,338,000 acres), or about 52.6% of the total land area, is arable or under permanent crops; about 5.5% of cropland is irrigated. The average farm family plot is 0.8 hectares. Agriculture accounted for 51% of the GDP in 2004. Coffee and tea exports comprise the majority of foreign earnings; coffee alone accounted for 39% 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 Georgia (country)

Georgia’s climate and soil have made agriculture one of its most productive economic sectors; the 18 percent of Georgian land that is arable provided 32 percent of the republic's NMP in 1990. In the Soviet period, swampy areas in the west were drained and arid regions in the east were salvaged by a complex irrigation system, allowing Georgian agriculture to expand production tenfold between 1918 and 1980. Production was hindered in the Soviet period, however, by the misallocation of agricultural land such as the assignment of prime grain fields to tea cultivation and excessive specialization. Georgia’s emphasis on labor-intensive crops such as tea and grapes kept the rural work force at an unsatisfactory level of productivity. Some 25 percent of the Georgian work force was engaged in agriculture in 1990; 37 percent had been so engaged in 1970.

This article includes the table with land use statistics by country. Countries are sorted by their total cultivated land area which is a sum of total arable land area and total area of permanent crops. Arable land is a land cultivated for crops like wheat, maize, and rice that are replanted after each harvest; permanent crops land is a land cultivated for crops like citrus, coffee, and rubber that are not replanted after each harvest; this also includes land under flowering shrubs, fruit trees, nut trees, and vines, but excludes land under trees grown for wood or timber. Other lands are any lands not arable or under permanent crops; this includes permanent meadows and pastures, forests and woodlands, built-on areas, roads, barren land, etc.

Despite 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.

Agriculture in Moldova

Moldova is an agrarian-industrial state, with agricultural land occupying 2,499,000 hectares in a total area of 3,384,600 hectares. It is estimated that 1,810,500 of these hectares are arable. Moldova is located in Eastern Europe, and is landlocked, bordering Romania and Ukraine. Moldova’s agricultural sector benefits from a geographical proximity to large markets, namely the European Union. As a share of GDP, agriculture has declined from 56% in 1995 to 13.8% in 2013. Data from 2015 estimated that agriculture accounted for 12% of Moldova’s GDP. Agriculture as a sector is export-oriented, with the composition of Moldova’s total exports containing agriculture and the agri-food sector as a main component. 70% of agri-food exports in 2012 included beverages, edible fruits and nuts, oilseeds, vegetable preparations and cereals. Here, fruits, vegetables and nuts were attributed to 33% of Moldova’s exports for 2011-2013. The declining share of agriculture in GDP does not extend to national value-added, where the agricultural sector in Moldova has the largest share relative to Central and Eastern European countries, withstanding a low productivity. Moldova’s growth corresponds to a declining role of agriculture as a sector, and the rising importance of the services sector, aligning with trends for growth of developing economies.

Convertible husbandry, also known as alternate husbandry or up-and-down husbandry, is a method of farming whereby strips of arable farmland were temporarily converted into grass pasture, known as leys. These remained under grass for up to 10 years before being ploughed under again, while some eventually became permanent pasturage. It was a process used during the 16th century through the 19th century by "which a higher proportion of land was used to support increasing numbers of livestock in many parts of England." Its adoption was an important component of the British Agricultural Revolution.

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.

Agricultural expansion describes the growth of agricultural land in the 21st century.


  1. Lauren Southern (June 25, 2018). "Farmlands: South Africa's Farm Murder Documentary" via Youtube.
  2. Oxford English Dictionary , 3rd ed. "agricultural, adj." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2012.
  3. Oxford English Dictionary , 3rd ed. "agriculture, n." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2012.
  4. 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.
  5. FAO. FAOSTAT Glossary Archived May 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine : "Agricultural area".
  6. OECD. Glossary of Statistical Terms: "Agricultural land".
  7. Provincial Agricultural Land Commission. Official website. Accessed 1 Aug 2014.
  8. "Agricultural area over the long-term". Our World in Data. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  9. FAOSTAT data on land use, retrieved December 4, 2015
  10. WDI –World Development Indicators online database, retrieved on July 18, 2008 (may require subscription for access; print edition from the World Bank).
  11. Poore, Joseph (January 2016). "Call for conservation: Abandoned pasture". Science. 351 (6269): 132. Bibcode:2016Sci...351..132P. doi:10.1126/science.351.6269.132-a. PMID   26744398.
  12. "Back to the wild: How nature is reclaiming farmland".
  13. Lark, Tyler J.; Meghan Salmon, J.; Gibbs, Holly K. (2015). "Cropland expansion outpaces agricultural and biofuel policies in the United States". Environmental Research Letters. 10 (4): 044003. Bibcode:2015ERL....10d4003L. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/10/4/044003 .
  14. "HelgiLibrary - Agricultural Land Area".
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "The future of farming in Russia - Farmers Weekly". 9 December 2013.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 "Ukraine crisis sends grain prices soaring" via The Globe and Mail.
  17. Doran, Tom C. (9 September 2018). "Survey finds farmland values down slightly". AgriNews Publications. Archived from the original on 11 September 2018. Retrieved 10 September 2018.