Land system science can contribute to sustainable solutions by an integrated analysis of land availability and the assessment of the tradeoffs associated with agricultural expansion and land use intensification. A land system perspective requires local studies of production systems to be contextualised in a regional and global context, while global assessments should be confronted with local realities. Understanding of land governance structures will help to support the development of land use policies and tenure systems that assist in designing more sustainable ways of intensification. Novel land systems should be designed that are adapted to the local context and framed within the global socio-ecological system. Such land systems should explicitly account for the role of land governance as a primary driver of land system change and food production. © 2013 The Authors.