Humates-are they the vital link?

David Batesin Consultancy

Humates-The Vital Link

Question What are Humates? What are they all about?

By David H. Bates

A clarification of what Humates are and what they bring to the Turf Manager in 2003.

Technically speaking, Humates are the salts of Humic Acids. Humic Acids are found in Humus and Humus is formed by the decomposition of vegetable and animal matter. These are the simple facts of life. nutromatebeginning.jpg

Important Factor - Without Humus and Humic Acids no plants can grow or survive.

For years we have understood that Humus is important, often set in examination papers. Humus is identified as contributing to healthy strong and soil beneficial properties.

Today, research and development (R&D) has examined the properties of Humus more closely and serious beneficial conclusions have been brought to our attention.

The Acids Humic, Ulmic and Fulvic are essential to plants in three basic ways :-

  • 1. Humic Acids enable plants to extract the nutrients from the soil (both natural and applied, i.e. fertiliser inputs, etc.).
  • 2. Ulmic Acids stimulate and drastically increase root growth.
  • 3. Fulvic Acids help plants overcome stress.

Due to its composition and the presence of the Humic Acids, Humates help to significantly aerate the soil while aiding moisture retention. Nutrient management is naturally a key benefit from this unique totally organic natural earth.

Humates are developed from prehistoric deposits found in many regions throughout the world, but predominantly in United States of America. The composition of plants that lived over 70 million years ago pass on their vitality of life to future generations through these ancient compost heaps.

Micro organisms obtain their energy and nutrients directly from the soil. Through decomposition processes the micro organisms break down these substances to a very concentrated form of Humic Acids and minerals as well as gases, water and toxins. As any vegetable or animal matter decomposes it creates Humus. Over time, these natural compost piles first become peat then Humate, then Leonadite, Lignite, and eventually coal.

Often people confuse organic fertilisers such as manure or sludge with Humates. They assume one fertiliser works as well as another, but unlike sewage sludge, manure and other waste products, which require a period of time to further decompose in order to become active and available to benefit the soil and plants, the Humate mineral content of our soil solution products are available to work immediately in the soil.

Brief History of Humates humate1.jpg

Humus has been around since time began. The Romans were aware of Humus, but it was not until the 18th Century that soil scientists discovered the Humic Acids and not until the early 1960s has science been able to find a way to analyse Humus and Humates, in particular its Humic Acid content.

Research work was performed in agricultural universities. Unfortunately, research grants were made primarily from commercial fertiliser companies, many of who now consider Humates a major competitor due to the positive research information now being extracted. For instance, if companies see that by performing soil conditioning with high quality Humate there is a third reduction in the need for a fertiliser this would lead to serious effects on business. Therefore, effectiveness of the Humic Acids has not received publication. From a fertiliser company's point of view it is better that you are not aware of Humates, otherwise you may get interested in the one or two high quality products that have been on the market in the last year or so.

Humates time has now come. More and more Turf Managers and other industries are becoming aware of the Earth-Tec environment and the deterioration of the plant. Today's public is aware of the effects of chemicals and fertilisers on the soil and the soils population and of course of Humus. The fact is that our soils have been and are becoming even more depleted in essential nutrients and worn out.

During my day to day agronomy more toxic material is ever present in the soil. Blacklayer, just to mention one specific major problem, is seen in all sporting environments. Scientific research has shown that Humate can restore the vitality of the soil and increase the soil capacity to retain moisture and even help chemical fertilisers become more effective. By participating in a soil amelioration programme you are doing your part as a professional and caring Turf or Plant Manager to help your environment as well as improving the health and well being of your working environment.

You will become the Vital Link to success. Can I ask you to do something positive in the use of this tremendous product TODAY?!

Okay, you're interesting me, tell me more!


With such systems you can see immediate high results, but tend to ignore the future consequences. The higher the amount of mineral fertilisers used the more intensive is the erosion of the soil, the poorer the soils Humus content and the environment is more polluted.

The problem of effective mineral fertiliser assimilation is critical in plant growing. The difficulty of its solution lies in the fact that water soluble Potassium and Nitrogen fertilisers are easily wasted from the soil, while Phosphorus fertiliser on the contrary bonds with ions of Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Aluminium (Al) and Iron (Fe) that are present in the soil and form inert compounds which are inaccessible to the plants.

Important Point - The presence of Humic substances, however, substantially increase effective assimilation of all mineral nutrition elements.

Tests have shown that Humate treatments (with Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) greatly improved the plants development and the capacity of the sward to tolerate all detrimental factors, while decreasing the use of the mineral fertiliser (V. Kovalenko, M. Sowko 1973). The tests with Humate, particularly on Phosphorus (P), achieved an unexpected positive result.

Phosphorus (P) previously locked within the fibre content of the sward is now being released again to the plant. This is significant as many greens and fine turf areas have, over the years, received in excess, promoting severe problems such as Poa Annua (Annual Meadow Grass).

Therefore, the combination of high Humates and mineral fertilisers guarantee totally effective assimilation of plants.

Consequently, treating your sward and environmental situation, particularly the plants, with Humates of a high Humic Acid concentration ensures their continuous nutrition with vital macro and micro elements.

Humates - Micro Organisms Working in Partnership

Micro organisms granulate the soil and this aerates it to facilitate the infusion of water and air. The depth of aerated top soil determines the quality and quantity of the local micro organism and the life compounds they make available to the plant.

In simple terms, micro organisms are the cement mixers of life, they "eat and poop". The more they eat the more they poop. They break down high molecular elements into low molecular elements, which the plants roots can now pull from to use throughout their processes. This eating and pooping ensures nutrients are made available to the plant by the root bio-mass and not leached from the soil.

Micro organisms are essential for health and well being.

Humates are the bug "viagra". They are positively active as a result of their high quality. In fact, a bacteria will go through its full life processes within a 24 minute period. Taking account of this factor, by feeding the correct "viagra", i.e. high quality Humates, a gram of soil will possess over 6 million micro organisms. In 24 hours this same population will drastically increase in excess of 30 million. Thus resulting in a very inexpensive method of improving fertility and nutrient management. In fact, many other benefits have been recognised as a result of such harmony. nutromatesection.jpg

Micro organism activity in one acre of soil uses about the same amount of energy in soil preparation as 10,000 people would burn for carrying out the same work, for the same period of time. Micro organisms must be PROTECTED AND NOURISHED and replaced in the event of death.

Mycorrhizal Fungi (The Good Guys)

Mycorrhizal fungi are short lived, surviving less than two (2) weeks before being digestion by the host plant.

Humates and Mycorrhizal fungi :-

  • a. Humates and Mycorrhizal fungi serve as predatory parasites, with a network trapping service to catch and hold pathogenic parasites.
  • b. Humates and Mycorrhizal amplify growth and intensify plant development.
  • c. Humates and Mycorrhizal minimise water loss and drought.
  • d. Humates and Mycorrhizal intensify absorption of minerals and trace elements.
  • e. Humates and Ectomycorrhizal produce antibiotics to fight off parasitic enemies.
  • f. Balanced Humic Acids, as in quality Humates sold today, along with healthy micro organisms serve as growth regulating stimulants.


Humates on the Market

At this point I would like to emphasis that all our comments mentioned earlier are correct only FOR HIGH QUALITY Humate preparations.

Unfortunately, not all of the preparations available on the market under the name of "Humate" truly meet this requirement. Of course, it is not due to the deliberate carelessness of the companies, it is just that NO agreed international standards or analysis methods exist.

Humic Acids are often call "Humates" and vice versa, in spite of the fact that there is a big difference between the two terms. It is possible to take brown coal, slack, etc. directly from the pit and crush it into a small granule and apply it to a field, sward or soil, thinking that by doing so we have increased the Humus content of the soil. In reality, while introducing a certain amount of Humic Acids in a biologically inactive form, unfortunately up to 3 to 4 times more ballast ends up in the soil at the same time and, I am sure, this "fertiliser" can do more harm than good.

Certain companies take the brown coal containing only 20% Humic Acids, treat it with concentrated NaOH solution, dry the mixture slightly and claim that it is a Humate. True, the product contains 20% or so of Sodium Humate, but mineral and organic ballast present in it would diminish all the potentially positive effects.

Certain fertiliser suppliers and distributors have "Humates" granulated around their fertilisers, in order for them to state that they have fertilisers with "Humate". Humates are the in thing and rightly so, but be careful.

Lignite 20% Humic Acids are a poor substitute. They may contain as much as 65% water. In fact, no one has proved that Lignite is attached by micro organisms.

Leonadite is a soft coal associated with virtually all Lignite outcrops in North Dakota, often referred to as "Slack". Leonadite is termed after A.G. Leonard, a North Dakota miner. Leonadite has more oxygen in it than Lignite and 10% more Humic Acid in general.


If a data sheet (original suppliers copy) is forthcoming you need to know the Humic, Fulvic and Ulmic percentages. The higher they are the better, i.e. 60% to 90%.

Even with this valuable information price appears to govern your choice. What may appear the cheapest may be deceptive.


Product 1 £27.50 per 20 Kg x 4 = £110 per year

Although it states 2 applications 4 applications per year are essential to provide adequate inputs, but this may provide too much ballast.

Product 2 £49.99 per 20 Kg x 3 = £149.97 per year

This is expensive due to chemical and heat treatments to granulate the product, although this will have the required quality.

Product 3 £37.99 per 20 Kg x 2 = £75.98 per year.

High Fulvic / Humic content, 60% to 90%. This provides the best value and productivity

If all these products are applied at two (2) applications per year, product 3 would show significantly more benefits to all aspects of turf and plant management.

Dynamic Soil Power Equals Dynamic Plant Power

Successful management of productive soil involves :-

  • 1. Avoiding compaction of the soil, which causes poor productivity due to restricted water percolation and air flow around the roots and makes it difficult for the roots to expand through the soil.
  • 2. Avoiding overuse of pesticides, which destroy beneficial micro organisms and earthworms.
  • 3. Using Humic and Fulvic substances along with microbial influences to provide polysaccharide for plant energy.
  • 4. Encouraging the intensified activity of mycorrhizal contributes to the soil quality.
  • 5. Using Humic and Fulvic substances to encourage micro organisms and earthworm population, which produce better aeration and soil stability, water infiltration and percolation.
  • 6. Carefully following dosage directions for the proper Humic Acid application of organic supplements to your soil.

Remember, dynamic soil power equals dynamic plant power, providing you with your sward, safety and wear and tear and profitability, i.e. Saving on budgets!

Humic & Fulvic Acid

Research Outline Summary

  • 1. Increased leaf and top growth
  • 2. Increased root growth
  • 3. Increased Rhizosphere activity
  • 4. Enhanced nutrient uptake and stimulation
  • 5. Increased efficiency or use of soil Nitrogen
  • 6. Improved yield of grain, fruit, roots, nuts, etc.
  • 7. Enhanced chlorophyll developments and photosynthesis
  • 8. Earlier maturity of the crop due to faster growth
  • 9. Improved flowering and fruit set
  • 10. Enhanced plant quality
  • 11. Increased drought resistance
  • 12. Greater efficiency of water use
  • 13. Increased standability
  • 14. Improved frost tolerance
  • 15. Enhanced resistance against pathogen attack
  • 1. Increased seed germination
  • 2. Improved early rooting and top growth
  • 3. Increased seedling survival
  • 4. Enhanced tillering
  • 1. Improved soil structure, porosity and tilth
  • 2. Increased content of soil Nitrogen and organic matter and certain other soil components
  • 3. More rapid breakdown of crop residues

For more information of Humates, please contact David Bates on Tel: 01543 450757 orMobile: 07736 066031 or via e-mail

Article Tags:

Want the latest news, ideas and exclusive offers direct to your inbox?
Then sign up to our weekly newsletter today.