Agriculture occupies 38% of terrestrial surface

January 14, 2015

"According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, croplands cover 1.53 billion hectares (about 12% of Earth’s ice-free land), while pastures cover another 3.38 billion hectares (about 26% of Earth’s ice-free land) . Altogether, agriculture occupies about 38% of Earth’s terrestrial surface—the largest use of land on the planet. These areas comprise the land best suited for farming: much of the rest is covered by deserts, mountains, tundra, cities, ecological reserves and other lands unsuitable for agriculture."
Studies cited for the 38% figure are:
Ramankutty, N., Evan, A. T., Monfreda, C. & Foley, J. A. Farming the planet: 1. Geographic distribution of global agricultural lands in the year 2000. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 22, GB1003 (2008)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT). (accessed, March 2011)


Jon Foley et al. "Solutions for a Cultivated Planet," Nature 478, 337–342 (20 October 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10452
Published online 12 October 2011
[verified 4/15/14]

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