Agricultural expansion describes the growth of agricultural land (arable land, pastures, etc.) especially in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The agricultural expansion is often explained as a direct consequence of the global increase in food and energy requirements due to continuing population growth (both which in turn have been attributed to agricultural expansion itself[1][2]), with an estimated expectation of 10 to 11 billion humans on Earth by end of this century. It is foreseen that most of the world's non-agrarian ecosystems (terrestrial and aquatic) will be affected adversely, from habitat loss, land degradation, overexploitation, and other problems. The intensified food (and biofuel) production will in particular affect the tropical regions.

Most modern agriculture relies on intensive methods. Further expansion of the predominant farming types that rest on a small number of highly productive crops has led to a significant loss of biodiversity on a global scale already.[3] Moreover, agricultural expansion continues to be the main driver of deforestation and forest fragmentation. Large-scale commercial agriculture (primarily cattle ranching and cultivation of soya bean and oil palm) accounted for 40 percent of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2010, and local subsistence agriculture for another 33 percent.[4] In the light of the already occurring and potential massive ecological effects, the need for sustainable practices is more urgent than ever.

The FAO predicts that global arable land use will continue to grow from a 1.58 billion hectares (3.9×109 acres) in 2014 to 1.66 billion hectares (4.1×109 acres) in 2050, with most of this growth projected to result from developing countries. At the same time, arable land use in developed countries is likely to continue its decline.[5]

A well-known example of already ongoing agricultural expansion is the proliferation of palm oil production areas or the land conversion/deforestation for soy bean production in South America. Today's land grabbing activities are often a consequence of the strive for agricultural land by growing economies.[6]

In the beginning of the 21st century the palm oil industry caused a massive deforestation in Borneo with heavy consequences.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Human population numbers as a function of food supply" (PDF). Russel Hopfenburg, David Pimentel, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA;2Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. Human population growth has typically been seen as the primary causative factor of other ecologically destructive phenomena. Current human disease epidemics are explored as a function of population size. That human population growth is itself a phenomenon with clearly identifiable ecological/biological causes has been overlooked. Here, human population growth is discussed as being subject to the same dynamic processes as the population growth of other species. Contrary to the widely held belief that food production must be increased to feed the growing population, experimental and correlational data indicate that human population growth varies as a function of food availability. By increasing food production for humans, at the expense of other species, the biologically determined effect has been, and continues to be, an increase in the human population. Understanding the relationship between food increases and population increases is proposed as a necessary first step in addressing this global problem. Resistance to this perspective is briefly discussed in terms of cultural bias in science.
  2. ^ "Morgan Freeman on the Tyranny of Agriculture". Archived from the original on 2020-08-15. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  3. ^ "The expansion of modern agriculture and global biodiversity decline: an integrated assessment". Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. 2018-02-19. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  4. ^ The State of the World's Forests 2020. In brief – Forests, biodiversity and people. Rome: FAO & UNEP. 2020. p. 10. doi:10.4060/ca8985en. ISBN 978-92-5-132707-4. S2CID 241416114.
  5. ^ Ritchie, Hannah; Roser, Max (17 October 2013). "Yields and Land Use in Agriculture". Our World in Data. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  6. ^ Ceddia, M. G.; Bardsley, N. O.; Gomez-y-Paloma, S.; Sedlacek, S. (2014-05-05). "Governance, agricultural intensification, and land sparing in tropical South America". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (20): 7242–7247. Bibcode:2014PNAS..111.7242C. doi:10.1073/pnas.1317967111. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 4034233. PMID 24799696.
  7. ^ Wright, Rebecca; Watson, Ivan; Booth, Tom; Jamaluddin, Masrur. "Borneo is burning". CNN. Retrieved 4 December 2019.


 This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (license statement/permission). Text taken from The State of the World’s Forests 2020. In brief – Forests, biodiversity and people​, FAO & UNEP, FAO & UNEP.

Further reading