David C. Dudley, CES, CRS; Organic Solutions; Buena Vista, Virginia

Humate is not a fertilizer, it acts as a soil conditioner and as a bio-catalyst and bio-stimulant for plant life.  Humic and fluvic acids are an excellent and organic way to provide plants and soil with a concentrated dose of essential nutrients, vitamins and trace minerals.   According to Dr. Robert E. Pettit, retired Emeritus Associate Professor, Texas A&M University, plants grown on soils which contain adequate humin, humic acids, and fluvic acids are less subject to stress, are healthier, produce higher yields; and the nutritional quality of harvested foods and feeds are superior.  

Man became distracted from the importance of organic compound cycling when soluble acidic based fertilizers were discovered and used to stimulate plant growth. Continued use of these acidic fertilizers in the absence of adequate humic substances (in the soil) has caused many serious sociological and ecological problems.  Man needs to consider his approach to fertilization techniques by giving higher priority to soil humus. (Pettit)

Compared to other products, humates enhance soil fertility and plant growth.  Another long-term effectiveness of humate is it doesn’t get consumed as quickly as animal manure, compost or peat.  Humate also doesn’t compete with plants for nutrients like nitrogen. Partially decomposed compost in soils are rapidly consumed by miro-organisms and mineralized entirely without humus formation.

Economic benefits are…

Humic acid chelate nutrient compounds, especially iron, into a form suitable for plant utilization.  Increases have been recorded of up to 70% in yield, accompanied by a reduction of up 30% in the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Better and healthier growth of green grass, ornamentals and agricultural crops can be attained with the regular application of first-quality humic acids.  Furthermore, water holding capacity of soils is increased considerably which means that the use of water can be reduced substantially. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, for each 1% increase in organic matter U.S. cropland could store the amount of water that flows over Niagara Fall in 150 days.

The best economic results can be seen in light and sandy soils which typically are poor in humus.  Fields that are over cultivated are also among soils that lack humus. The diverse positive impact of humic acids can be observed particularly in these soils.  This is true for almost all soils in dry and warm climates. As a result of the high mineralization rate of organic substances, providing these soils with stable humic acids is crucial for the maintenance and improvement of soil fertility.

Current scientific studies have shown that the fertility of soil is determined to a very large extent by the content of humic acids.  Their high cation-exchange capacity (CEC), the oxygen content as well as the above average water holding capacity are the reasons for the high value of using humic acids for improving soil fertility and plant growth leading to healthier plants and a higher yield.

Some of the main function of humins within the soil are to improve the soil’s water holding capacity, to improve soil structure, to maintain soil stability, to function as a cation exchange system, and to generally improve soil fertility. One of most important feature of humic acids to the plant lies in their ability to bind insoluble metal icons, oxides and hydroxides and to release them slowly and continually to plants when required. Because of these important functions humin is a key component of fertile soils and healthy plants (Pettit).

Source: Pettit, Robert E., Dr., Organic Matter, Humus, Humate, Humic Acid, Fulvic Acid and Humin: Their Importance in Soil Fertility and Plant Health