Are dry and dusty soil and high irrigation costs a regular part of your growing season? Are you seeking a way to retain more moisture in your soil for a more optimal growing environment for your plants?
Organic matter is key for moisture retention and improving soil condition.
Adding vegetation such as mulch, compost or animal manure to the surface of your soil is great at keeping the moisture from escaping. It is important to note that it will not change the condition of your soil for many many years to come. In fact, you will need to be aware that as the matter decays it will fight with your plants for nutrients required in this process.
Humates, on the other hand, are a different type of organic matter. Humates are the components of animal and vegetative matter that has been decaying for millions of years. It is found in the sedimentary layers of the earth’s surface before it becomes coal. When this potent elixir is added to your soil, it is like rocket fuel for your crops.
Adding organic matter is vital to retaining moisture. When you apply Humic acid you are also adding in organic carbon, which helps to also create an environment that supports microbes to flourish, which in turn helps plants to thrive.
What are Humates?
Humates consist of 3 molecules, Humic Acid (large molecules – not absorbed by leaves so best applied as a soil additive), Fulvic Acid (tiny molecules – absorbed by leaves so best as a foliar spray) and the filler, Humin. The first two molecules are separated out and sold as products used in commercial agriculture.
Humic acid has large molecules that hold water and nutrients, and are known for its ability to hold these elements in the soil, close to the root zone where it is easily absorbed by the plant when needed.
Humic acid increases moisture-holding capacity in all soil types; especially heavy clay and sandy soils where water retention is more of an issue.
Heavy clay soils are compact which restricts root growth and it has less capacity to absorb and hold water. When water comes it is likely to run off the compacted surface.
Adding Humic acid to dense soils will add oxygen – aerating the soil around the roots to allow for healthy root growth and transportation and holding of water and nutrients to the root zone to be used as-needed.
Sandy soil is too loose to hold onto water and nutrients and in this instance, humic acid acts as a glue to hold the soil together and again deliver moisture and nutrients around the roots.
Sand with a low cation exchange capacity (CEC) have difficulty holding onto the cations of nutrients, and these cations can easily leach deep into the soil and become unavailable for plant uptake.
Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of soil
Humic acids have a Cation Exchange Capacity value of 450 meq/100g, with the average soil having a CEC value of 15-25meg/100g. So adding Humic acid to any soil (let alone the extremities of sand or clay) you are going to drastically improve your holding capacity.
Humates (Humic Acid, Fulvic Acid and Humin) are the result of decaying leaf and animal matter that is millions of years old. Before it is turned into coal, it is a rich black liquid (often referred to as ‘black gold’) that is full of life-giving properties and acts as a rocket booster for crops.
Growers applying Humic Acid see benefits physically in the health of their soil and crops, and financially with higher production and lower costs of irrigation, fertiliser and pesticide.
It is important to note that Humates are not fertilisers. They are not a replacement for your fertiliser regime, they work as an addition to it.
Humic acid is a soil conditioner and a biocatalyst and bio-stimulant for the plant, in other words it is a ‘transportation tool’ that helps make minerals that are found in the soil more user friendly for plants and transports them to where they can be utilised.
Companion to fertilisers, not replacement
By just using fertilisers, we can’t reach maximum crop yields. Maximum yields require organic matter humic acid, high cation exchange capacity (CEC) and biological activity.
Water holding capacity of soils is increased considerably when Humic acid is applied, which means substantially less irrigation is required. Fulvic acid has been shown to reduce water loss through plant’s stomata too. Together this means plants are able to better tolerate drought conditions.
Humic Acid helping reduce erosion
Humic acids help to reduce soil erosion by holding or gluing the soil particles together in a flexible way, reducing the drying and crumbling of soil, and encouraging root growth to hold the soil together.
What to look for in choosing an effective Humic acid or Fulvic acid product
The quality of products will make a big difference to the benefits you see in crops.
The higher the carbon percentage, the more coal-like and inefficient the product is (a 35% carbon vs a 70% carbon product will have widely different results, both marketed as a Humic Acid product). The higher the oxygen percentage, the better for increasing oxygen around roots systems which is extremely beneficial for root development.
There is no regulation or governing body on the quality of Humic Acids. The products available are certainly not all the same. Many are high in carbon, which is too close to coal to be beneficial. You could apply 1000kg of these products and that still would not equal the effect of 5kg of pure 80% Humic acid derived from Leonardite.
Growers that don’t use Humic acids may have been burnt by using poor quality, ineffective products in the past and it has tainted their view of the benefits of Humates.
The source of Humat products can vary a lot, so it is imperative to check the chemical makeup of the product you are using.
Important note about different crops
It is important to note that Humic acids will not work equally on all crops. They perform differently under different environmental conditions and on different crop types. To receive full benefits make sure you request good advice on usage.