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Global Soil Partnership

Why are black soils important?

Black soils constitute the food basket for many countries and for the world in general and are often recognized as inherently productive and fertile soils. They are extensively and intensively farmed, and increasingly dedicated to cereal production, pasture, range and forage systems. Given favourable climatic conditions, these soils allow a very high crop productivity.

More specifically, Chernozems are mainly used for growing wheat, barley and maize, alongside other food crops and vegetables. Part of the Chernozem area is also used for livestock rearing. Small grains and irrigated food and vegetable crops are the principal crops grown on Kastanozems, while they are also used for extensive grazing. In the US and Argentina, Phaeozems are mostly in use for the production of soybean and wheat. Irrigated Phaeozems on the high plains of Texas produce good yields of cotton. Phaeozems in the temperate belt are sown with wheat, barley and vegetables alongside other crops. Vast areas of Phaeozems are used for cattle rearing and fattening on improved pastures.

However, the significant soil organic carbon (SOC) content of black soils make them sensitive as potential large sources of greenhouse gases. Indeed, they are very sensitive to soil degradation (e.g. erosion, crusting and nutrient mining) and SOC losses. Therefor they need to be managed carefully to maintain their productive potential.

As a consequence, black soils are of particular global importance because of their relevance to food security and climate change. Considering the great importance of these soils, it becomes crucial to promote their conservation and sustainable use and maintain their functioning in the longer term to keep them supporting food security while protecting the environment and mitigating climate change.