This study presents a global scale analysis of cropping intensity, crop duration and fallow land extent computed by using the global dataset on monthly irrigated and rainfed crop areas MIRCA2000. MIRCA2000 was mainly derived from census data and crop calendars from literature. Global cropland extent was 16 million km2
around the year 2000 of which 4.4 million km2
(28%) was fallow, resulting in an average cropping intensity of 0.82 for total cropland extent and of 1.13 when excluding fallow land. The lowest cropping intensities related to total cropland extent were found for Southern Africa (0.45), Central America (0.49) and Middle Africa (0.54), while highest cropping intensities were computed for Eastern Asia (1.04) and Southern Asia (1.0). In remote or arid regions where shifting cultivation is practiced, fallow periods last 3–10 years or even longer. In contrast, crops are harvested two or more times per year in highly populated, often irrigated tropical or subtropical lowlands where multi-cropping systems are common. This indicates that intensification of agricultural land use is a strategy that may be able to significantly improve global food security. There exist large uncertainties regarding extent of cropland, harvested crop area and therefore cropping intensity at larger scales. Satellite imagery and remote sensing techniques provide opportunities for decreasing these uncertainties and to improve the MIRCA2000 inventory.