Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Ambio 2022, 51:1158–1167.


open access


Urbanization has appropriated millions of hectares of cropland, and this trend will persist as cities continue to expand. We estimate the impact of this conversion as the amount of land needed elsewhere to give the same yield potential as determined by differences in climate and soil properties. Robust spatial upscaling techniques, well-validated crop simulation models, and soil, climate, and cropping system databases are employed with a focus on populous countries with high rates of land conversion. We find that converted cropland is 30–40% more productive than new cropland, which means that projection of food production potential must account for expected cropland loss to urbanization. Policies that protect existing farmland from urbanization would help relieve pressure on expansion of agriculture into natural ecosystems.