Humic Acids – Just How Important Are They
Humic acid was first extracted from a peat bog by a German scientist in 1786. The rich, dark organic matter from which it was extracted was of much concern to early agriculture as it was originally believed to be the primary reason for plant growth. Since then, tens of thousands of research papers have been written trying to explain the chemistry and functions of organic acids.
Unfortunately, researching organic acids can be quite a difficult task as explained by the world’s leading expert on them – William R. Jackson, PHD explains. “They make up a dynamic group of heterogeneous compounds that are multifaceted in their structural design and are likely to change over time”. However, after many years of research, a few key distinctions can now be made, which helps describe the ideal organic acids for agriculture.
The Three: Humin, Humic Acid & Fulvic Acid
Humic substances can be broken down to three major fractions: humin, humic acids and fulvic acids.
- Humin is the largest fraction of molecules and can be up to 1,000 times the size of humic acids. Humin is very stable in the soil, insoluble and not as active in complexing nutrients. The primary benefits of humin are increasing water-holding capacity and improving soil structure.
- Humic acids are the medium-sized molecules of Humic substances and are much smaller than humin but with more cumulative surface area, allowing a product like Enhance THA® or Enhance Max™ to perform at a higher level. The increase in surface area and solubility of humic acids greatly increase its activity in the soil and its ability to complex many different types of nutrients. Humic acids will also increase water-holding capacity and structure of soil.
- Fulvic acids are the smallest of these three molecules and is the most water soluble over a wide pH range. Due to their reactivity and solubility, fulvic acids are the most highly “plant active”. Fortunately, due to their small size they are able to enter plant roots and leaf tissue while carrying complexed nutrients.
The best sources of humic substances are from leonardite ore and contain primarily humic acids with a high fraction of fulvic acids.
Old is New Again
In 1996, EcoCatalysts were one of the first companies to import humic and fulvic acids into Australia from the USA: Enhance THA® and HP Fulvic Acid® from our partners Western Nutrients. We originally undertook extensive product research and independent testing on over 20 different products and these products came out on top. Derived from Leonardite ore these products have stood the test of time, research and results for growers around the world. Back then we were seen as weird in marketing such products, but today they are more and more an integral part of modern agriculture – old is new again!
The Humic Influence
The bible of Organic Acids is William R. Jackson’s 958 page book – Humic, Fulvic and Microbial Balance: Organic Soil Conditioning. He presents his own research and knowledge and has analysed hundreds of other research papers to give the most detailed analysis of these important organic acids.
In Jackson’s book, Christman, Gjessing and Prakash research confirmed the beneficial effect of humic substances on biological systems. They reported several beneficial effects:
- General increase in overall plant growth, better root initiation, greater crop production, improved nutrient uptake by the plants, more effective chlorophyll synthesis and improved seed germination:
- Stimulation of the various physiological and biochemical processes associated with cellular metabolism; and
- Reduction of the intensive toxicity of heavy metals and other toxic materials, including harmful chemical compounds.
The same researchers went onto to state that most of these beneficial effects are explained on the basis of complexation reactions, or chelation.
As mentioned above, we tested many different products and continue to test products today for clients. As today there are so many humic and fulvic acids popping up all the time and sadly quality varies greatly. A lack of policing of labelling laws and with no need to register products here in Australia has led to these many different products coming into the market and going from the market.
Here are the four key things you will notice in a quality humic acid has:
- High solubility, low solids, superior structure
- Are self-organising in evenly distributing through soil and water
- Can be applied through drip, spray, booms with no blockages
- Consistently improves soil and crop health
Below is a short video showing the quality of Enhance THA® against a poor quality product.
Enhance THA® is one of the first Humic Acids to be tested by the USDA with a 3 year study from 1985. It was concluded and I quote from E. C. Jorgenson – Zoologist USDA:
“The functional analysis of variance indicated that the main effects of fertilizers and Enhance THA were highly significant and it is obvious in the table that combinations containing these two factors, and occasionally the others, produced the highest yields”.
The opportunity is here to put the best of both worlds together – the best of organics with the best of inorganic, you just have to be sure to choose a quality organic acid. Enhance THA® and Enhance Max™ both have the long history of results for growers around the globe.