Brown earth

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The brown earth (abbreviation of the German soil systematics: BB) is a frequently occurring soil type of the moderately humid climate with the horizon sequence Ah / Bv / C (enrichment of humus <30% by mass / iron oxidation, new mineral formation / little or not weathered loose or solid mineral substrate). Type-defining processes are browning and silting, also in the subsoil horizon (B). Brown earths develop mainly from silicate, lime-free or lime-poor parent rock.

Properties and use

The properties and thus also the agricultural use depend heavily on the starting material of the soil formation. This is particularly true of the pore distribution and the water and air balance. Basically it can be said that brown earths are easy to work with and have a pH value in the moderately to strongly acidic range. Agriculture and pasture are possible as agricultural uses.

Under the prevailing climate, the natural vegetation would be a mixed forest of red beech with oak or spruce .

Profile of a typical brown earth

Position in the soil systematics

The brown earths form a class in the division of terrestrial soils in the German soil systematics . Currently the class only contains the brown earth soil type . In the past, the parabrown earth type also belonged to this class. In the international soil classification World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB), most brown soils belong to the Cambisols and - if they consist of sand - to the Arenosols with the Brunic Qualifier. Humus-rich brown soils belong to the Phaeozems or Umbrisols and loose brown soils often belong to the Andosols . In the US Soil Taxonomy , they mostly belong to the Inceptisols .


Brown soils arise from Ah / C soils, such as tendrils , regosols , rendzinen and pararendzinen , through progressive soil development. Depending on the source rock, brown earths differ greatly in their properties. Brown earth from unconsolidated rocks such as B. Boulder clay usually have a medium base saturation and a medium to high usable field capacity (water storage capacity ) and are often used for arable farming.

Brown earth on silicate bedrock on the slopes of the low mountain range is mostly shallow with a high proportion of skeletons , low nutrient supply and usable field capacity. They are mostly used for forestry.


The name brown earth was coined by Emil Ramann in 1905 and initially also included Lessivé soils , which were characterized by clay shifting . At times, more heavily denatured brown earths were referred to as brown loam. The Federal Soil Association (BVB), the Engineering Association for Contaminated Land Management and Land Recycling (ITVA) and the German Soil Science Society (DBG) have named brown earth soil of the year 2008.

Brown earth subtypes

Sand-brown earth in the Berlin Grunewald (Ah-Bv-C)
Humus brown earth (Ah / Ah-Bv / Bv / IIBv / C) in the Montan level of the southern Black Forest.

Depending on the additional characteristics and nutrient richness, a distinction is made between a .:

  • (Standard) brown earth
    • with Ah / Bv / C profile
  • Lime brown earth
    • with A (c) h / Bcv / C (c) profile
  • Humus brown soil
    • with Ah / Ah-Bv / (Bv /) C profile
  • Loose brown earth
    • with Ah / (Ah-) Bfv / lC - or Ah / Ah-Bfv / II ... profile
  • Pelosol brown earth
    • with Ah / Bv / IIP / C profile
  • Podzol brown earth
    • with (Ahe /) Ae / Bhs, Bsh, Bs / (Bhs-Bv /) Bv / C profile
  • Pseudogley brown earth
    • with Ah / Bv / (Bv-) Sw / (II) Sd - or Ah / Sw-Bv / (Sd-Bv /) Sd - profile
  • Gley brown earth
    • with Ah / Bv / (Bv-Go, Go-Bv /) Go / Gr - profile
  • Shallow brown earth over terra fusca
    • with Ah / Bv / II (Bv -) (r) T / cC profile
  • Brown earth over terra fusca
    • with Ah / Bv / II (Bv -) (r) T / cC profile
  • Shallow brown earth over fersiallite
    • with Ah / Bv / IIrBj / Cj / Cv profile
  • Brown earth over ferrallite
    • with Ah / Bv / IIrBu / Cj / Cv profile


  • E. Leitgeb, R. Reiter, M. English, P. Lüscher, P. Schad, KH Feger, (Eds.): Waldböden. An image atlas of the most important soil types from Austria, Germany and Switzerland . Wiley-VCH Verlag, Weinheim 2013, ISBN 978-3-527-32713-3 (387 pages, approx. 270 color illustrations).
  • W. Amelung, H.-P. Blume, H. Fleige, R. Horn, E. Kandeler, I. Kögel-Knabner, R. Kretschmar, K. Stahr, B.-M. Wilke: Scheffer / Schachtschabel - textbook of soil science. 17th edition. Springer Spectrum, Heidelberg 2018, ISBN 978-3-662-55870-6 .
  • IUSS Working Group WRB: World Reference Base for Soil Resources 2014, update 2015. International soil classification system for naming soils and creating legends for soil maps. World Soil Resources Reports 106th FAO, Rome 2015, ISBN 978-92-5-108369-7 ( PDF 2.3 MB).

Web links

Commons : Braunerde  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. 2008 - Brown Earth