Ever wonder about how much of the earth's surface is used for agriculture? Us too. So we did some research and wanted to share it with you. In this article we'll break down the different areas of land use on earth and look at usage by different agricultural products.
Before we get into the details about the the different crop land uses, let's look at some basic data about the earth to get sense of the scale of things.
The earth's total surface is 196 million square miles and is mostly covered by water. The earth really is an ocean world with more than 71% or 139 million square miles of its surface covered in water. That leaves just 57 million square miles or 29% of the earth's surface with land. Let's take a look at the different types of land areas on earth.
6 million mi²
11 million mi²
40 million mi²
Ok, so there are about 139 million square miles of habitable land on earth. That habitable land is broken down into 5 main categories.
Earths Land Uses
% Habitable Land
20 million mi²
15 million mi²
4 million mi²
0.4 million mi²
0.4 million mi²
Land Use Breakdown
Now we've broken down those areas we can start to understand how much of the earths surface area is used for farming, ranching or other crop production. To summarize, about 1/2 of all the earth's habitable land is used for agriculture. That's a little more 12 billion acres or about 35% of the total surface area of the earth. To put that in perspective that's about 5 times the area of the United States.
It takes a lot of land to feed the 7.9 billion people on the planet, so it's not surprising how much land goes to feeding all those hungry mouths. Let's take a look at how that breaks down between livestock usages (including grazing and animal feed production) and crop production.
% Agricultural Land
9.24 billion acres
2.7 billion acres
Global Protein Production
Wow, it takes a lot of land to support all those cows, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens and other livestock that are used for meat, cheese and dairy production. How does that land usage translate into global protein production? Let's see what percentage of agriculture land goes to what major protein sources.
Agricultural Land Use
The vast majority of agricultural land is used for livestock production and supporting livestock production. Of the 2.7 billion acres that are used for crop production, the vast majority of land is dedicated to the production of cereals and grains, followed by oil crops. Of the land that is used for protein production, the majority is used for beef, lamb and dark chocolate (yum).
Overall, we are using much of the habitable land on protein and other different agricultural products grown for consumption.
We hope you enjoyed our break down the global land use for agriculture and how the land is used. To learn more check out these great resources:
Other Land Use Data
Written by our staff writers and farmers at Farmbrite.