Chernozem (from Russian: чернозём, tr. chernozyom, IPA: [tɕɪrnɐˈzʲɵm]; "black ground")[1] is a black-colored soil containing a high percentage of humus[2] (4% to 16%) and high percentages of phosphoric acids, phosphorus, and ammonia. Chernozem is very fertile and can produce high agricultural yields with its high moisture storage capacity. Chernozems are also a Reference Soil Group of the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB).

Chernozemic soil
Black dirt in Black Dirt Region.jpg
Used inWRB, other
WRB codeCH
Parent materialLoess
ClimateHumid continental


Global distribution

The name comes from the Russian terms for black and soil, earth or land (chorny + zemlya). The soil, rich in organic matter presenting a black color, was first identified by Russian geologist Vasily Dokuchaev in 1883 in the tallgrass steppe or prairie of European Russia.

Chernozems cover about 230 million hectares of land. There are two "chernozem belts" in the world. One is the Eurasian steppe which extends from eastern Croatia (Slavonia), along the Danube (northern Serbia, northern Bulgaria (Danubian Plain), southern and eastern Romania (Wallachian Plain and Moldavian Plain), and Moldova), to northeast Ukraine across the Central Black Earth Region of Central Russia, southern Russia into Siberia. The other stretches from the Canadian Prairies in Manitoba through the Great Plains of the US as far south as Kansas.[3] Similar soil types occur in Texas and Hungary. Chernozem layer thickness may vary widely, from several centimetres up to 1.5 metres (60 inches) in Ukraine,[4] as well as the Red River Valley region in the Northern US and Canada (location of the prehistoric Lake Agassiz).

The terrain can also be found in small quantities elsewhere (for example, on 1% of Poland). It also exists in Northeast China, near Harbin. The only true chernozem in Australia is located around Nimmitabel, with some of the richest soils in the nation.[5]

Previously, there was a black market for the soil in Ukraine, where it is known as chornozem (Ukrainian: чорно́зем, romanizedchornózem). The sale of agricultural land has been illegal in Ukraine since 1992 until the ban was lifted in 2020,[6] but the soil, transported by truck, was able to be sold and bought. According to Kharkiv-based "Green Front" NGO, the black market for illegally acquired chernozem in Ukraine was projected to reach approximately US$900 million per year in 2011.[7][unreliable source?]

Canadian and United States soil classificationEdit

Chernozemic soils are a soil type in the Canadian system of soil classification and the World Reference Base for Soil Resources.

Chernozemic soil type "equivalents", in Canadian, WRB, and USA soil taxonomy
Canadian WRB United States
Chernozemic Kastanozem, Chernozem, Phaeozem Borolls
Brown Chernozem Kastanozem (Aridic) Aridic Boroll subgroups
Dark Brown Chernozem Haplic Kastanozem Typic Boroll subgroups
Black Chernozem Chernozem Udic Boroll subgroups
Dark Grey Chernozem Greyzemic Phaeozem Boralfic Boroll subgroups, Albolls


Theories of Chernozem origin:

As seen in the list above the 19th and 20th century discussions on the pedogenesis of Chernozem originally stemmed from climatic conditions from the early Holocene to roughly 5500 BC. No single paleo-climate reconstruction, however, was able to accurately explain geochemical variations found in Chernozems throughout central Europe. It was not until explanations involving an anthropomorphic origin did a better theory develop. Vegetation burning via humans could explain the high magnetic susceptibility of Chernozem which is one of the highest of all soil types on Earth.[14] This is thought to have occurred due to the initially deposited soil containing concentrations of goethite and ferrihydrite that was converted to maghemite via exposure to temperatures of at least 220 °C.[17] Temperatures this high can only come from vegetation fires which given the rarity of such natural phenomenon in the modern day is thought to be caused by human induced fires in antiquity. Additionally, the accumulation of black carbon in some Chernozems spanning from North America to Lower Saxony is thought to partially originate from charred material. Given these wide variations, the term Chernozem summarizes different types of black soils that have the same appearance but different formation histories.

See alsoEdit


  • IUSS Working Group WRB: World Reference Base for Soil Resources 2014, Update 2015. World Soil Resources Reports 106, FAO, Rome 2015. ISBN 978-92-5-108369-7 (PDF 2,3 MB).
  1. ^ Russia Investment and Business Guide. International Business Publications. 2007. p. 63. ISBN 9781433041686. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Chernozem". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  3. ^ Ecology of Arable Land – Perspectives and Challenges by M. Clarholm and L. Bergström ISBN 978-94-010-6950-2
  4. ^ Ukraine: Soils in Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ KG McQueen. "Tertiary Geology And Geomorphology Of The Monaro: The Perspective In 1994[permanent dead link]" Centre For Australian Regolith Studies, Canberra 1994
  6. ^ "Ukraine lifts ban on sale of farmland in bid to receive international funds". Euronews. Euronews. 31 March 2020.
  7. ^ Black market for rich black earth, Kyiv Post (9 November 2011) (subscription required)
  8. ^ Wallerius J. G. Agriculturae fundamenta chemica, åkerbrukets chemiska grunder. Upsaliae, 1761. 8, 4, 322 p.; The natural and chemical elements of agriculture. London, York: Bell, Etherington, 1770. 198 p.
  9. ^ Lomonosov M. V. § 125. // On the strata of the Earth: a translation of "O sloiakh zemnykh" (1763) / translated by S. M. Rowland, S. Korolev. Boulder: Geological Soc. of America, 2012. 41 p. (Special paper; 485) "And so, there is no doubt that black soil is not primordial matter, but that it has been produced by the decomposition of animal and plant bodies over time"
  10. ^ a b Geikie, A. (1875), Life of Sir Roderick I, Murchison, 1, ASIN B0095632AU
  11. ^ Fedotova, Anastasia A. (August 2010), "The Origins of the Russian Chernozem Soil (Black Earth): Franz Joseph Ruprecht's 'Geo-Botanical Researches into the Chernozem' of 1866", Environment and History, 16 (3): 271–293, doi:10.3197/096734010x519762, JSTOR 20723789
  12. ^ Dokoutchaief B. Tchernozème (terre noire) de la Russie d'Europe. St.-Ptb.: Soc. Imp. libre économ., 1879. 66 p. (Comptes-rendus Soc. Imp. libre économ. T. 4).
  13. ^ Dokuchaev V. V. Russian Chernozem (1883) // Israel Program for Scientific Translations Ltd. (for USDA-NSF), S. Monson, Jerusalem, 1967. (Translated from Russian into English by N. Kaner)
  14. ^ a b Eckmeier, Eileen; Gerlach, Renate; Gehrt, Ernst; Schmidt, Michael W.I. (2007), "Pedogenesis of Chernozems in Central Europe—A review" (PDF), Geoderma, 139 (3–4): 288–299, Bibcode:2007Geode.139..288E, doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2007.01.009, archived from the original (PDF) on 8 March 2016
  15. ^ Schmidt, M.W.I.; Skjemstad, J.O.; Jäger, C. (2002), "Carbon isotope geochemistry and nanomorphology of soil black carbon: Black chernozemic soils in central Europe originate from ancient biomass burning", Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 16 (4): 70–1–70–8, Bibcode:2002GBioC..16.1123S, doi:10.1029/2002GB001939, These data challenge the common paradigm that chernozems are zonal soils with climate, parent material and bioturbation dominating soil formation, and introduce fire as a novel, important factor in the formation of these soils
  16. ^ Eckmeier, E. (2007), Detecting prehistoric fire-based farming using biogeochemical markers (Dissertation), University of Zurich, Faculty of Science., doi:10.5167/uzh-3752, It is now an open question as to whether Neolithic settlers did indeed prefer to grow crops where Chernozems occurred or if Neolithic burning formed the chernozemic soils.
  17. ^ Nørnberg, P.; Schwertmann, U.; Stanjek, H.; Andersen, T.; Gunnlaugsson, H.P. (2004). "Mineralogy of a burned soil compared with four anomalously red Quaternary deposits in Denmark". Clay Minerals. 39 (1): 85–98. Bibcode:2004ClMin..39...85N. doi:10.1180/0009855043910122. S2CID 129974901.

External linksEdit

  The dictionary definition of chernozem at Wiktionary