Geographic distribution of major crops across the world

Authors

  • Billie Leff,

    1. Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
    2. Now at National Geographic Maps, Washington, DC, USA.
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  • Navin Ramankutty,

    1. Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
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  • Jonathan A. Foley

    1. Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
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Abstract

[1] Humans have transformed the surface of the planet through agricultural activities, and today, ∼12% of the land surface is used for cultivation and another 22% is used for pastures and rangelands. In this paper, we have synthesized satellite-derived land cover data and agricultural census data to produce global data sets of the distribution of 18 major crops across the world. The resulting data are representative of the early 1990s, have a spatial resolution of 5 min. (∼10 km), and describe the fraction of a grid cell occupied by each of the 18 crops. The global crop data are consistent with our knowledge of agricultural geography, and compares favorably to another existing data set that partially overlaps with our product. We have also analyzed how different crops are grown in combination to form major crop belts throughout the world. Further, we analyzed the patterns of crop diversification across the world. While these data are not sufficiently accurate at local scales, they can be used to analyze crop geography in a regional-to-global context. They can also be used to understand the global patterns of farming systems, in analyses of food security, and within global ecosystem and climate models to understand the environmental consequences of cultivation.

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