How to Use Humic Acid for Plants

If you’re trying to grow healthy plants, it’s important to learn how to use humic acid for plants. Humic acids (HA) and fulvic acids (FA) are organic compounds made from natural materials. Both substances provide many benefits to both soils and plants.  These materials are biostimulants. Therefore, they increase plant growth and vigor without directly providing nutrients or killing pests.

Humic acids and fulvic acids provide a number of physical, chemical, and biological benefits to plants and soil. These include increased plant nutrient uptake, increased root growth, and improved soil structure. You can provide these benefits to your plants using a variety of application methods. These products may be applied as a seed coat, foliar spray, and soil conditioner.

Growers can apply humic and fulvic acids as a powder or liquid. Both forms are available in many different products. One great product is the BioEnhancer from Green House Feeding. This powder is a mix of humic acids and other biostimulants. It will provide your plant with benefits including increased root growth and increased nutrient uptake.

Continue reading to learn more about humic and fulvic acids. You’ll learn about their benefits as well as how to use them.

What is Humic Acid?

Humic acid is a type of plant biostimulant. Biostimulants are also called plant conditioners or bioenhancers.

Biostimulants increase plant quality and yield through indirect means. They do not directly provide nutrients. They also do not kill pests or pathogens. Rather, they increase nutrient uptake and utilization in plants through a variety of means. They also improve plant quality and yield. These compounds also improve plant stress tolerance to weather, pests, and diseases.

Since humic acids are biostimulants, they provide all the benefits listed above.

What exactly are humic acids? They are dark brown compounds derived from various forms of organic material. It’s important to note that humic acids have different makeups and structures. They are not specific one compound but rather a group of compounds.

Humic acids are large molecules consisting of a variety of elements. These elements include carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. 

The base of humic acids is decomposed organic matter including peat, coal, and leonardite. Organic materials such as compost often contain humic substances. Most humic acid products are extracted from the mineraloid leonardite. This extraction process occurs via an alkali substance.

Humic Acid vs Humates vs Humic Substances

The name humic acid is slightly misleading. When added to water, humic acids do not decrease the pH.

Humic acid refers to a specific form of a humic substance. According to R.L. Mikkelsen with the University of California, humic materials for agriculture have a large number of negatively charged sites. When these sites are filled with positively charged H ions, the compounds are called humic acids.

However, sometimes these sites are filled with other ions with a positive charge (cations) such as calcium or potassium. When this is the case, these substances are referred to as humates. The overall term for these compounds is humic substances.

Humic acids are insoluble in strong acids, but soluble at higher pHs.

What are Fulvic Acids?

Fulvic acids (FA) are a class of compounds similar to humic acids. However, they are different in some ways. Fulvic acid is lighter in color than HA. The color of FA can ragnge from yellow to light brown.

Fulvic acids are smaller than humic acids. They are small enough that they can enter cell walls, bringing nutrients along with them. Humic acids are too large to enter plant cells.

Fulvic acid is also soluble at all pHs, including in very acidic conditions. Remember that humic acids are insoluble at a very low pH.

Fulvic Acid Powder

Fulvic acid powder is just like what it sounds. It is the powder form of fulvic acid. 

The material, just like humic acid powder, is the base of many humate amendments. Growers can apply this powder directly to plants. They can also mix it with water and apply it as a liquid. 

Humic and Fulvic Acid for Plants

If you’ve worked hard to provide your plants with the proper nutrients for quality crops and established healthy watering practices, you’re probably invested in your plants. One way to increase plant health is by adding humic and fulvic acids. It’s easy to learn how to use humic acids for plants.

HA provides a number of benefits to plants and their growing environments. You can break these benefits into three main categories: chemical, biological, and physical. Combined, these benefits lead to increased plant growth, increased vigor, and increased yields. They also help growers save money due to decreased nutrient and water costs.

Remember, these substances do not provide nutrients to plants. Instead, they enhance nutrient availability and uptake. Therefore, you must still provide your plants with nutrients. Check out our line of nutrients to find a product right for your situation.

How to Use Humic Acids in Plants
Cation Exchange

Chemical Benefits

Both humic and fulvic acids are excellent chealtors of soil minerals and nutrients.  Chelation is a process where large organic molecules such as HA bind and hold nutrients. Some of these nutrients include aluminum, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. As these nutrients are chelated,  they are prevented from leaching out of the soil. In turn, chelation prevents nutrient pollution and keeps nutrients available for plant use.

This chelation process is important to nutrient availability and uptake. The addition of HA is particularly helpful in plant uptake of iron. An adequate amount of iron in plants is critical for the formation of chlorophyll.

Chelation can also reduce soil toxicities by absorbing and holding harmful metals. Therefore, humic acids are used in the remediation of contaminated water and soils.

Increased Cation Exchange Capacity

Another chemical benefit of HA is an increased cation exchange capacity (CEC). The CEC is a measure of a soil’s ability to hold positively charged ions called cations. Examples of cations include calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and zinc (Zn).

According to Dr. Wayne Kussow, humic acid has a very high cation exchange capacity. The CEC of humic acid is greater than that of both humus and peat moss. Therefore, the addition of HA to soil provides a large increase in the CEC.

As the CEC of a soil increases, the soil can hold more nutrients. As the soil holds these cations, they cannot leach out of the soil. This decrease in nutrient leaching saves growers money on underutilized fertilizers. It also limits pollution caused by leaching of excess nutrients.

Humic acids also increase phosphorus (P) availability and uptake. Phosphorus is often held with nutrients such as iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al). When P is in these compounds, it is unavailable to plants. Humic acids turn these compounds into plant-available forms. One study showed that humic acids increased phosphorus availability and uptake by 40%. This increase means less phosphorus is leached into the surrounding areas and less fertilizer needs to be applied.

HA also has the ability to buffer soil pH. It can reduce the pH of acidic soils and increase the pH of basic soils by absorbing or releasing hydrogen ions. This buffering capacity allows for a more neutral pH. In turn, plant nutrients are more available.

 

roots growing in fertile soil loaded with humic and fulvic acid
Humic and fulvic Acid is great for soil fertility for a lot of reasons.

Increased Nutrient Uptake

Increases in CEC and chelation both lead to increased nutrient uptake. Nutrients held by humic substances are said to be available in the soil. This means plants can better utilize nutrients. Oftentimes, nutrients are present in soil, but they are held in an unavailable form.

Adding humic substances to your soils shifts more nutrients in the soil from unavailable to available forms. This leads to an increase in plant nutrient uptake and plant growth. Since more applied nutrients are available to plants, growers need to apply less nutrients. This can save growers both time and money. 

Biological Benefits

Once you know how to use humic acid for plants, you will see a number of biological benefits. Humic acids provide a number of biological benefits to both plants and the greater soil community.

A study published in Nature about humic acid fertilizers showed that humic acids increased plant enzymes such as urease. Increases in enzyme number and function allow plants to better perform crucial processes. Some of these processes include cell division, hormone regulation, and energy production.

Humic acids and fulvic acids also provides benefits to soil microorganisms. They foster the growth and health of beneficial microbial communities. These microbes provides many benefits to plants. Beneficial microbes stimulate formation of plant hormones, increase nutrient availability, and help protect against pests and diseases.

Humic substances also increase the success of rooting cutting and germinating seeds. This is likely due to the interaction between these substances and plant hormones. As humic substances stimulate the production of plant hormones, plants experience increased root formation and germination.

Physical Benefits 

Humic substances are known as soil conditioners, as they improve soil structure and function. According to EcoFarming Daily, humic acids can increase soil aggregation. This means that soil particles clump together, forming small air holes. This leads to increased aeration and drainage.

HA decrease the heaviness of clay soils by getting between clay molecules. As the clay molecules separate, compaction decreases and root growth increases. HA also benefit the structure of sandy soils. Additions of HA increase the organic matter content of the soil, which increases water and nutrient holding capacities.

This increase in soil structure creates a number of benefits for plants. One major benefit is the increase in root growth. As plants’ roots grow deeper and extend wider into the soil, they are able to better absorb nutrients and water. Therefore, you don’t have to apply as much water and nutrients, leading to cost savings.

How to Use Humic Acid for Plants

While HA and FA may sound like complicated substances, they are easy to use. Once you know how to use humic acid for plants, it’s a great addition to your amendment routine. 

Growers can apply humic substances in a variety of different ways. These include to the soil, as a foliar application, and as a seed coat. These products are available in liquid and powder forms.

One great thing about humic acids is that they’re not taken up by plants nor leached out of the soil. Therefore, once you apply them, they will remain in your growing media for a long time. The benefits such as increased CEC and improved soil structure will last through multiple growing seasons. Of course, further applications of humic substances will only help your plants. 

BioEnhancer

If you’re looking to add humic acids to your plants, consider the BioEnhancer product from Greenhouse Feeding. This product contains humic acid, seaweed extract, Trichoderma harzianum, and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. These substances work together to act a top-notch bioenhancer.

the BioEnhancer product comes in powder form and is available in a variety of sizes. These include 500 g, 1 kg, 2.5 kg, and 25 kg bags.

Growers can use BioEnchancer via a number of different application methods. These include as a media drench, as a rooting compound for cuttings, as a solution to increase seed germination, and as a foliar application. The recommended application rates can be found on the BioEnhancer product page.

This product is Control Union Certified and OMRI listed, meaning growers can use it in certified organic production systems.

If you have questions about BioEnhancer, just contact Global Garden to figure out how to use humic acid for plants.

Why Use Humic and Fulvic Acids?

Both humic and fulvic acids are naturally occurring substances derived from organic matter. They are powerful biostimulant and soil conditioners that increase both soil and plant health.

Both types of compounds provide chemical, biological, and physical benefits. Some of these benefits are increased root growth, improved aeration and drainage, increased cation exchange capacity, and increased nutrient uptake. Together, these benefits greatly increase plant health, vigor, growth, and yield.

Growers can apply both HA and FA via a variety of methods. These include as a soil drench, foliar spray, or seed coat. One you know how to use humic acids for plants, using them is easy.

One great humic acid product is BioEnchancer from Greenhouse Feeding. This product is loaded with biostimulants, including HA. If you’re interested in adding humic acid to your amendment routine, contact Global Garden staff. They will help you learn about how you can incorporate BioEnhancer into your established growing methods.

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