16 Most Important Plant Species in The World

There are 16 Most Important Plant Species and these are needed by humans in 2021. These Species are absolutely needed by humans to survive. Without them, the human’s existence may become vulnerable. The Most Produced Plant by harvested output indicators came from FAO Statistical Database (FAOSTAT) in 2021.





Of course, based on their functionality with the increasing number of total plant output, the role of a plant to meet basic human needs is getting higher. In the discussion of this article, the order ranking is based on the total production of output (tonnes) data from the Food and Agriculture Organization Statistical Database (FAOSTAT), United Nations in 2021.


Most Important Plant Species- List of Most Important Plant Species

Table 16 Most Important Plant Species in The World Based on FAOSTAT in 2021

RankCommodity NameScientific NameArea Harvested in 2021Production in 2021
Hectare (Ha)(Tons)
1 Sugarcane Saccharum officinarum26,349,5511,859,390,044
2 Maize Zea mays205,870,0161,210,235,135
3 Paddy Oryza sativa165,250,620787,293,867
4 Wheat Triticum spp.220,759,739770,877,072
5 Potatoes Solanum tuberosum L.18,132,694376,119,974
6 Soybeans Glicine max129,523,964371,693,592
7 Oil palm Elaeis guineensis28,909,289416,396,560
8 Cassava Manihot utilissima29,652,105314,806,747
9 Tomatoes Solanum lycopersicum5,167,955189,133,955
10 Banana Musa spp5,336,862124,978,578
11 Sweet potatoes Ipomoea batatas7,410,02688,867,913
12 Yams Dioscorea alata8,685,62475,142,630
13 Sorghum Sorghum spp.40,925,31061,364,996
14 Olive Olea europaea10,338,17923,054,310
15 Natural Rubber Hevea brasiliensis12,929,18914,021,987
16 Coffee Coffea L.11,331,9859,917,257
Source : FAOSTAT, 2022

Source : FAO, 2022


From the table above, it can be concluded that the plants that have the highest total output are still dominated by food plants for human consumption, especially those from the gramineae / Poaceae plant family such as corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans. Furthermore, We also explain about species’ cultivation and distribution in various continents and countries in 2018 is below.


Ranking of Plants and Their Distribution


16 .  Coffee/ Coffea spp

16 Most Important Plant Species in The World- Coffee

Coffee is a perennial crop that has various benefits in every day of human life. Many people enjoy drinking coffee to serve guests, accompanying work activities, and reduce sleepiness at night. Biologically, the most widely grown coffee plants consist of Robusta Coffee (Coffea canephora), Liberika Coffee (Coffea Liberica), and Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica). In 2021, the total area for coffee cultivation reached 11.3 million hectares with a total production of 9.9 million tons. The continents of Asia and America are the centers of world coffee cultivation. Countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Columbia, and Honduras are some of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world. More specifically, Brazil produced 2.9 million tons of coffee, Vietnam with 1.8 million tons, Indonesia with 765 thousand tons, Columbia with 560 thousand tons, and Honduras with 400 thousand tons.


15. Natural Rubber/ Hevea brasiliensis

16 Most Important Plant Species in The World- Natural rubber

Rubber is one of the plants from the Euphorbiaceae family which belongs to the most produced species in the world. In 2021, the total production reached 14 million tons with a planted area of more than 12.9 million hectares. The Asian continent is still the center for planting this plant with Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, and China as the world’s rubber plant cultivation centers. Functionally, the rubber latex output is the most Indispensable raw material in the automotive industry.


14. Olive/ Olea europaea

16 Most Important Plant Species in The World- Olive

Olive is a plant whose oil can have benefits for a variety of health, beauty, and cooking benefits. In 2021, the total planted area reached 10.3 million hectares with a total production reaching 23 million tons. Several countries such as Spain, Italy, and Morocco are some of the largest producing countries for this commodity. Spanish production in 2021 reached 9.8 million tonnes, Italy at 2.2 million tonnes, Turkiye at 1.7 million tonnes, and Morocco at 1.5 million tonnes.


13. Sorghum/  Sorghum spp.

16 Most Important Plant Species in The World- Sorghum

Sorghum is a species from the Poaceae / Gramineae family which is popular in the world. In 2021, production reached 61 million tons with a land area of around 40 million hectares worldwide. Sorghum is a raw material of animal feed, ethanol, and food raw materials. The continents of America and Africa are the largest production areas for this crop. The African continent contributes 29 million tons of sorghum and America by 19 million tons. In terms of producing countries in 2021, the United States, Nigeria, India, Ethiopia, and Mexico are some of the largest sorghum-producing countries in the world. The United States of America produced 11 million tonnes, Nigeria 6.7 million tonnes, India at 4.8 million tonnes, Ethiopia at 4.4 million tonnes, and Mexico at 4.3 million tonnes.


12. Yam/ Dioscorea alata

16 Most Important Plant Species in The World- Yams

Yam is one of the favorite tuber crops for consumption by the world. In 2021, the total area reached 8.6 million hectares with a total production reaching 75 million tons. In 2021, There are some countries with the biggest production. Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Benin are some of the largest producing countries for this commodity. Nigeria produced 50 million tons, Ghana 8.3 million tons, Ivory Coast 7.8 million tons, and Benin 3.2 million tons.


11. Sweet Popato/ Ipomoea batatas

16 Most Important Plant Species in The World- Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato is a tuber crop that is among the most widely grown and produced in the world. Historically, in 2021, the total planted area reached 7,4 million hectares with 88 million tons. China, Malawi, Nigeria, and Tanzania are some of the largest producing countries for sweet potatoes. China’s production in 2021 reached 47 million tons, Malawi was 7.4 million tons, Nigeria 3.9 million tons, and Tanzania 4.9 million tons.


10. Banana/ Musa Spp

16 Most Important Plant Species in The World- Banana

Banana (Musa spp) is one of the most widely popular fruits in the world. In 2021, the planted area reached 5.3 hectares (ha) with total production recorded at 124 million tonnes. According to FAO data for 2021, India, China, Indonesia, Brazil, and Ecuador are some of the largest banana-producing countries in the world. The total production of Indian reached 33 million tons, China was 11 million tons, and Indonesia was 8.7 million tons.


9. Tomato / Solanum lycopersicum

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species- Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most horticulture with famous function as a sauce. In 2021, the total production of tomato fruit output reached 189 million tons with a total planted area of 5 million hectares (ha). When viewed from the production area, there are several countries that are the center of tomato cultivation. China is the largest producer with a total output of 67 million tons, India with 21 million tons, the United States with 10 million tons, Turkey with 13 million tons, and Italy with 6.6 million tons. In everyday life, tomato is as a healthy plant and served on various food menus in the world.


8. Cassava/ Manihot utilissima

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species- Cassava

Cassava is a plant from the Euphorbiaceae family originating from South America and has been cultivated for tens of thousands of years ago in Brazil and Paraguay. Until now this plant is one of the most popular types of plants in the world. Until 2021, the production of this commodity reached 314 million tons with a planted area of 29 million hectares. Geographically, Africa is the center of cassava production with more than 60% of the world’s total production of about 169 million tonnes of cassava produced from this continent. If viewed from the production of each country in 2021, Nigeria, Thailand, Congo, Ghana, and Brazil are some of the world’s largest producers of cassava. Nigeria is the largest with a production of 63 million tons, Congo with 45 million tons, Thailand with 30 million tons, Ghana with 22 million tons, and Brazil with 18 tons.


7. Oil Palm / Elaeis guineensis

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species-  Oil Palm

Oil palm is one of the most popular crops in Southeast Asian countries, especially in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The three countries mentioned above are the largest palm oil-producing countries in the world. When viewed based on the 2021 statistics, the production of palm oil fruit (Palm oil fruit) reached 416 million tons with a planted area of 28 million hectares. Some of the largest producing countries for this commodity are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nigeria, and Colombia. According to FAO data for 2021, oil palm fruit production from Indonesia reached 225 million tonnes, Malaysia at 91 million tonnes, Thailand at 16 million tonnes, Nigeria at 10 tonnes, and Colombia at 7.8 million tonnes.


6. Soybean/ Glicine max

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species- Soybeans Seeds

Soybeans are one of the most widely produced plants of the Fabaceae family in the world. This plant originates from the East Asia region and is widely used as raw material for various foods such as tofu, soy milk, and tempeh (Indonesia). Most of the production of this plant is located in the Americas with a total production reaching 800 million tons or about 80% of the world’s total soybean production. The United States, Brazil, Argentina, China, and India are some of the countries with the largest soybean production in the world. The Brazil produces approximately 134 million tons of soybeans, United States of America with 120 million tons, Argentina with 46 million tons, China with 16 million tons, and India with 12 million tons.


5. Potato/ Solanum tuberosum L.

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species- Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the most widely grown tuberous plants from the Solanaceae family. In accumulation, the planting of this crop has reached 18 million hectares with a production of up to 376 million tons in 2021. China, India, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States are some of the largest potatoes producing countries in the world. So far, many processed foods come from potatoes such as mass potatoes, french fries, and various other processed foods.


4. Wheat/  Triticum

Wheat is one of the most cultivated crops by humans in the world in 2021. Its total production in the form of wheat seeds in 2021 reached 770 million tons worldwide with a total planted area of 215 million hectares. The area for wheat cultivation was the largest in the world in 2018 according to data released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) than other species of plants. Many people in the world depend on the availability of wheat seeds. The output of this plant is widely used/processed into flour which will be used as raw material for bread, biscuits, pasta, and various other foods.

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species- Wheats

Geographically, the continent of Asia, Europe, and America is the largest producer. The Asian continent produces 328 million tonnes or contributes 44% of the world’s total wheat production, Europe is the second-largest region with a production of 242 million tonnes or 33% of the world’s wheat production and the Americas 113 million tonnes or 15% of the world’s wheat. In terms of country, China, India, Russia, and the United States are the largest wheat-producing countries in the world. In 2021, China produced 136 million tons, India 109 million tons, Russia 76 million tons, and the United States (USA) 44 million tons.



3. Paddy/ Oryza sativa

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species- Paddy(Rice)

Rice is one of the most widely cultivated crops globally, and this is the most widely grown on the Asian continent. This type of plant comes from the Poaceae / Graminae family which probably originated from India or Indochina. Rice, which is the output of this plant, is widely used as a staple food for people in the Asian continent. In 2021, the output of this plant, rice, reached 787 million tons with an area of 165 million hectares. The Asian continent is still the center with production reaching 705 million tons when viewed from its production. In terms of countries in 2021, China, India, and Bangladesh are some of the countries with the largest production bases. China produced 212 million tons, India 195 million tons, and Bangladesh with 56 million tons.


2. Maize / Zea Mays

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species- Maize (Corn)

Corn is one of the most cultivated plants from the Poaceae / Graminae family in the world. In 2021, world production for this commodity reached 1.2 billion tonnes with a planted area of 205 million hectares worldwide. This plant is widely used as food for humans, livestock (ruminants and poultry), and Ethanol. In terms of producing countries, the United States, China, and Brazil were the largest producers of maize in 2021. Corn production in the United States was 383 million tons, China 272 million tons, and Brazil 88 million tons.


1. Sugarcane/  Saccharum officinarum

16 World's  Most-Produced Plant Species- Sugarcane

Sugarcane is a popular sweetener crop in the world originating from the Austronesian Region. In 2021, the production of this plant reached 1.85 billion tons with a total planted area of 26 million hectares worldwide. In 2018, Sugarcane is considered to be one of the most produced crops when measured in terms of the output weight of this crop. The Americas and Asia Region are the largest production centers for this plant. The Americas region produces 1 billion tonnes of sugarcane and Africa 750 million tonnes of sugarcane. If viewed from the countryside, Brazil, India, and China are the top 3 largest producers of sugarcane in the world. In 2021, Brazil’s sugarcane production reached 715 million tons, India at 405 million tons, and China at 106 million tons.


Source :

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 2022. Accessed via http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QC/visualize on December 6th, 2022

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