Global Crop Acreage Expansion: +97.9m since 2018

The USDA March Prospective Planting report prompted questions about U.S. acreage in 2024 (we outline seven factors here). But don’t spend too much time scratching your head about U.S. acreage, as global expansion has more than offset any local declines. This week, we are reviewing and updating a two-part post from this year (Global Acreage Higher Again in 2023, Part II: The Oilseed Surge)

World harvested acres

2.458 billion crop acres were harvested in 2023, a new record high (Figure 1). Global crop acreage is 97.9m acres higher than just five years ago. To clarify, these data are based on the USDA estimate of the annual harvested acreage of the 13 primary crops[1].

Globally, producers have consistently shown the ability to expand production via additional acreage. Other major expansions occurred during the 1970s and between 2004 and 2014.

Figure 1. World Harvested Acres, 13 Primary Crops. 1960-2023. Data Source: USDA FAS, Calculations.

Oilseeds lead the increase

The 100-million-acre expansion hasn’t unfolded uniformly across all crops or regions. Specifically, 57% of the additional acreage went to oilseeds – peanuts, rapeseed, soybeans, and sunflowers (Figure 2). Corn (+27m) and wheat (+20m) also expanded acreage, but a few crops – including cotton – posted acreage declines.

Figure 2. Change in Global Harvested Acres, by Crop, 2023 Less 2018. Data Source: USDA FAS and Calculations.

Comparing expansions

Oilseeds haven’t always led the acreage gains. Last time (2004-2014), corn alone accounted for nearly half of new acres (Figure 3). Now, corn only accounts for 28%. Remember that the most recent expansion (+98m acres) is considerably smaller than the previous (+222m from 2004 to 2014).

Wheat and rapeseed have also contributed significantly to recent gains. The previous boom, however, featured more rice.

Figure 3. Commodities Driving Global Acreage Expansion, Select Commodities, 2004 to 2014 and 2018 to 2023. Data Source: USDA FAS and Calculations.


The expansions have also varied geographically. South America was a significant driver in both expansions. This time around its effects are even bigger, accounting for nearly half (48%) of the total gains. South Asia – mainly India – accounted for around 39%. Last time, sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia were more prominent.

Figure 4. Regional Driving Global Acreage Expansion, Select Regions, 2004 to 2014 and 2018 to 2023. Data Source: USDA FAS and Calculations.


There are many ways to slice and dice these data. More charts and tables can be found in the full reports here and here.

Wrapping it up

The U.S. may plant fewer principal crop acres in 2024, but global acreage has continued to trend higher. Global expansions aren’t unusual, and recent gains focused on oilseeds and occurred in South America and South Asia.

[1] The 13 primary crops are barley, corn, cotton, millet, oats, peanuts, rapeseed, soybeans, sunflowers, rice (milled), rye, sorghum, and wheat.