So, what's the big deal about humates? It's not that humates reconditioned the soil around Chernobyl after the nuclear reactor had a melt-down, but it did. It’s not like humates give us fulvic acid, so we can treat medical patients more effectively, but it does. It’s not that humates have a CEC of over 600, contains 65 micronutrients, and is amphoteric (meaning it has both positive and negative ions), but it does! So, humates are a great soil conditioner and plant biome facilitator!  

Ok, so maybe humates are a big deal. I eat about a teaspoonful of dry humic about 4 or 5 times a week to feed the microbes in my gut (there are over 8,000 strains of bacteria and fungi in a healthy person’s digestive system). Let’s get some context here. Humates is a broad term for the carbon-based product formed after the Ice Age all around the world. Where they were made makes a big difference. Potency depends on the amounts of Humic and Fulvic acid, but we will get into that. Russia claims about 75%, New Mexico and North Dakota 80% and Canada about 85%. Where the ore was formed determines its purity. The reason canadian ore is superior is because it was formed from 30 foot tall Reeds, Sedge and Peat plants (plains in Alberta). New Mexico ore comes from a salt-water sea that had impurities because of forests. The Ice Age put 2 miles of thick ice on top for 2 million years. Mining the canadian ore (RSP) means removing 40 feet of soil to get to a pretty even 8-foot deposit of humic which sits over the un-oxidized layer known as coal. The coal companies own the prairies and need to move the soil and humic to mine out the coal. New Mexico’s deposits are very irregular with impurities.

So how does it work? Since the canadian ore deposit is the youngest and most pure, it breaks down more readily. It comes in dry humate, liquid humic acid and liquid fulvic acid. I use all three forms in various applications. The dry humate can be bulk spread, applied in strips and metered into planter furrow through insecticide boxes. Lance Neff of Missouri set the world record dryland corn in 2 consecutive years about 10 years ago by applying 400 pounds dry humate over 6 tons of chicken litter per acre. The humic gave the soil microbes the power to more quickly mineralize the material. Nutrients can only be used by plants in a liquid form. Since humic is amphoteric, it doesn’t matter what valence is tying up the soil nutrients. Breaking off the Magnesium (Mg) in our high Mag soils let it sluff away into the soil profile and reduces compaction. It makes nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and calcium more available. We all know N, P and K are needed by plants. Unlocking the Calcium is very important in that, as a really big molecule, once it is untied, it flocculates the soil and reduces compaction and creating more spaces for air and water.

The real proof is sometimes hard to see. Soil tests will show more availability of nutrients. A penetrometer will show less compaction. Farmers will see “wet holes” disappear. After tiling much of my farm in 2017, I decided to apply 100 pounds of dry humic over all the newly tiled fields to break down the clay streaks over the tile runs. I had a little extra left over and asked a neighbor if I could put a 100 foot test strip through a wet hole on his farm. No problem. I asked the neighbor in the Fall of 2018 if he had seen any yield results, and he said no. He did not notice any difference yet, but in the wet Spring of 2019, he was able to plant through that 100’ wide strip while the rest of the “wet hole” was too muddy!

Applying 12-15 pounds of RSP in small pellet (turf grade) through insecticide boxes is the most labor intensive, but the highest ROI. At about 40 cents per pound, a material cost of $6 has returned a 3.5 to 6 bpa increase in soybeans (you do the math. See the picture showing more roots, more growth and thicker stems.). Applying about 40 pounds per acre (material cost of about $16 plus application) with P and K in strips in the Fall is wonderful. Medium cost with a very good return. Bulk spreading 100 to 200+ pounds per acre alone or with P&K costs more but will pay longterm by evening out all the zones.

Concentrated fulvic acid and 24% liquid humic are derived from the ore. Unfortunately, the extraction process sometimes uses acids that negate them from being completely organic. We ship the concentrated forms to reduce shipping and dillute with water at the farm. Concentrated fulvic used to cost over $1,000 per gallon, so we only recommended 0.2 ounces per acre. With improved extraction process bringing our cost down to $360 per gallon, a 0.5 ounce per acre application costs about 65 cents per acre. I use diluted fulvic (using rainwater) every time I spray green. Fulvic acid is what is used in chemotherapy because its low molecular structure allows it to deliver medicine right through the membranes.

Concentrated humic acid is shipped at 24% concentration. Since there is about 11% insoluble material, there will be some sediment to filter out. At that 24% concentration, there are not enough bonding sites to hold all the molecules. Dilution can be to 12% or 16% concentration depending on you operation and preferences. I prefer 12% because it is a simple 1:1 dillution with water. I use rain water because my well water has a pH of 7.9 and a very high Calcium content. Best dillution occurs at about 80 degrees. You will almost never get it dilluted in cold conditions. I use 1 gallon per acre with all of my sidedress applications. Liquid humic provides a carbon bandaid around the Nitrogen molecules to prevent degradation and evaporation.