Variety, Properties and Productive Potential of Soils in Ukraine : an original paper sent from the National Academy of Agrarian Science of Ukraine : 8 11 17

8.11. 2017

1National Academy of Agrarian Science of Ukraine
2National Scientific Center “Institute for Soil Science and Agrochemistry Research named after O.N. Sokolovsky”
e-mail: inter.naas@gmail.com

Introduction. Due to the closeness of Soviet society in the times of the USSR, information about natural resources of Ukraine was little known in other countries of the world. For example, only 88 soil profiles from the territory of Ukraine were used for the Soil Grids map developed by International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC), that cannot provide sufficient representativeness [1]. The territory of Ukraine looked like a “white spot” in such international cartographic materials as European’s State of Environment Report in 2010 [2] and other papers. One can find only one old soil map dated 1977 on the site of European Soil Data Center [3]. Soil Atlas of Europe distinguishes only 6 main soil types on the territory of Ukraine and this provides very little understanding of the soil cover [4]. Nevertheless, Ukraine has unique soil resources which by more than 60 % composed of Chernozems (Mollisols in the USDA taxonomy) compared to 9 % in Europe and 1.8 % in the world in general. The total square of Chernozems in Ukraine reaches 21.3 million hectares from 270 million hectares in the world [5]. Ukraine’s soils are among the best in the world in terms of quality, fertility and organic carbon stock. The total reserves of soil organic carbon (SOC) in Ukrainian arable land are 5.12 Gt, including 2.47 Gt in a layer of 0-30 cm. This is equivalent to 157 t/ha in terms of unit area of arable land, including 75 t/ha in a layer 0-30 cm [6]. Thus, sharing of knowledge about Ukrainian soils is needed for understanding their unique productive and ecological potential.

Materials and Methods. The soil cover of Ukraine is very diverse. Over 800 types of soils have been allocated after large-scale surveys of 1957-1961, but some researchers have counted up to 1200 different species [7]. Main sources of information on the status of soil resources in Ukraine are materials of large-scale soil survey, soil monitoring, and agrochemical certification of agricultural lands which held under the scientific guidance of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine (NAAS). 2

Results. Soil cover is dividing according to main natural zones of Ukraine. Albeluvisols with a light granulometric composition predominate in the Forest zone in the north of Ukraine. They are characterized by low content of organic carbon (up to 11 g/kg) and acidic pH. Gleyic species of Albeluvisols occur in poorly drained areas where groundwater is located close to the surface. Carbonate Rendzins accumulate C up to 20 g/kg and have pH 6.7 – 7.5.

Soils in the Forest-Steppe zone have the highest fertility due to favorable hydrothermal regime and loam loess from which they were formed [8]. The most widespread Phaeozems Albic has the content of organic matter in the arable layer up to 17 g/kg and pH from 4.8 to 6.1. The sum of bases riches 55-80 % from CEC with the dominance of calcium cations. More acidic surface-gley species of Phaeozems Albic lie in the western part of Forest-Steppe, where Sielianinov’s hydrothermal coefficient (SCC) is 1.48-1.84. Chernozems Luvic are considered as the best soils in this zone due to dark part of profile up to depth 70-115 cm where is kept 200-400 t/ha of SOC stocks [9]. This soil has high CEC (up to 450 mmole/kg), a lot of available nutrients and neutral pH. Thanks to abovementioned properties Chernozems Luvic are the most suitable for growing such demanding crops as sugar beet, corn and rapeseed. The total square of Chernozems Luvic on the agricultural land in Ukraine is 2.27 mio ha, incl. 2.10 mio ha of the arable land.

Chernozem Luvic is a northern representative of Ukrainian chernozems. All the rest chernozems (Chernozems Chernic, Chernozems Calcic, Phaeozem Haplic etc.) located on the south of the Forest-Steppe zone and on the most part of the Steppe zone. The common features of this soils are extremely high saturation of Ca that promotes creation good agronomic structure and accumulation of organic forms of C, N, P, S and micronutrients in soil profile. That is why productivity of crops on these soils has a stability in time providing the food safety of Ukraine.

Kastanozems Haplic and Luvic dominate in soil cover of dry part of Steppe zone where annual precipitation does not exceed 310-390 mm. Due to lack of water SOC stocks in the Kastanozem’s profile is around 75-120 t/ha. Most of these soils have attributes of salinity that decline yield and complicate agricultural practice. 3

The soils of mountains of Ukraine are very specific with predominantly various Cambisols that are suitable for pastures. The annual precipitation in Crimea mountains is 350-650 mm and in Carpathians ─ 650-1350 mm depending of height.

Despite the high quality of soils in Ukraine, the current state of soil cover is unsatisfactory. The National Report on the State of Soil Fertility in Ukraine (2010) clearly indicates an increase in the rate of their degradation: a decrease in the content of humus and nutrients, overcompaction, erosion, acidification, salinization, etc. [10]. According to NAAS’s scientists, the total area of degraded and marginal soils in Ukraine reaches 8-10 million hectares, and the annual loss from main types of soil degradation is about 1.5 billion €.

The total area of eroded soils in Ukraine is 13.4 million hectares, including 10.6 million hectares of arable land, wind erosion – 6 million hectares, and in years with catastrophic dust storms ─ 20 million hectares. According to expert estimates, up to 500 million tons of soil’s materials is lost from erosion in Ukraine annually [11]. The annual increment of eroded lands reaches 80-90 thousand hectares.

Acidic soils are widespread in Carpathian Mountains, Forest zone and in the north of the Forest-Steppe zone on the area 5.5 million hectares, including strongly acidic – 0.64 million hectares, medium acid – 1.37 million hectares and slightly acidic – 3.45 million hectares. Another 4 million hectares of acid soils are located under pasture, hayfields and other natural lands.

In general, saline soils in Ukraine occupy a relatively small area ─ 1.92 million hectares, of which 1.71 million hectares is used in agriculture. Among them, strongly saline soils occupy 116.3 thousand hectares, Solonchaks – 32.8 thousand hectares. The area of soils from the group Solonetz is 2.8 million hectares, about 2/3 of them are arable.

Conclusion. Оver the past two decades Ukraine’s soil cover has improved in terms of technogenic pollution due to the successful elimination of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, reduction of industrial emissions and more rational use of fertilizers and agrochemicals than in the Soviet period. Soils provide high quality of grains, vegetables, fruits, forages and other agricultural products grown on the vast majority of Ukrainian farmland. Taking into account the properties of different types of soils in the implementation of new agricultural technologies, it became possible to achieve the gross grain harvest in 4

Ukraine at the level of 60 mln. tons. However, the productive potential of Ukraine’s soils is even greater, especially with proper management of their water and nutritional regime.


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  3. https://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/images/Eudasm/UA/PDF/russ_x76.pdf 
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