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    Thread: humus and organic matter

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      RaDicaL Soil enThUsiAst
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      Default humus and organic matter

      Humus and organic matter
      Organic matter,compost,humus, humates, humic acid and fulvic acid are all related to, and are parts of, decaying plant materials.These organic materials are food for soil life and a storehouse for minerals, energy and water. They also serve as mediums on which certain organisms can grow.
      Organic matter
      _Non-living components which are a heterogeneous mixture composed largely of products resulting from microbal and chemical transformations of organic debris. Soil organic matter can exist in different morphological patterns, which are the bases of the classification of so called forms and types of humus.
      _Is bes described as consisting of decomposed organic matter, along with the remains of soil microorganisms, and is extremely rich in nutrients.
      In nature, humus accumulates very slowly over decades. But human intervention can speed up the process by incorporating large amounts of organic matter in the soil. When organic matter is digested (decomposed) by soil microbes - bacteria, fungi, etc. - humus is created.

      Organic matter,humus and soil health

      ~soul of soil
      Soil health and humus are indivisible: soil's health is the vitality of the soil's living population, and humus is the manifestation of its activities. As the cornerstone of the soil ecosystem, humus influences and is influenced by every other aspect of the soil.
      All humus is organic matter, but not all organic matter is humus.Raw organic matter consists of the waste products or remains of organisms that have not yet decomoposed. Humus is one form of organic matter that has undergone some degree of decompostion.
      Humus is actually more a generic term then that a precise one.Its qualities will reflect different origins and composition.Just as wine can very widely in quality,so can humus. And, just as different wines are suitable for different culinary purposes, the varieties of humus serve varying soil functions.
      Humus that still decomposes readily is known as efffective or active humus.It consist of a high proportion of simple organic acids (fulvic acids),wich will dissolve in either acids or bases.

      the follwoing info was derived from ~ http://www.bioag.com/
      Humic and Fulvic products for sustainability & wellbeing
      Terminology of Humus-related Materials

      Humus--product resulting from decay of organic matter. Contains both humic and non-humic material.
      Humin--the alkali-insoluble fraction of leonardite. (The usage of this term does not correspond exactly with the usage by other workers.) .
      Humic substances--(plural) the collective name for the acid radicals found in humic matter. Typically separated from humic matter by alkaline extraction.
      Humic acid--(singular) the acid radical found in humic matter which is soluble in alkali but insoluble in acid, methyl ethyl ketone, and methyl alcohol.
      Humate--the salts of humic acids, collectively, or the salts of humic acid specifically. (The usage must be determined from the context.)
      Fulvic acid--the acid radical found in humic matter which is soluble in alkali, acid, methyl ethyl ketone, and methyl alcohol.
      Fulvates--the salts of fulvic acid.
      Leonardite--a soft brown coal-like deposit usually found in conjunction with deposits of lignite.
      Lignite--a type of soft coal.

      Humates have been used in agriculture for many years, possibly thousands of years by early corn, squash and bean farmers in the Southwest U.S. In other countries, humic and fulvic acid use has been ongoing for many years with continual dollars put into research. However, In the U.S. there has been much misinformation regarding the use of humates, unintentionally spread by suppliers, distributors and marketers who are not scientists and who do not understand the humate research available (this is also due to lack of uniform testing, which we will go into later). Only in the last decade or so have we even understood how humates work. We now talk of an auxin-like response, not really knowing what causes it. It was never realized how effective humate was at very low application rates and how much soil change it can effect in a short time. Stimulation of biomass production at the bottom of the food chain is a part of the benefit of humates. Release of essential minerals from the soil for plant uptake is part of this process.

      Humic acids are crucial to life on earth and when they become depleted via oxidation or deactivated by sodium or aluminum, soil problems develop and can cause negative effects all the way up the food chain. Conditions of soil depletion resulting in low yield and/or susceptibility to diseases and pests have resulted in devastating effects for many civilizations of the past. Once humus (organic matter) is depleted, trace element availability along with phosphorus and calcium availability starts to decline. Anthropologists have observed this in many ancient civilizations. Human skeletons have shown the effects of deficiencies such as dental problems, osteoporosis and bone degeneration possibly resulting in many dying at young ages. When zinc is depleted learning ability is lost in the population along with fertility, and that is the end of that civilization. Analyzing the bone of the “mound builder” civilization of the U.S. Midwest has proved this. Bones found at the bottom of the mounds were in good health, whereas those found towards the top of the burials (or the end of the mound builders civilization) teeth and bone problems were very apparent through analysis of low-level zinc, calcium and phosphorus mineral content. Therefore, we can learn about mistakes of past civilizations concerning the need for improving agricultural soils through use of humate product, but are we doing enough in this country to reduce this problem? Other countries of the world are becoming more and more interested in humates, have completed large-scale research projects in many areas of humic use and have incorporated use of humates into their agricultural practices with much success.

      What are Humic Substances?
      Humic substances (HS) are major components of the natural organic matter (NOM) in soil and water as well as in geological organic deposits such as lake sediments, peats, brown coals and shales. They make up much of the characteristic brown color of decaying plant debris and contribute to the brown or black color in surface soils. They are major components of NOM in surface waters and at higher concentrations can impart a dark color, especially in brown fresh water ponds, lakes, and streams. In leaf litter or composts, the color may be yellowish-brown to black, depending on the degree of decay and concentration.
      Humic substances are very important components of soil that affect physical and chemical properties and improve soil fertility. In aqueous systems, like rivers, about 50% of the dissolved organic materials are HS that affect pH and alkalinity. In terrestrial and aquatic systems HS affect the chemistry, cycling and bioavailability of chemical elements, as well as transport and degradation of xenobiotic and natural organic chemicals. They affect biological productivity in aquatic ecosystems, as well as the formation of disinfection by-products during water treatment.
      Humic substances are complex and heterogeneous mixtures of polydispersed materials formed by biochemical and chemical reactions during the decay and transformation of plant and microbial remains (a process called humification). Plant lignin and its transformation products, as well as polysaccharides, melanin, cutin, proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, fine char particles, etc., are important components taking part in this process.
      Humic substances in soils and sediments can be divided into three main fractions: humic acids (HA or HAs), fulvic acids (FA or FAs) and humin. The HA and FA are extracted from soil and other solid phase sources using a strong base (NaOH or KOH). Humic acids are insoluble at low pH, and they are precipitated by adding strong acid (adjust to pH 1 with HCl). Humin cannot be extracted with either a strong base or a strong acid.
      Aquatic HS contain only HA and FA and these components are generally removed from water by lowering the pH to 2 and adsorbing both components on a suitable resin column. The HA and FA are extracted from the resin with strong base followed by lowering the pH to 1 to precipitate the HA. The resin column separation is also used to separate FA from the non-humic materials (amino acids, peptides, sugars, etc.) extracted from soils. At low pH the FA adsorbs on the resin, but non-humic materials pass through the column.
      Humic substances are highly chemically reactive yet recalcitrant with respect to biodegradation. Most of the data on HA, FA and humin refer to average properties and structure of a large ensemble of components of diverse structure and molecular weight. The precise properties and structure of a given HS sample depends on the water or soil source and the specific conditions of extraction. Nevertheless, the average properties of HA, FA and humin from different sources are remarkably similar


      Various forms of raw humus and humates exist including those produced by composting, industrial by-products and those created during ancient geological events. However, for the purpose of using humates and derivatives including humic and fulvic acids, we will provide a brief overview of what you, the buyer of products, should understand if you want the best product for your money. When shopping around, it is in your best interest to know where a company sources their raw materials, processing methods, their scientific knowledge of the products and scientific research documents to back their claims. We encourage you to explore this and remember that price is not the most important factor when deciding on a product. There's a lot of junk out there so buyer beware!

      Leonardite, coal or fossilized peat?

      Leonardite refers to slack (oxidized) lignite; typically found in North Dakota, Wyoming and other locations around the world [the term was first coined by Dr. Leonard at the University of ND]. This exact material has a good amount of humic, but is lower in fulvic. However, now this term has spread and many people refer to humates in general as Leonardite. Some humate is fossilized peat from broad-leaved freshwater plants. Leonardite is salt water reed/sedge based.
      Why is this important to distinguish? Bottom line is the bioactivity of the final product (humic and fulvic acid products). Analysis of various forms of humates from different sources have been conducted. Results show that some fossilized peat material contains 12% bioactive fulvic acid based ore whereas Leonardite contains approximately 8% fulvic acid and high humic (up to 80%). However, unlike many claim, bioactivity is low...this form of humate material is great for drilling mud, not for bioactive products.

      Similarly, many Chinese and German humates are slack lignite and they recommend 10 times what fossilized peat recommends to achieve similar results. Even worse are companies in the Eastern U.S. and many Canadian suppliers offering coal-based humates; toxic waste products from coal mining that they do not tell you about.

      Form, molecular weight and biological activity

      The best humate is one that is high in biological activity, fulvic/humic acids, silicic acids and also high in oxygen in the phenolic and quinoid groups. Humic acids function best in the low weight fraction (fulvic) on the cellular level. Molecular weight is very important with the high oxygen types usually falling into the low weight (smaller sized molecules) category and thus more biologically active since only low weight molecules are utilized by beneficial organisims, enter cell membranes more efficiently, create greater permeability for the flow of nutrition into the cell and adsorption of excess heavy metals for removal from the cell. In agriculture, stimulation of each cell produces more energy from the plant and higher yield. The process starts with soil microbes, then plant root cells and eventually the entire plant. We can also do this by foliar spraying soluble fulvic acids and adding a humic solution to the soil at planting. Cellular stimulation at all levels is how it works.

      The Bottom Line & Results?
      This is an economic issue, boiled down to how much humic acid is one getting per dollar and what is the cellular stimulation level? Consider the fact that the more concentrated a humate product the cheaper it is to transport and apply. Therefore, the most concentrated source is the best buy due to transportation costs alone. Let's take a look at raw humate (before it's solublized and concentrated). A high-grade raw humate might be very effective at raising the yield by 20% or more with just 50lbs per acre of a 70-80% humic acid material. A humate of 34% humic requires 250-300# per acre of raw material to do the same job. What is the price, what is a pound of humic acid delivered going to be with current freight rates? Get your calculator out!
      A company claims to have the highest guaranteed humic acid available at 35% humic acids, 35% carbon and 35% organic matter. Is this the highest guaranteed humic material when another company has a product guaranteed at 80% humic acid and one in WashingtonState has one guaranteed at 70%? Is this misinformation? Consider the standard source of humic acid provided by many suppliers and their distributors-Leonardite, which contains over 80% humic acids. On the surface, this would seem to be the highest. However, this is not the most effective unless it is made into a soluble form where it becomes effective at low rate and the humic acids of the soluble powder can be over 80%. It is also low in the fulvic portion, the bioactive portion. These claims are often misleading, and not the fault of any one company, but a result of lack of testing standardization in our industry. Humates are valuable products, and until our industry can agree on some forms of standardization, only deal with companies with a track record and a proven high-grade product.
      Shipping sand doesn't make sense!

      What you should know: toxic forms of humic substances are being supplied by some companies and their distributors
      Coal IS NOT Humate

      Over the last 30 years interest in humic substances has heightened then suddenly waned several times. Here at BioAg we refer to this as the humate cycle. This sudden drop in interest is directly related to misinformation and humic/fulvic scams. Honest sellers of high quality, and thus effective, high fulvic humate prove by trials and farm use the amazing benefits of a few dollars of "REAL" humate. False or coal dust and brown coal sold as humates, with a much lower price tag, not only have a higher recommendation per acre but they don't work. Pretty soon people who are swindled by the coal peddlers make broad statements such as: "humate and fulvic acid doesn't work, it's a scam". The original tests done with humate by Dr. Senn at Clemson in the 70"s that got everyone excited was done with New Mexico high- grade, high fulvic humate. The fact that later tests weren't so successful was due to the fact that oxidized coal was used, which has a very low fulvic content.
      As an industry, we can't place all the blame on the coal-peddlers...as they say one finger pointing out four pointing back. If our industry had agreed to a form of standardized testing, these issues would not be so prevelant and half our website would not be dedicated to such topics. As a company we are members of the International Humic Substance Society (IHSS) and support their recommended testing methods. The IHSS is striving to unify our industry under one acceptable testing method, which if accepted, should help elliviate many issues of confusion.
      However, in the meantime please do not be fooled by misleading information or the shiny cheap price tag on such products. Unfortunately people continue to buy into the use of "discount " humate and suffer the consequences. Some pay a large price and result in soils that bind up, crack and turn hard, greater erosion problems, low yields and other problems. It is very important to remember that coal-based materials can contain high levels of toxins including mercury, arsenic, lead, hydrocarbons; results that are costly and environmentally damaging.
      Last edited by HASHISH; 11th April 2010 at 04:39 AM. Reason: added links and more info

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