Degradation of soil or restoration of its fertility – which scenario awaits Ukraine

On December 9, 2021, the second International Conference "National challenge: soil degradation or restoration of its fertility" was held, initiated by BTU-Center in partnership with Organic Ukraine non-governmental organization, MHP (Myronivka Bread-Produce), Global 100% Re and MIM. All soil-protection scientific institutions and the largest agricultural enterprises – Kernel, MHP, Ukrlandfarming, Continental Farmers Group, representatives of state bodies and non-governmental programs that take care of the health of Ukrainian soils side by side, shared their best practices. The event was attended by more than 300 participants from different countries: Ukraine, Switzerland, Germany, Estonia, Belarus, Latvia, Poland, Moldova, Kazakhstan, an active discussion was held in chats and many questions were asked to the speakers. BTU-Center company collected the most interesting moments from the conference.


Deterioration of the soil fertility is a global problem. According to GEF, 25% of the world's entire earth surface is a degraded soil. Every year, the planet loses 24 billion tons of fertile land, which affects 3.2 billion people. If this trend continues, then by 2050 95% of the Earth's surface will turn into degraded soils.

Ukrainian soils and their health also require a comprehensive approach and attention from the government, agricultural producers and the scientific community. According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), 20% of Ukraine's agricultural land has undergone significant degradation, while the rest are under threat. Over the past 130 years, Ukrainian soils have already lost about 30% of humus, and the level of ploughness reaches about 53%, and is one of the highest in the world – 53.9% (Poland - 36.5%, Germany - 34.1%, USA — 17.5%, China - 12%). According to a survey conducted by BTU-Center, among agricultural producers from all over Ukraine, 51% of them already observe degradation processes in their soils. Learn more about the survey results here. According to estimates of the NATIONAL ACADEMY OF AGRARIAN SCIENCES OF UKRAINE, economic losses from these processes amount to about UAH 40 billion/year.

"It is very important to unite and create partnerships to address such global issues as soil degradation. That is why 2 years ago the Strategic Committee for the revival of soil fertility was created, which aims to form a conscious attitude to soils as to a valuable and irreplaceable resource, promote the rational use of soil properties, introduce various cultivation systems, apply organic fertilizers and preparations in the right amounts,"

noted Vladyslav Bolokhovskiy, General Director of the BTU-center group of companies, Ph.D, (Agricultural Science), Chairman of the committee for soil revival of the Organic Ukraine Non-Governmental Organization.

Scientific institutions have already accumulated intellectual capital – there are many solutions adapted to the conditions of Ukraine designed to restore soil fertility and sustainable land use and conduct agricultural business. According to scientists, now the high-priority task is to modernize information about soils and convert it into a format accessible to everyone. The second task is to fight against a decrease in the humus content and a rapid increase in the level of land ploughness, as a result, the ecological state of agricultural landscapes worsens. Scientists recommend removing highly degraded and unproductive soils from cultivation, balancing the ratio of plough-land and environmentally stabilizing land, introducing scientifically based crop rotations, conducting anti-erosion tillage measures, introducing modern soil protection technologies, etc. These issues require not only implementation by individual farms, but also active regulation by the governmental bodies.

"There are several institutions that have large databases on soils in our country. The first task is to combine these information resources in the National System for Monitoring the Neutral Level of Agricultural Land Degradation in Ukraine. After all, if we do not know exact information about the state of the soil on each land plot, in each farm, then it will be impossible to introduce any scientific development, any modern technology, in such a way that it both increases fertility and is economically efficient,"

  noted Mykola Miroshnychenko Deputy Director for R&D department of the NATIONAL SCIENTIFIC CENTER «INSTITUTE FOR SOIL SCIENCE AND AGROCHEMISTRY RESEARCH NAMED AFTER O.N. SOKOLOVSKY», honorary chairman of the Ukrainian soil partnership. 

The conference was joined by representatives of the FAO project in Ukraine, who are working on developing plans for the integrated natural resource management in local territorial communities. Olexandr Zhuravel acting project coordinator, added that crop rotation is the key to successful agribusiness. Mr. Zhuravel emphasised the importance of systematic work with plant residues, preserving soil biodiversity, reducing the amount of pesticides and introducing organic fertilizer composting practices.

Oksana Tonkha, Dean of the Agrobiological Faculty of National University of Biological Resources and Environmental Management of Ukraine, Doctor of Agricultural Science, professor noted the importance of resource-saving technologies no-till, strip-till, ridge-till, mulch-till, etc. At the same time, the professor noted that not all soils are suitable for the minimum cultivation system, in Ukraine they represent only 25.68 hectares or 61.6% of the total area of agricultural land. Ms. Tonkha emphasized the need to preserve biodiversity and colonize beneficial microflora in the soil. Professor called for teaching agricultural biologization systems to young people. 

Leading agricultural holdings shared practical examples of restoring soil fertility on an industrial scale. Mykhailo Zhurba deputy head of the Kernel R&D department explained how to optimize nitrogen nutrition of crops by regulating the microbiological activity of soils while reducing nitrogen losses. Mr. Zhurba noted the effectiveness of combining mineral fertilizers together with biological preparations, which contributes to higher yields at a reduced cost of cultivation technology.

Oleksandr Derevianchenko - head of the Agronomic Expertise Department of Continental Farmers Group, said that their agricultural enterprise has an environmental strategy for 10 years ahead. This makes it possible to systematically implement economic and at the same time ecological approaches to soils. The holding employs a differential nutritional approach to each field and applies land reclamation measures for liming and drainage. The company systematically works with monitoring of soil compaction and tries to minimize erosion processes by subsoil tillage, reduces the number of passes through the fields. At the same time, much attention is paid to soil biologization – they sow green manure, use compost, digestates, systematically work with stubble destructors (Ecostern), PK- mobilizers (Groundfix), biological fungicides (Sclerotsyd).

Andrii Kravchuk, innovation development specialist from the MHP company, shared his experience in using liquid and solid forms of digestate from biogas units as a highly effective organic fertilizer that is easily absorbed by plants. Mr. Kravchuk emphazised that the composition of such fertilizers is well balanced, has an optimal mix of microelements, medical and toxicological indicators, etc.

Honored Worker of Agriculture, Ph.D (Agricultural Sciences), head of the Department of development and innovation in the Ukrlandfarming group of companies - Volodymyr Fantukh shared his own approach to the restoration of soil organic matter – a combination of organic fertilizers with the mandatory practice of controlled destruction of residues in the field (Ecostern) and the use of microbial preparations (Groundfix, Mycofriend, Rhizoline, Sclerotsyd, Liposam).

Yevgen Grytsyk Deputy director of the Department of control over land use and protection of the State Service of Ukraine for Geodesy, cartography and cadastre said that a roadmap has now been developed to improve the system of state control over the preservation and improvement of soil fertility. Currently, the adoption of the draft law of Ukraine "On amendments to certain legislative acts of Ukraine regarding the protection of soils and reproduction of their fertility" is provided. The project includes a number of measures, in particular, to put into effect soil monitoring systems by January 2023, harmonize soil quality indicators with the EU, determine the level of pollution and optimal nutrient content, establish methods to prevent soil depletion, and much more. Another important element of state policy is the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy of Ukraine until 2030.

The full recording of the conference can be found at the link.

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