The current state of soils

The soil cover in Ukraine is very diverse. About 650 types of soils and 4000 taxonomic units have been allocated after large-scale surveys of 1957-1961. According to the National Scientific Center “Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry Research named after O.N.Sokolovsky”, the area of chernozem black type soils, which have the highest potential fertility, is 27.8 million hectares or 46% of the total area of the country.

Source: Map of Soils of Ukraine, edited by M.K. Krupski, 1977.

In an agroecosystem, soil requires constant compensation losses of energy due to the soils nutrient depletion, caused by crop harvest. Soil loss and compensation should stay in balance since otherwise the soil cover loses its fertility and degrades.

All types of land degradation distinguished by FAO are widespread in Ukraine. For example, salinity and wind erosion are typical for the steppe zone of Ukraine, while acidification is typical for the forest-steppe.

The most common form of land degradation in Ukraine is the loss of organic carbon, specifically humus. Because of land degradation, from1990 to 2010, the humus content of Ukraine’s black soils or chernozems decreased by 0.22 percent, which is especially noticeable in the steppe zone.

The dynamics of humus in Ukrainian soils.Source: Periodic report on the state of soil on agricultural land in Ukraine, 2015.

The main cause of soil humus depletion is the acute shortage of organic fertilizers. Predominant use of nitrogen fertilizers makethe situation more complicated. Humus losses can be compensated through the use of natural sources, such as plant and animal remnants, products of vital activity of microorganisms, by-products, green manure, and others.

Dynamics of organic fertilizer application for lands in Ukraine. Source: Gosstat of Ukraine,

Moreover, water and wind erosion are the two other primary causes of land degradation, which leads to the gradual washing and destruction of the upper fertile soil layer. There is no information about the area of Ukrainian land damaged by water and wind erosion, since there is no continuous monitoring of this type of degradation.

Manifestations of water erosion in the Poltava Oblast.

In 2007, Ukraine suffered from a large dust storm that covered the Mykolayiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya and Donetsk Oblasts. The loss of soil was about 200-300 t/ ha and f 2 to 4 cm of the upper fertile soil layer was damaged.

Results of a dust storm in the Mykolaiv region (March 23-27, 2007).Source: Tarariko O.G., Frolova O.M., Grekov. V.O, Datsko L.V, 2007.