Moldova’s Black Soil

Moldovian soil

Moldova’s black fertile soil makes it a prime location for agriculture. (Photo credit: Limpopo/Shutterstock)

Moldova is a landlocked country located in eastern Europe and is bordered to the west by Romania and to the north, south, and east by Ukraine. It was a part of the Ottoman Empire from 1538 until the 19th century, when the territory that comprises most of modern Moldova was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1812 following one of many Russian-Turkish wars. Moldova became part of the Soviet Union in 1940 and remained so until the country gained independence on August 27, 1991, upon the dissolution of the USSR.

Formally known as the Republic of Moldova, this small country is famous for its rich black fertile soil, which, combined with its mild climate tempered by the country’s proximity to the Black Sea, makes it an ideal location for the agricultural industry. Grapes are the country’s most important crop–vineyards are found in southern and central Moldova and contribute to a thriving wine-making industry. Sunflower seeds are grown throughout the country, though they grow most favorably in southeastern Moldova. Other crops grown in this eastern European country include sugar beets (grown in the north), vegetables (grown in the southeast), and grains (including winter wheat and corn), grown in the north.

Under Soviet rule, the primary industry in the region was agriculture, which was run on collective and state farms. Following the country’s independence, there was a rough transition as state-run farms were broken apart and given to individuals to run. Forced dislocation, loss of productivity, and allegations of corruption were reported country-wide.

Today, Moldova’s agricultural industry has great growth potential. Agriculture currently contributes to nearly 30 percent of the country’s GDP and 40 percent of the country’s population is involved in the agricultural industry. The organic agriculture sector in particular is primed for growth given the country’s close proximity to western European markets where the demand for organic products continues to increase. Priorities within the country to support the agricultural industry include helping farmers access credit sources and investment capital, developing agricultural research programs, promoting the exportation of Moldovan crops, and supporting environmentally-friendly agricultural practices.

While 75 percent of the country’s territory is characterized by black, fertile soil, over 65 percent of the country’s soils are affected by erosion and the problems associated with it. The agriculture sector is also particularly vulnerable to climate change. A drought in 2007 led to losses of nearly $1 billion (US). That year the cereal crop output decreased by 70 percent (compared to 2006), the wheat crop decreased by a factor of 10, and livestock populations also decreased significantly. This event illustrated how important it is to plan for the warmer future ahead.

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Country: Moldova

Location: Moldova is located in eastern Europe. It is located northeast of Romania and bordered by Ukraine on the north, east, and south.

Area: 33,851 sq km (land and water) (slightly larger than Maryland)

Climate: Moldova has a temperate climate with warm summers and moderate winters.

Terrain: The terrain of Moldova is characterized by rolling steppe.

Natural Resources: Arable land, gypsum, lignite, limestone, phosphorites

Economics: $17.72 billion (est. 2014)

Environmental Issues: Heavy use of agricultural pesticides (including DDT), soil erosion

Source: CIA – The World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/md.html)

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