These Two Crops Use More of the World's Water Than All Other Crops Combined

Satellite photos of farms in Brazil, Image: NASA’s Earth Observatory

The world is drying up all around us, but which crops can we use to shift the blame away from our cars, pools, and cartons of almond milk? Cast your eyes hard on these two culprits, right in your very own kitchen cabinet.

A new report from Oxfam identifies the crops that are using up the most of the world’s resources. Wheat and rice alone are sucking up almost 70 percent of the water used on crops worldwide. It’s not just water. The researchers also found that only five crops—rice, soy, corn, wheat, and palm oil—emit as much greenhouse gases as any country in the world, with the exceptions of China and the United States.

Water footprints of the top water-using plants (Image: Oxfam)

Of course, part of the reason that the same few crops are using up the most resources is that we plant more of them than any almost other. Corn, wheat, and rice aren’t just the crops that use up the most of the world’s resources, these are also the crops that feed most of the world.

The answer, then, doesn’t lie in simply moving away from them; that would only increase world hunger. What we can do is change how we grow them by expanding the availability of drought-resistant crops and designing farms that use resources more efficiently.

You can check which particular crops are hitting hardest in your own part of the world in Oxfam’s interactive chart right here.

Greenhouse gas emitted by corn worldwide (Image: Oxfam)

Share This Story

Get our newsletter