Arable Vs Agricultural Land (Comparison List) | askBAMLand

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Some people use arable land and agricultural land interchangeably. But is that the case? This arable vs. agricultural land comparison article has the answers.

Is arable land the same as agricultural land? Can you use these two terms interchangeably? Are there any differences between arable land and agricultural land? This article has all these answers.

Arable land refers to land that is currently used to grow annual or biennial crops, which will require re-planting at some point. Therefore, land under permanent crops is not considered arable land. Agricultural land refers to land that can be used for agricultural purposes, regardless of the use.

In this article, we will take a closer look at what arable land is, what agricultural land is, what constitutes arable land, what constitutes agricultural land as well as the differences between these two terms. So, if you have been wondering whether these two terms refer to the same thing, this guide will clear the air.

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Table of Contents

Arable Land

Arable land refers to any type of land that can be plowed to grow crops. It also refers to land that’s temporarily under agricultural production such as meadows for mowing, kitchen gardens, pasture land as well as land under market gardens.

Also, land that has been temporarily left fallow for less than five years falls under arable land. However, land that has been abandoned for long to accommodate for shifting cultivation is not included under arable land.

According to a report published by the Food and Agricultural Organization was around 1.4 billion. Today, the acreage under arable land stands at around 1.5 billion, which represents approximately 11% of the world’s land surface.

Non-Arable Land

It’s also worth mentioning the distinction between arable land and non-arable land. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, there are various types of land that fall in this category.

First, land used as grazed range or pasture, as well as land featuring sedge meadows and natural grasslands is considered non-arable land. Also, land that is primarily used for producing hay is considered non-arable land.

Second, land under permanent woody crops like coffee plantations, vineyards, rubber plantations and orchard land is also considered non-arable land. Furthermore, land that is under nut-producing trees also falls under this category.

Also, any piece of land that is not ideal for agricultural production is considered non-arable land. And this may include various pieces of land that have various limitations like desert areas without adequate water for irrigation, excessively wet areas, lands with excessive salts, extremely stony and steep areas as well as land in various that encounter adverse climatic conditions are all considered non-arable land.

Simply any piece of land that can’t be cultivated for crop production or land that’s permanently under wood crops will be considered non-arable land. So, if you have a piece of land that falls under any of these categories, then it will be considered non-arable land.

Converting Non-Arable Land to Arable Land

As mentioned earlier in this article, non-arable land is land that’s can’t be cultivated to produce crops. However, this doesn’t that this situation is permanent. Thanks to advancements in farming technologies, some non-arable land can now be converted into arable land and used for cultivation.

Converting non-arable land to arable land will increase the area of land under the cultivation of food crops, thus helping to reduce world hunger and starvation. Also, converting non-arable land to arable land can help to make a country more independent, since it will reduce the quantity of imported food.

Some of the methods used to convert non-arable land to arable land include installing desalination plants, digging irrigation canals, planting shade trees in desert areas, installing greenhouses, reverse osmosis of water, and the application of nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides.

Reclamation of seawater is yet another method that has been successfully used to convert non-arable land to arable land.

However, it’s worth mentioning that most of the sustainable methods used for converting non-arable land to arable land are quite expensive. Hence, they can only succeed where there’s adequate capital investment. And this explains why most of the conversions have been taking place in developed countries.

Agricultural Land

As its name suggests, agricultural land refers to any type of land designed for farming or agricultural purposes. To this end, land used for cultivating crops and land used for rearing livestock will be considered agricultural land.

Types of Agricultural Land

There are three types of land that fall under this category. They include arable land, land under permanent crops and land under permanent pastures is all considered agricultural land. Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories.

Arable Land

Arable land refers to land that is currently being used for cultivating crops. This mainly refers to land whose crops require replanting within a certain period. The duration for re-planting will depend on the type of crop and the weather conditions.

Permanent Cropland

This type of agricultural land refers to land that has permanent crops that don’t need annual replanting. This will include land with vineyards, coffee bushes, nut-producing trees, orchards and rubber plantations, among others.

As you may probably know, these types of crops may go for several years without the need for replanting. However, the land they sit on is still considered agricultural land, since it’s being used for agricultural purposes.

Permanent Pastures

Land under permanent pastures, be it artificial or natural grasslands used for grazing livestock also falls under agricultural land. However, land under pastures for wild animals is not considered agricultural land. Such land may fall under forest land.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, agricultural land is around five billion hectares globally or approximately 38% of the world land surface. Approximately a third of the available agricultural land is under crop farming while the remaining two-thirds mainly consist of pastures and meadows for grazing livestock.

As for the available land used for cropland, approximately 28% is under row crops while permanent crops like orchards and vineyards account for approximately 3.1% of that land.

According to the same report, the amount of agricultural land under permanent pasture has been declining over the years. And this can be partly attributed to the decrease in wool production, due to a shift in synthetic fibers like polyester.

On the other hand, the amount of land under cropland has increased over the last couple of years. For instance, in the U.S, the amount of land under cropland has increased by approximately 3 million acres between 2008 and 2012.

Countries with the Largest Areas Dedicated to Cropland

Indonesia leads the world when it comes to land dedicated to agricultural land. As of today, Indonesia has approximately 225,000 square kilometers dedicated to cropland, which translates to around 12% of its surface.

China is second on the list, with around 160,000 square kilometers or around 1.7% of its area dedicated to cropland. India comes third in this list, with around 130,000 square kilometers of its land devoted to cropland.

Other nations that have vast amounts of land dedicated to cropland include Brazil, Malaysia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Canada, Thailand and the Ivory Coast.

Tuvalu tops the list of countries with the largest percentage of their surface dedicated to cropland. According to the World Economic Forum, approximately 60% of Tuvalu’s land surface is dedicated to cropland.

Sao Tome and Principe comes second at around 40% while Kiribati is a close third at 39%. Other countries that feature prominently on this list include the Marshall Islands, Comoros, Dominica, Micronesia, Grenada, Philippines and Malaysia.

As you can see, island nations dominate this list. The reason why Island nations may have large swathes of their land under agricultural production is that the climatic conditions in most islands can support a wide range of crops throughout the year.

Arable vs. Agricultural Land

In a nutshell, arable land refers to cultivable land, which can be used for growing crops or pasture feed. However, this excludes land that is currently under permanent crops like vineyards, rubber plantations, coffee plantations, or orchards.

Agricultural land, on the other hand, covers any type of land that can be used for agricultural purposes. Hence, arable land, pastureland, and land under permanent crops is also considered agricultural land.

In simple terms, arable land is one of the types of agricultural land. But, it’s also worth mentioning that in some jurisdictions, forestland may also be considered agricultural land, if it joins conservation reserve land.

Wrapping It Up

At this point, you already know what constitutes arable land, what agricultural land is as well as the differences between these two terms. So, if you have a piece of land and you have been wondering whether it falls under arable land or agricultural land, you now have the answers.


Brittany Melling

Brittany Melling

Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.

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