Agricultural land is typically land devoted to agriculture, the systematic and controlled use of other forms of life—particularly the rearing of livestock and production of crops—to produce food for humans. It is generally synonymous with both farmland or cropland, as well as pasture or rangeland.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and others following its definitions, however, also use agricultural land or agricultural area as a term of art, where it means the collection of:
- "arable land" (also known as cropland): here redefined to refer to land producing crops requiring annual replanting or fallowland or pasture used for such crops within any five-year period
- "permanent cropland": land producing crops which do not require annual replanting
- permanent pastures: natural or artificial grasslands and shrublands able to be used for grazing livestock
This sense of "agricultural land" thus includes a great deal of land not devoted to agricultural use. The land actually under annually-replanted crops in any given year is instead said to constitute "sown land" or "cropped land". "Permanent cropland" includes forested plantations used to harvest coffee, rubber, or fruit but not tree farms or proper forests used for wood or timber. Land able to be used for farming is called "cultivable land". Farmland, meanwhile, is used variously in reference to all agricultural land, to all cultivable land, or just to the newly-restricted[clarification needed] sense of "arable land". Depending upon its use of artificial irrigation, the FAO's "agricultural land" may be divided into irrigated and non-irrigated land.
In the context of zoning, agricultural land or agriculturally-zoned land refers to plots that are permitted to be used for agricultural activities, without regard to its present use or even suitability. In some areas, agricultural land is protected so that it can be farmed without any threat of development. The Agricultural Land Reserve in British Columbia in Canada, for instance, requires approval from its Agricultural Land Commission before its lands can be removed or subdivided.