Global Soil Partnership

Photo contest on Black Soils "When Soils Turn Black"

#WhenSoilsTurnBlack - Announcing the Champion. The International Network on Black Soils (INBS) action to raise awareness on our most fertile lands.

Melody Morillo Orogo from Philippines has won the photo contest on Black Soils 'When Soils turn Black' with her entry "Serendipity. The Value of Life in the Soil". 

FAO received over 60 fantastic photos from 20 countries for the contest, which challenged people to show the current status of black soils in their area or ways in which the region's black soils can be sustainably managed. 

Launched in the run-up to World Soil Day celebrations 2017, the aim of the contest was to raise awareness about the fact that many black soils are under pressure from changes in land use and the effects of climate change. The images sent by participants from around the world on the topic of black soils will help illustrate the importance of this key thematic area of FAO's work.

The deadline for submitting entries to the contest was on 13 November 2017 and the photo contest is now closed. The Jury, composed of members of the GSP secretariat with the help of a professional photographer, chose 12 finalists whose work were posted on the GSP Facebook page and where the public could vote on their favorite photograph.. From 30 November until 4 December 2017, followers of the GSP Facebook were able to pick their favorite photo by voting on the Facebook photo album dedicated to this contest. The photo that received the most likes by World Soil Day 2017 won the first prize.

The greatest number of votes went to Melody Morillo Orogo from the Philippines' Bureau of Soils and Water Management, who took an impeccable picture of a young plant growing in a black soil. Her photo reached 4616 people and triggered 236 likes and comments. The 2nd and 3rd classified were Jerry Paul Arciaga from the Philippines and Mashid Moosavi from Iran, respectively.

Congratulations to the winner and a big thank you to everyone who participated in the contest!

You can find all the finalists below and the full list of runners-up in the contest’s Flickr photogallery

I classified: "Serendipity: the Value of Life in the Soil"

Barangay Kaybagal South, Tagaytay, Cavite, Republic of the Philippines, November 2017.

©Melody Morillo Orogo

Soil is a living entity, with various types of life forms inhabiting it, whether we can see them or not. Weed growth, as an example, is associated with the liveliness of the soil. We should not look for the “best soils” to cultivate, but rather focus on acknowledging the great value of the soil, on the environment, on us and on the future generations. 

II classified: "Diminishing Marginal Treasures"

Barangay Kay Bagal south, Tagaytay City, Cavite, Republic of Philippines, November 2017.

©Jerry Paul Arciaga

There is a directly proportional relationship between skilled farmers and healthy soils, both of which are unfortunately diminishing. This photo represents a black soil within an agricultural field, with a vision of a farmer and his carabao in the blurred background. 

III classified: "Leafy soil forms black soil"

Katool, Iran, March 2017.

©Mashid Moosavi

When leaves fall and land, they influence the soils for years to come. 

Finalist: "Management Impacts of Black Soils in Italy"

Bocca della Selva, Matese Mountain, Italy, November 2017.

©Claudio Colombo

Typical doline landscape of volcanic origins. Eroded uplands are marked by the occurrence of unstable rocky slopes and outcrops of bedrock. In this area Andosols are very vulnerable given the limited soil forming processes, due to constant wind and water erosion. 


Black Soils of Russia, Tula region, Russia.

©Irina Kalimova


Göttingen, Germany.

©Rainer Horn

Kolluvisol soil profile presented during the German Soil Science Society conference held in Göttingen in September 2017. Fly ash – visible as black soil with perfect physical properties.

Finalist: "The study of African Chernozem"

Laetoli gorge, Tanzania.

© Lessovaya and Andrei Borisovich Razanov

Finalist: "A donga through Mbuga on the Footprint Tuff"

A donga (gully) through Mbuga (Vertisol) on the Footprint Tuff, Laetoli gorge, Tanzania.

©Andrei Borisovich Razanov


Chernozem, soil profile in the natural forest of Shariin Gol soum, Darkhan Uul province in Mongolia in September 2017. 

©Bazarradnaa Enkhtuya & Antonin K.


Black Soil of China, Sugarbeet field.

©Yuxin Tong

The Northeast China Plain is famous for its fertile black soil, which nurtures crops of wheat, corn, soybeans, Chinese sorghum, sugar beets, and flax.


Black Soils of China, farmers.

©Yuxin Tong

New farming techniques to be adopted to safeguard remaining black soils, improve local ecology and yields.


Black Soils of China, truck.

©Yuxin Tong

Black Soils are considered one of the most fertile soils in China. Consequently, the black soil region has become one of the most important regions for cereal grain production in China.

Background information

By black soils we specifically refer to Chernozerm, Phaeozem and Kastanozem soils with a thick dark-brown to black soil horizon. Due to their inherent high fertility, these soils are generally extensively and intensively farmed and, consequently, are more prone to phenomena of severe degradation. Because they also retain large stocks of stored soil organic carbon, if mismanaged, they can become large greenhouse gas emission sources. 

While their role as a food supplier is enormous, they occupy only 7 percent of the ice-free surface of our planet.  It is therefore vital to promote their conservation and sustainable management in order to preserve their capacity to contribute to food security and climate change mitigation in the long run.

Related links

What is a Black Soil? | International Network of Black Soils | Photo contest on Black Soils