The State of the World’s Arable Land

Lennart Olsson, Francesca Cotrufo, Timothy Crews, Janet Franklin, Alison King, Alisher Mirzabaev, Murray Scown, Anna Tengberg, Sebastian Villarino, Yafei Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


For millennia, agriculture has been shaping landscapes on Earth. Technological change has increased agricultural productivity dramatically, especially in the past six decades, but also resulted in trade-offs such as land and soil degradation, emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and spreading of toxic substances. In this article we review the impacts of agriculture on the world’s arable land. We start by synthesizing information on the extent of arable land and associated agricultural practices, followed by a review of the state of the art of soil health and soil carbon. We review processes of land degradation, emission of GHGs, and threats to biodiversity. To conclude, we review key social and economic aspects of arable land and identify some important concerns for the future. The article ends on a positive note describing a potential new pathway for agriculture—to gradually adopt polycultures of novel perennial grain crops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-475
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Nov

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Free keywords

  • biodiversity
  • greenhouse gases
  • land degradation
  • land use
  • rural economies
  • soil carbon


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