Achieving optimal soil performance by rethinking fertilizer

When the use of humic acid in the fertilizers led to a positive difference in the growth of the crops, Erskine farmer Dale Anderson...

When the use of humic acid in the fertilizers led to a positive difference in the growth of the crops, Erskine farmer Dale Anderson knew he was onto something.

“Soluble potassium humate is new to farmers and I have been playing with raw humate for six years before I found the soluble product,” said Anderson. “Raw humate sounded great in theory but I could never get a response out of it until two years ago when I started using liquid in my seed row, which led to a disaster with plugged screens, but where the humate got into the seed row I noticed faster germination and bigger roots.”

Last year in 2015 Anderson used a 95 per cent humic acid powder for his crops and melted it into a 12 per cent liquid.

“I was able to stream 15 gallons of UAN 28-0-0 with one gallon of humic acid on my ground before seeding about 45 pounds of nitrogen (N), and then I seeded into it with a liquid phosphate starter with one gallon of humic acid in the mix as well 14 days from the day I seeded till the crop was in the three-leaf stage,” explained Anderson. “What I got was a root mass twice as big as I expected.”

Giving further insight into Anderson’s practices is Kevin Merritt, one of the leading manufacturers of humic acid.

“Current farming practices are killing our top soil as fertilizers are salt based and once the sodium levels reach a critical mass, the microbes in the soup die and the soil becomes unproductive,” said Merritt. “This product with chemistry activated humic acid helps to make fertilizers better by increasing its efficiency, so we ideally recommend that in the first year farmers use this and lower their fertilizer by 20 per cent, in the second year by 30 per cent and in the third year 40 per cent to see optimal results.”

According to Merritt, Dr. Mir Seyedghaberi from the University of Idaho, who is the leading humic acid expert in the world today, has done 34 years of research in the field.

“Mir preaches less fertilizer, which equates to less salt being applied, and more of humic acid,” said Merritt.

Testifying to what Merritt says is Anderson’s crop growth in 2015.

“As the crop grew last year with no moisture, it seemed to hold up amazingly well and upon digging up more plants, I found a root ball bigger than I have ever seen,” said Anderson. “The benefits of minimizing the salt in the seed row from commercial fertilizers and broadcasting the N on the surface with humate stabilizes the N from gassing off and turns it into a slow release N.”

According to Anderson this leads to feeding the crop slowly over the growing period, thereby increasing the root system due to increased microbial activity and providing a source of carbon.

“Microbes have a C to N ratio of 10 to 1, which implies that the microbes will consume 10 pounds of carbon for every pound of nitrogen, so if a farmer applies 70 pounds of N then the microbes would consume 700 pounds of carbon from the soil,” added Anderson. “The carbon comes from the organic matter in the soil, so the higher the organic matter the more nutrients available, so an over application of N will result in a drastic drop in the organic matter.”

An over use of N will reduce organic matter and lower the ph level of soil, which is harmful for crops.

“By adding a carbon source like soluble humic acid like I did with the commercial fertilizer, the soil condition will be fertile and more conducive to growth,” said Anderson. “