Agricultural land (also agricultural area) denotes the land suitable for agricultural production, both crops and livestock. It is one of the main resources in agriculture. The standard classification (used, e.g., by FAO — Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) divides agricultural land into the following components, with their respective global land area in 2009:
- Arable land (13,812,040 km²) - land under annual crops, such as cereals, cotton, other technical crops, potatoes, vegetables, and melons; also includes land left temporarily fallow.
- Permanent Crops (1,484,087 km²) - Orchards and vineyards (e.g., fruit plantations).
- Permanent Pastures (33,556,943 km²) - areas for natural grasses and grazing of livestock, such as Meadows and pastures.
The first two components — arable land and land in permanent crops — constitute so-called cultivable land. The part of arable land actually under crops is called sown land or cropped land. The term farmland is ambiguous in the sense that it may refer, on the one hand, to agricultural land and, on the other hand, to cultivable or even only arable land.
Depending on the use of artificial irrigation, agricultural land is divided into irrigated and non-irrigated land. In arid and semi-arid countries agriculture is often confined to irrigated land, with very little farming possible in non-irrigated or rainfed areas.
Agricultural land constitutes only a part of any country's territory, which in addition also includes areas not suitable for agriculture, such as forests, mountains, and inland water bodies. Agricultural land covers 33% of the world's land area, with arable land representing less than one-third of agricultural land (9.3% of the world's land area).
In the context of zoning, agricultural land (or more properly agriculturally zoned land) refers to plots that may be used for agricultural activities, regardless of the physical type or quality of land. In some areas, agricultural land is protected so that it can be farmed without threat of development. For example, the Agricultural Land Reserve ALR in British Columbia, Canada, is managed by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), and removing or subdividing land within the ALR must be approved by the ALC.
Source: Helgi Library, World Bank, FAOSTAT
- Definition of agricultural land in FAOSTAT Glossary (click on the letter "A" to get to the definition of "Agricultural area").
- Definition of agricultural land in OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms.
- FAOSTAT data on land use
- WDI –World Development Indicators online database, retrieved on July 18, 2008 (may require subscription for access; print edition from the World Bank).
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