Humus and Humic Acid is play a vital role in soil fertility and plant nutrition. Plants grown on soils which contain adequate humin, humic acids (HAs), and fulvic adds (FAs) are less subject to stress, are healthier, produce higher yields and the nutritional quality of harvested foods and feeds are superior. The value of humic substances in soil fertility and plant nutrition relates to the many functions these complex organic compounds perform as a part of the life cycle on earth. The life death cycle involves a recycling of the carbon containing structural components of plants and animals through the soil and air and back into the living plant.
Humus is defined as a brown to black complex variable of carbon containing compounds not recognized under a light microscope as possessing cellular organization in the form of plant and animal bodies. Humus is separated from the non humic substances such as carbohydrates (a major fraction of soil carbon), fats, waxes, alkanes, peptides, amino acids, proteins, lipids and organic acids by the fact that distinct chemical formulae can be written for these non humic substances. Most small molecules of non humic substances are rapidly degraded by microorganisms within the soil. In contrast soil humus is slow to decompose (degrade) under natural soil conditions. When in combination with soil minerals soil humus can persist in the soil for several hundred years. Humus is the major soil organic matter component, making up 65% to 75% of the total. Humus assumes an important role as a fertility component of all soils, far in excess of the percentage contribution it makes to the total soil mass.
Humic acids (HAs) comprise a mixture of weak aliphatic (carbon chains) and aromatic (carbon rings) organic acids which are not soluble in water under acid conditions but are soluble in water under alkaline conditions. Humic acids consist of that fraction of humic substances that are precipitated from aqueous solution when the pH is decreased below
Humic acids (HAs) are termed polydisperse because of their variable chemical features. From a three dimensional aspect these complex carbon containing compounds are considered to be flexible linear polymers that exist as random coils with cross linked bonds. On average 35% of the humic acid (HA) molecules are aromatic (carbon rings), while the remaining components are in the form of aliphatic (carbon chains) molecules. The molecular size of humic acids (HAs) range from approximately 10,000 to 100,000. Humic acid (HA) polymers readily bind clay minerals to form stable organic clay complexes. Peripheral pores in the polymer are capable of accommodating (binding) natural and synthetic organic chemicals in a lattice (clathrate) type arrangements.
Humic acids (HAs) readily form salts with inorganic trace mineral elements. An analysis of extracts of naturally occurring humic acids (HAs) will reveal the presence of over 60 different mineral elements present. These trace elements are bound to humic add molecules in a form that can be readily utilized by various living organisms.
As a result humus and humic acids (HAs) function as important ion exchange and metal complexing (chelating) systems.