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Humus, Humic & Fulvic Acid

posted 14 Sep 2016, 21:28 by David Banks   [ updated 14 Sep 2016, 21:28 ]
My second Blog is about humus, humic and fulvic acids, how to use them and the benefits to your garden.

This topic is potentially rather large but I will attempt to wade through all the technical stuff so you don’t miss out on all the wonderful benefits your plants receive from applying it to your soil.

All gardeners are familiar with the benefits of adding compost to their soil but very few are aware of how it actually improves the soil and benefits plants.

Let’s ignore the mineral component of compost for now to keep things simple:

By adding compost to your soil what you’re actually doing is adding organic carbon sources to the soil.

When we add greens and browns we’re adding Nitrogen and Carbon to the mix; the greens are a source of sugars for energy and nitrogen for amino acids which are building blocks for your plants cell walls, branches, leaves, roots etc. The browns are a source of carbon which is used by plants and soil microbes as food (plants use carbon to produce sugars for energy).

As the greens and browns, in the compost pile, break down they end up producing a small amount of humus which is a material very resistant to any more decomposition and this is what soil microbes like to live on and it also acts like a nutrient and water sponge for the soil.

Picture humus as an apartment block for soil microbes to live in, the more humus in the soil the more microbe friendly and alive your soil becomes. The more microbes living in your soil the healthier you plants become because microbes gather and make soil minerals available to plants in a form which is easy for the plants to absorb, plus good microbes help plants fight off disease and strengthen them against pests.

You can also picture humus as a pantry for storing soil nutrients (plant food), the more humus (Carbon) you add to your soil the more minerals and nutrients your soil can hold. In other words adding more humus to your soil is like increasing the size of the soil’s pantry.

Humus also helps to improve the soil structure, allowing it to hold onto more water and it improves the soils ability to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen around plant roots.

Plant roots need oxygen to be healthy, or to put it another way soils which trap carbon dioxide and prevent oxygen from getting down to the roots tend to inhibit root growth and as a result plants growth; slows, stops or even leads to plant death.

Humic and fulvic acids are extracted from humus and are in liquid form (I won’t bore you with the science) and provide various benefits to plants and the soil in a similar manner to humus which is the solid form.

It has been found that Humic acid can be added to soils as a liquid to help lock up poisonous and toxic chemicals. Humic acid can be added to water to tie up chlorine (chlorine is added to water to kill off microbes), fluoride, along with heavy metals found in chemical fertilisers.

This can be of huge benefit to those who are looking to transition from chemically treated gardens and soils to organic and bio-dynamic gardening/ farming.

Humic acid has been shown to increase soil nutrient holding capacity up to 400 times!

It is a fast way of greatly improving soil condition, improving soil structure, increasing soil water holding capacity, building beneficial microbe populations and treating soils which have been exposed to plant diseases due to lack of crop rotation and poor soil conditions.

Humic acid is also great to add to plant fertilising regimens to help prevent nutrients from leaching out with rain and reticulation, along with making it easier for plants to absorb nutrients and prevent nutrient lockout and even unlock nutrients in over fertilised soils without it becoming toxic to plants.

Problems arise in soils which contain too much of one or more nutrients: for example if a soil contains too much Phosphorus normal levels of Magnesium can become toxic to plants because too much Phosphorus “stimulates” the availability of Magnesium. It can also have the opposite effect on Iron making it less available (shows up as a mineral deficiency) making the gardener believe they need to add more iron to their garden.

The interaction of minerals in the soil can be quite significant if the gardener doesn’t know if their soils contain too much of a mineral which has then become “locked out” making it (or other minerals) unavailable to their plants.

In this case the gardener believes their soil needs more of this mineral so they think that they’re doing the right thing by adding more, but in fact they’re actually making things worse. This is why I highly recommend gardeners get a soil test to see if they’re actually wasting time, money and effort in the garden.

Humic acid also aids in soil wetting, meaning that soils treated with humic acids tend not to become water repellent over time, reducing time, effort and expense in the garden.

Fulvic acids have similar benefits to the above but they are far more beneficial when added to a foliar spray.

Fulvic acid helps plants absorb nutrients through their leaf surfaces so if you have plants which are currently suffering from specific nutrient deficiencies they would greatly benefit from an application of a foliar spray containing the missing nutrient along with a dose of fulvic acid.

Fulvic acid also helps strengthen cell walls and it also helps plants fight off pests and diseases by creating an inhospitable environment on plant surfaces.

So to wrap it up I’d like to quickly list the benefits of applying humus, humic acid and fulvic acid to your gardening treasure chest:
  • Soil structure is improved
  • Better soil air flow for healthy plant roots
  • Increases rate of plant growth as well as crop yield due to improved nutrient availablilty
  • Soil holds onto more water for reduced watering costs over summer
  • Allows for better water drainage during wet weather
  • Soil holds onto more nutrients (reduces nutrient leaching) for healthier plants
  • Plants are better able to deal with heat (I know I didn’t mention this above)
  • Plants are better able to fight off pests
  • Plants are better able to fight off disease
  • Humic acid locks up toxic/ poisonous substances in the soil improving soil and plant health
  • Humus/ humic acid unlocks previously locked out nutrients reducing the need to apply fertiliser/ lowering cost to you.
  • Humus/ humic acid helps improve soil water penetration reducing water run off and evaporation.
  • Soils containing good amounts of humus and humic/ fulvic acids have far more microbe life which aids in nutrient cycling and availability to plants.
  • Generally improves gardening results.

All of the above greatly improves plant health, plant nutrient levels for human health, reduces incidence of plant pests and diseases and greatly reduces time, effort and cost to you.

I hope you’ve found this article to be of benefit and it encourages you to give it a go in your garden.

Happy growing.

Dave.