• Koenraad Duhem

The Value of Humic Substances



Humic substances or humates are organic substances that are important components of the soil. Their popularity among farmers has grown in the past few years. Humic acids are fully decomposed remains of ancient plants and animals. When the decaying matter has been eaten and transformed through several cycles, this sturdy material which can no longer be easily decomposed is called humus. Humus consists of humic acid, fulvic acid and humin. The humic and fluvic acids are vital because they transfer nutrients between the soil and the plants. Humic acid is an important chelator that helps to increase solubility by breaking down organics into inorganics, making them more plant available. This increases the availability of nutrients already in your soil. Humus is critical for plant nutrient availability and uptake especially in soils that have an unhealthy population of microorganisms. Humic substances will benefit the microorganisms as well as benefit from the microorganisms brought by HumaTerra’s Soil Enhancer.


There are several generic claims on humic compounds (original carbon rock like humalite or leonardite, as well as humic and fluvic acids,) that are linked to the origin of the materials. HumaTerra’s product formulation includes humalite and leonardite from which humic and fluvic acids are extracted from sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Humalite and loenardite are fossilized carbon rock, just like coal. Leonardite acts as a conditioner for the soil as well as a biocatalyst and bio-stimulant for the plant. These compounds are chemically complex, and it is the evolution by compression of humus or peat that creates these humic acids. Longer and stronger pressure at high temperatures will cause the humic acids to evolve into lignite and then further into coal. Antracite (oil) humalite can also be weathered into lignite.


Here at HumaTerra Regen Ag, we use these humic acids as an ingredient for feed for the micro-organisms present in our pellets. Our pellets release humic and fulvic acid into the soil by the action of these microorganisms. The result of humates can either be direct or indirect of the crop. The direct effects are due to the increased plant cell wall permeability that the humates cause. This helps trigger an exchange of nutrients with the environment. The indirect effects of humates are due to their positive effect on soil microorganisms (part of the humates can be used as a carbon source by the microorganisms). Another indirect result of humates is their positive effect on the soil as well. Part of the humate won’t be degraded and will reinforce the clay-humus domain, increasing the chelation and sequestration processes.


There is nothing to prevent the use of humic substances in combination with HumaTerra Soil Enhancer. Humic substances will help to accelerate the impact HumaTerra Soil Enhancer has on soils as our pellets also contain humates. As a result, all the outcomes described with humates will also happen with the HumaTerra Soil Enhancer; however, they are self-perpetuating and produce their own humus. HumaTerra Soil Enhancer provides species that the humates cannot activate because they are absent in the soil. All the effects triggered by the HumaTerra Soil Enhancer won’t happen with humates alone. Our pellets will bring decomposers that reduce diseases as well as more microorganisms which will help to reduce disease pressures. The main difference between the HumaTerra microorganism pellets and just humic substances is that our pellets deliver more functions than humic and fluvic acid alone.


Koenraad Duhem is a co-founder and the Director of Technologies and Strategic Development for HumaTerra. He has a 20-year long experience as Scientific Director in the French dairy industry and livestock sector. Long intrigued by the fertility of pasture soils and their potential to sequester carbon, in 2016, Koenraad decided to take a sabbatical to enable him to have a closer look at how a restored soil microbiology could help farmers grow better crops and achieve better margins while improving their main asset– the land. Koenraad can be reached at k.duhem@htregen.com.

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