Chernozem (Ukrainian: чорнозем; chornozem). Soil that forms on a lime-rich loess substatum under the conditions of a moderate continental or continental, humid or dry climate and steppe vegetation. Soil bacteria decompose the organic remains of the steppe plants and produce new organic colloidal compounds, which are known as humus. Chernozem soil usually occurs as a thick layer (20–30 cm) of dark gray soil with a definite granular-lumpy structure and a high content (4–14 percent) of decomposed matter. It is soft and absorbs water and air well. These properties promote plant nourishment and bacterial development. The soil’s fertility is high and can be increased by proper treatment, particularly by deep plowing.

Chernozem covers about 44 percent of the territory of Ukraine, but only 8.4 percent of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and 6 percent of the world. Chernozem soils cover almost all of the forest-steppe belt, except in the western part of Ukraine, and the steppe belt. Various types of chernozem can be found in Ukraine, depending on climatic conditions, varieties of forest, and types of vegetation. Typical or deep chernozems, with 6–9 percent humus, a depth of 1.5–2 m, and the highest fertility, are prevalent in the forest-steppe belt. Ordinary chernozems, having a humus content of 6–8 percent and a depth of about 1 m, are widely found in the northern steppe. Southern chernozems are widespread in the southern steppe of Ukraine. They have the lowest humus content (4–6 percent) and a depth of 60–75 cm. The depth of carbonate occurrence is 0–30 cm. Their fertility is high if there is enough moisture.

Under proper tillage chernozems produce the highest possible yields of every type of agricultural crop. Their fertility is greatly increased by deep plowing and the addition of mineral fertilizers.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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