Humic Acid: Humified Carbon vs. New Carbon
Based on research, humic substances are formed as follows:
- Lignin Modification
- Quinone Acid Interactions
- Microbial Systheses of Aromatics
- Sugar Amino Acid Reaction Sequences
However, it takes thousands of years of these reactions, coupled with lignin dissolution, to form large complex polymers. These polymers have their own kenetic & bio-signatures which has allowed scientists to study the differences between Humified Carbon and New Carbon.
Analysis of Humified Carbon demonstrates the presence of over 60 different mineral elements, resulting in the excellent metal complexing properties of Humified Carbon. Additionally, during the ecological aging process of Humified Carbon it becomes enriched with the strong physical, chemical and biological properties which give Humified Carbon it's agronomic benefits.
New Carbon, which is making Humic & Fulvic Acids from straw, wood pulp and compost lack the dynamics of thousands of years of environmental conditioning coupled with factors such as carbon cycling. According to research, the percentage of Humic & Fulvic Acids found in Compost (New Carbon) is 2 and 5 percent respectively. Conversely, the percentage of Humic & Fulvic Acids found in Leonardite is 40 and 85 percent respectively.
To summarize, the natural, geophysical, geochemical and biochemical processes over long periods of time are the keys to a quality Humic or Fulvic Acid, which delivers the agronomic benefits Humates are known for.
The Science Behind Humates
Dr. Mir Seyedbagheri
As a company, our science and product development is based heavily on Dr. Mir's many years of credible scientific research.
We believe that in order to deliver a superior quality product, we have to follow the science of what works, what doesn't and why. Not only is Dr. Mir an exceptional agronomist, but his philosophy on agricultural sustainability is directly inline with our company and our vision.
Questions on Product Knowledge:
1. How do we assess what products are needed for each crop?
I generally assess what’s needed by looking at the soil analysis report, finding the missing links, (deficiencies) and assessing organic matter. I then check percentages of sand-silt-clay. Based on macro-micro parameters on crop fertility guidelines, I will calculate soil needs accordingly and give my recommendations for the necessary quantities of humic. After having reviewed 20,000 soil reports for humic recommendations, I find that on average, each field crop requires approximately 4 gallons per acre, even with high organic matter in the soil.
2. What are common changes noticed when using humic vs not using humic?
If we use humic (best used with required nutrients for different crop), I have generally observed better vigor to the stand, crop uniformity, water infiltration, and good overall quality. This is contingent upon quantity applied, when it is applied, along with general soil conditions.
3. How noticeable are results generally based on first season run?
Noticeable results may be seen in the first season. Applying any recommended amounts may enhance your fertilizer and water-use efficiency. If you apply the required nutrients (fertilizers) you should notice healthier plants and an ample amount of nutrients from your tissue analysis reports. By the 3rd year, you can quantify increases of yield and quality parameters.
4. How can we tell the product is working?
Refer to above questions. Soil becomes very friable, depending upon different soil types (montmorillonite, vermiculite etc). In most cases, you will notice an increase in crop quality. Montmorillonite will show better results that the other types. However it is also contingent on particular cultural practices.
5. What changes happen to the soil with regards to animal life such as worms, etc?
There is a common misconception that microbes eat carbon from humic. Humic functional groups create energy for microbes. Since they are comprised of nanoparticles, they create micropores, in which roots, water and nutrients reside. The other portion of the soil forms macropores in which oxygen resides. Another change is an excellent aggregate stability with stable humus which is a million-dollar house for microbes. Humic will enhance the microbial population, which helps soil health. In turn, the soil will have more beneficial fungi, bacteria, and protozoa…., thus enhancing soil health.
6. Any possible plant side effects?
There are no possible plant side effects. According to my research, however, if you apply more than 10 gal/acre of humic at one time, it will make plants over-activate enzymes and hormone swhich can result in yield reduction. This is why we don’t recommend applying more than 10 gal/acre at one time. You can apply in different intervals.
7. Is fruit fuller? Tastier? Same?
Generally, the humic helps the plant translocate the micro-macro nutrients (especially calcium) that makes the cell walls stronger and more firm with higher quality. Some studies show that fruits are harvested 5- 10 days earlier. Many fruit growers have also reported better taste but there is no data to quantify that. With apples, there is less bitterbit.
8. What should be the goals in using humic and fulvic acids? What are the clients expectations?
We use humic to condition the soil to create a stable humus. In all soils, according to FAO over the past 200 years, we lost stable humus. Organic acid or humic creates a stable humus by conditioning texture and enhancing soil chemistry, chelating, complexing, and buffering capacities for better soil health. Fulvic acid is the best functional carbon to use with foliar application or side-dress with the seed for better vigor and nutrient translocation. (use one quart of fulvic which is ¼ of humic rate per acre) For example, if you use 4 gal. humic/acre per you will get 1 qt of fulvic per acre/ application
Client expectations: Clients should be educated on how humic and fulvic works for crop production and soil health. Then they will develop their own expectations accordingly. In general, the main expectation is that the humic will enhance their soil health and ensure a good return on investment (ROI).
9. Besides affordability, when is it not feasible to us those products for fertilization?
Based on IHSS research (which comes from many universities worldwide), results demonstrate that, applying humic substances from an economic standpoint is equally important as using micro-macronutrients for maintaining soil health and crop production. From standpoint of ROI, it enhances fertilizer and water-use efficiency, as you save on fertilizer usage. If the grower cannot afford a great deal of humic, even if he/she applies a small quantity before plant growth stages, this will still benefit the return on investment.
According to national statistics phosphorus use efficiency is between 10-30%. For example, if an average farmer applies 100 lbs per acre of phosphor, 90 lbs will be fixed (not usable) or if you are a farmer with good cultural practices, and you apply the same amount of phosphor with 30 % efficiency, it still means you will still lose 70 lbs of phosphor as locked-up, fixed, or tied-up. Using humic will enhance fertilizer use efficiency. These factors are why we think using humic just as vital as using macro-micronutrients in ensuring good ROI.
10. What happens to the soil after repeated use?
With each year that the grower uses humic, there will be significant enhancement of soil health and crop production. Many growers have used humic for 30 years and still see the benefits. Repeated use reflects cumulative effects.
11. Why are these products important?
Humic and fulvic are functional carbons. They help with soil aggregate stability, unlock the fixed nutrients, complex salt, buffer, chelate, and complex nutrients for better fertilizer use efficiency. They also enhance microbial activity.
12. What do growers do now that will make them better using humic and fulvic acids?
Growers need to be educated to understand and distinguish between different types of carbons, such as functional and normal carbons. It is also vital for the grower to understand how functional carbons enhance soil health and nutrient availability. The best means of achieving this goal is to hold applied workshops for the growers to demonstrate humic substances’ far-reaching physical, chemical and biological impacts in different crops under farm conditions.
High Phenols in Humic Chemistry
At this point, no scientists have been able to provide a descriptive and definitive molecular picture of humic substances. They are polydispersed polyanions and are supermixtures of many different acids containing carboxylate and phenolate groups and others, so that mixtures behave functionally as dibasic or tribasic acids. Humic acids can form complexes with ions that are commonly found in environments creating colloids. Research has shown carboxylate and phenolate group substituents link together for functionality. These delicate and relative ratios allow humic acids to form complexes with ions. Many humic acids have two or more of these groups arranged so as to enable formation of chelate complexes. The combination of these functional groups thus regulates bioavailability of metal ions.
The formation of humic substances is one of the least understood facets of humic sciences. There have been various theories posited on this matter (which I do not wish to delve into in great detail). If we had a clearer molecular picture, it would be much easier to infer what is occurring, and by extension the nature of these fascinating interactions. For example, if we knew urea, ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate.... we would know their precise molecular makeup and be able to unlock their inherent mysteries.
Humic is a complex and fascinating creation. A plethora of unknown dynamics, such as chemical, biological, and bioorganic molecules, along with physical, biophysical, physiological, and other elements of combinatorial chemistry makes it difficult to make fair and clear judgments about interactions which are consistently occurring. It is long term combinatorial chemistry that creates these mysterious balances. To put this into perspective, God has endowed us all with five fingers. If we added one more, its impact would be difficult to assess. The same applies to the unique biosignature of humic chemistry. We cannot say how adding one thing or another is going to have a profound influence on these complex super mixtures and their unique web of interactions.
To give another example that illustrates these inherent mysteries, another component in humic chemistry is charged density. The molecules may form a supramolecular structure held together by a myriad of noncovalent forces. In a nutshell, there are major complexities that we cannot resolve by adding this and that such as enzymatic and autoxidation, peptides, amino acids, phenolic radicals, etc.
The best course of action is to do comparative work under controlled conditions in greenhouses and fields, assess plant performance, yield, and quality, allowing God’s unique creation to speak for itself. Some studies have been done to further identify these components, using various methods such as liquid chromatography and liquid-liquid extraction, which can be used to separate the components that comprise humic substances. The substances identified, according to some research, include mono, di, and tri-hydroxy acids, fatty acids, carboxylic acids, linear alcohols, phenolic acids, and terpenoids.
Humic substances are natural phenomena that have been developed in humic chemistry over lengthy periods of time. They reflect the mystery of the Lord’s intelligent and marvelous design. The proverbial proof is in the pudding. Again, with that in mind, the best course of action is to do comparative work under controlled conditions and allowing these plants to communicate these dynamic mysteries through their God-given metabolisms
In this lecture, Dr. Mir Seyedbagheri, who is an agronomist with the Elmore County extension through the University of Idaho, spoke at the 2013 Sustainable Agriculture Symposium about soil health. His scientific lecture talks about Wet Chemistry Activated Humates and their effects on soil health.
SYNTHETIC NITROGEN FERTILIZERS
One of the main reasons for the differences in soil carbon between organic and conventional systems is that synthetic nitrogen fertilizers degrade soil carbon. Research shows a direct link between the application of synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers and decline in soil carbon.
Scientists from the University of Illinois analyzed the results of a 50-year agricultural trial and found that synthetic nitrogen fertilizer resulted in all the carbon residues from the crop disappearing as well as an average loss of around 10,000 kg of carbon per hectare per year. This is around 36,700 kg of CO2 per hectare on top of the many thousands of kilograms of crop residue that is converted into CO2 every year. Researchers found that the higher the application of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer the greater the amount of soil carbon lost as CO2. This is one of the major reasons why most conventional agricultural systems have a decline in soil carbon while most organic systems increase soil carbon. Essentially, soils lost their " Stable" humic because of conventional agricultural practices. Which negatively impacted soils physical, chemical & biological functionalities.
The primary nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You may be most familiar with these three nutrients because they are required in larger quantities than other nutrients. These three elements form the basis of the N-P-K label on commercial fertilizer bags. As a result, the management of these nutrients is very important. However, the primary nutrients are no more important than the other essential elements since all essential elements are required for plant growth. Remember that the ‘Law of the Minimum’ tells us that if deficient, any essential nutrient can become the controlling force in crop yield.
- Necessary for formation of amino acids, the building blocks of protein
- Essential for plant cell division, vital for plant growth
- Directly involved in photosynthesis
- Necessary component of vitamins
- Aids in production and use of carbohydrates
- Affects energy reactions in the plant
- Involved in photosynthesis, respiration, energy storage and transfer, cell division, and enlargement
- Promotes early root formation and growth
- Improves quality of fruits, vegetables, and grains
- Vital to seed formation
- Helps plants survive harsh winter conditions
- Increases water-use efficiency
- Hastens maturity
- Carbohydrate metabolism and the break down and trans-location of starches
- Increases photosynthesis
- Increases water-use efficiency
- Essential to protein synthesis
- Important in fruit formation
- Activates enzymes and controls their reaction rates
- Improves quality of seeds and fruit
- Improves winter hardiness
- Increases disease resistance
The intermediate nutrients are sulfur, magnesium, and calcium. Together, primary and intermediate nutrients are referred to as macronutrients. Macronutrients are expressed as a certain percentage (%) of the total plant uptake. Although sulfur, magnesium, and calcium are called intermediate, these elements are not necessarily needed by plants in smaller quantities. In fact, phosphorus is required in the same amount as the intermediate nutrients, despite being a primary nutrient. Phosphorus is referred to as a primary nutrient because of the high frequency of soils that are deficient of this nutrient, rather than the amount of phosphorus that plants actually use for growth.
- Utilized for Continuous cell division and formation
- Involved in nitrogen metabolism
- Reduces plant respiration
- Aids trans-location of photosynthesis from leaves to fruiting organs
- Increases fruit set
- Essential for nut development in peanuts
- Stimulates microbial activity
- Key element of chlorophyll production
- Improves utilization and mobility of phosphorus
- Activator and component of many plant enzymes
- Directly related to grass tetany
- Increases iron utilization in plants
- Influences earliness and uniformity of maturity
- Integral part of amino acids
- Helps develop enzymes and vitamins
- Promotes nodule formation on legumes
- Aids in seed production
- Necessary in chlorophyll formation (though it isn’t one of the constituents)
The remaining essential elements are the micronutrients and are required in very small quantities. In comparison with macronutrients, the uptake of micronutrients is expressed in parts per million (ppm, where 10,000 ppm = 1.0%), rather than on a percentage basis. Again, this does not infer that micronutrients are of lesser importance. If any micronutrient is deficient, the growth of the entire plant will not reach maximum yield (Law of the Minimum).
- Essential of germination of pollen grains and growth of pollen tubes
- Essential for seed and cell wall formation
- Promotes maturity
- Necessary for sugar trans-location
- Affects nitrogen and carbohydrate
- Not much information about its functions
- Interferes with P uptake
- Enhances maturity of small grains on some soils
- Catalyzes several plant processes
- Major function in photosynthesis
- Major function in reproductive stages
- Indirect role in chlorophyll production
- Increases sugar content
- Intensifies color
- Improves flavor of fruits and vegetables
- Promotes formation of chlorophyll
- Acts as an oxygen carrier
- Reactions involving cell division and growth
- Functions as a part of certain enzyme systems
- Aids in chlorophyll synthesis
- Increases the availability of P and CA
- Required to form the enzyme "nitrate reductas" which reduces nitrates to ammonium in plant
- Aids in the formation of legume nodules
- Needed to convert inorganic phosphates to organic forms in the plant
- Aids plant growth hormones and enzyme system
- Necessary for chlorophyll production
- Necessary for carbohydrate formation
- Necessary for starch formation
- Aids in seed formation
Hydrogen also is necessary for building sugars and building the plant. It is obtained almost entirely from water. Hydrogen ions are imperative for a proton gradient to help drive the electron transport chain in photosynthesis and for respiration
Oxygen by itself or in the molecules of H2O or CO2 are necessary for plant cellular respiration. Cellular respiration is the process of generating energy-rich adenosine triphosphate (ATP) via the consumption of sugars made in photosynthesis. Plants produce oxygen gas during photosynthesis to produce glucose but then require oxygen to undergo aerobic cellular respiration and break down this glucose and produce ATP.
Carbon forms the backbone of many plants biomolecules, including starches and cellulose. Carbon is fixed through photosynthesis from the carbon dioxide in the air and is a part of the carbohydrates that store energy in the plant.