Nurturing Hungary’s Soils: Understanding Soils in the Carpatian Basin, its Challenges and Possible Solutions

Authors (in alphabetical order): Suman Lakshmanreddy, Melissa Näf-Doffey, Mónica Revuelta Albero, Sophia Wentkowski

Over thousands of years, Hungary’s soils have been shaped by different geological forces, resulting in a diverse range of soil types. However, man-made compaction, erosion, and the demands of intensive agriculture are endangering Hungary’s soil quality and its biodiversity. Join us, as we explore Hungary’s soil landscape and possible solutions for sustainable soil management.

Fig. 1: Map of the Carpathian Basin (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Hungary’s soil chronicles shaped by hidden forces

Nestled in the Carpathian Basin, the soil landscape in Hungary is a result of geological forces (e.g. tectonic movement, volcanism) and environmental factors like strong winds and water [5]. The Carpathian Basin is dominated by salty, sandy and loess soil profiles [3]. Notably, Hungary is known for its widespread meadow soil types, characterized by a very thin layer of humus, typically measuring only a few millimeters [3].

A two-way street: Farming practices and soil quality

While it seems to be common practice today to use fields with salty soil for grasslands, different issues arise from current management techniques in ploughlands. Excessive heavy agricultural machinery is causing soil compaction, and erosion is leaching valuable soil and nutrients. This situation is particularly problematic due to the practice of leaving soil bare over winter, which remains standard in Hungary [2]. Additionally, intensive agriculture in Hungary, characterized by large-scale monocultures, poses a threat to biodiversity both below and above the ground [4]. Thus far, government and EU funding has predominantly focused on supplying Hungary with machinery to intensify and modernize agriculture [1], often overlooking the issue of soil degradation.

Fig. 2: Soil profile on a field in Tiszanagyfalu, a village
in the Northern Great Plain region of eastern Hungary.
This soil profile depicts saline soil characterized by its thin
top layer of organic matter. (Source: own image)
Fig. 3: Examining sandy soil in Tiszanagyfalu, Hungary (source: own image)

Solutions on the horizon or a race against time?

In general, sustainable soil management techniques are unfortunately not yet a top priority for conventional Hungarian farmers. However, a significant threat to Hungarian agriculture is the variability in precipitation. Consequently, when an extreme drought struck Hungary in the summer of 2022, interest in sustainable farming techniques, such as no-till and organic farming, saw a remarkable increase [7]. Several initiatives have emerged, primarily based on public-private partnerships, with the goal of promoting sustainable soil management techniques and other practices directly to farmers [8]. Nonetheless, universities and research institutes have faced challenges in establishing a reliable and stable framework for engaging with farmers on the topic of sustainable soil management [6].

Bottom-up design: A vital necessity for change

There is no alternative: Hungarian farmers must prioritize improving soil health and implementing soil conservation measures. By teaching new techniques and developing lighter machinery tailored to Hungarian soil conditions, the impact of programs and funding can be significantly amplified [2]. It is also imperative that future projects and subsidies are planned collaboratively with local experts and communities to ensure cost-effective allocation of resources. Utilizing bottom-up approaches in cooperation with local institutions has the potential to further enhance the effectiveness of programs and drive the necessary changes to conserve soil and preserve soil biodiversity in Hungary.

This blog post was written as part of the “Agrobiodiversity Summer School” in Hungary in September 2023. This summer school is a cooperation project between the ZHAW Institute of Natural Resource Sciences, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland (FiBL) and Hungary (ÖMKi) and is supported by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland.


[1] Farmers Spent Billions on New Farm Machinery Last Year. (2023, January 26). Hungary Today.

[2] Kovács, G. P., Simon, B., Balla, I., Bozóki, B., Dekemati, I., Gyuricza, C., Percze, A., & Birkás, M. (2023). Conservation Tillage Improves Soil Quality and Crop Yield in Hungary. Agronomy, 13(3), Article 3.

[3] Michéli, E., Fuchs, M., Hegymegi, P., & Stefanovits, P. (2006). Classification of the Major Soils of Hungary and their Correlation with the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB). Agrokémia És Talajtan, 55(1), 19–28.

[4] OECD. (2018). Biodiversity (pp. 171–204). OECD.

[5] Pető, Á. (2013). Studying modern soil profiles of different landscape zones in Hungary: An attempt to establish a soil-phytolith identification key. Quaternary International, 287, 149–161.

[6] Rust, N. A., Stankovics, P., Jarvis, R. M., Morris-Trainor, Z., de Vries, J. R., Ingram, J., Mills, J., Glikman, J. A., Parkinson, J., Toth, Z., Hansda, R., McMorran, R., Glass, J., & Reed, M. S. (2022). Have farmers had enough of experts? Environmental Management, 69(1), 31–44.

[7] Biró K, Kovács E. Impact of the 2022 Drought Shock on the Adaptive Capacity of Hungarian Agriculture.; 2023.

[8] Kovách, I., Megyesi, B. G., Bai, A., & Balogh, P. (2022). Sustainability and Agricultural Regeneration in Hungarian Agriculture. Sustainability, 14(2), Article 2.

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