How Humate Works

Main Benefits of Humate:

  • Increases root respiration and root formation, resulting in a stronger root system.
  • Facilitates absorption of nutrients and increases capacity for cation exchange.
  • Provides energy and nutrition source to beneficial organisms that influence plant health and soil fertility.
  • Enhances aeration of soil and increases water retention of heavy and compact soils.
  • Decreases the losses of water and nutrients in lighter, sandy soils.
  • Minimizes erosion by creating stronger root systems.
  • Increases the abilities to grow higher quality crops.
  • Enhances the performances of urea, fertilizers and lime when added to them.
  • Increases strike rates and root growth of seeds.

Unlocking Minerals

Phosphorus fertilizers bond with ions of Ca, Mg, Al and Fe present in soil and form inert compounds that are not accessible to plants. Most soils contain large amounts of minerals that plants cannot access.

Repeated field studies have shown that adding humic substances to soil aids in neutralizing the pH levels of both acidic and alkaline soils . Once the soil is neutralized, trace elements formerly bound in the soil and unavailable to plant roots because of alkaline or acidic conditions become accessible. Humic substances also liberate carbon dioxide (CO2) from calcium carbonates already imbedded within soils. The freed CO2. may be taken up by the plant or it may form carbonic acids. The carbonic acids act on soil minerals to release plant nutrients.

Enhancing Fertilizer Performance

The electrical features of Humate influence known chemical reactions. Both groups of complex organic acids, humic acids and fulvic acids have been proven to be involved in three specific chemical reactions. These reactions are commonly termed: (1) electrostatic (columbic) attraction (2) complex formation or chelation and (3) water bridging.

Electrostatic attraction of trace minerals reduces leaching into subsoil. The cation is readily available in the soil environment for transport into the plant roots or exchanged for another metal cation.

Electrically charged sites on humic substances function to dissolve and bind trace minerals. This is termed chelation. Evidence for the dissolution of minerals can be supported by x ray diffraction and infrared analysis. Chelation of plant nutrients such as iron (Fe), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn) and calcium (Ca) reduces their toxicity as cations, prevents their leaching and increases their uptake rate by plant roots.

The chelation process also increases the mass flow of micronutrient mineral elements to the roots.

The chelation of heavy toxic metallic elements present within the soil is also influenced by humic substances present. When toxic heavy metals such as mercury (Hg), lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) are chelated these organo metal complexes become less available for plant uptake.

Water bridging is an important function of humic and fulvic acids. Water bridging is believed to improve the mobility of nutrient ions through the soil solution to the root. These mechanisms also help reduce leaching of plant nutrients into the subsoil.

The humic will grab and hold newly applied fertilizer just as it frees up and holds minerals already in the soil. In this way, less is lost to the environment and more is made available to the plant.

Fungi and fulvic in Humate also greatly increase the transfer of minerals into the plant.

Enhancing Urea Performance

There is no doubt that nitrogen boosts plant growth and of course growth is nothing more than cell production. As new cells form, they look for calcium to help with cell structure and if they cannot find it they take up water instead.

This is why grass generated by heavy applications of urea has no strength and is watery, producing watery excrement. Crops will be the same and drying them out will show this as their size shrinks more than it should.

Urea is also notoriously short acting and, by the end of a week, it absent from the soil and what plants do not take up is lost to the waterways and the atmosphere. Nitrogen, like potassium, is water soluble and easily washed out of the soil.

In addition to polluting waterways, farm emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas much more potent that carbon dioxide – account for about a sixth of national emissions, twice as much as produced by all the gas and coal burned in power stations.

Perhaps the most dramatic impact of Humate is on urea because it will hold and slow release the nitrogen, leading to much higher (greater than 40 percent) dry matter and more volume.

Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC)

Soils have a cation exchange capacity (CEC) rating that indicates its ability to hold and exchange plant nutrient cations. In simpler language, it is a measure of the soil’s ability to hold the fertilizer you apply (instead of it being leached) and transfer it to plants.

In most soils the CEC rating is 12-14 but in sandy soils it can be 1-2.

In peat it is 40-50 because there is a close correlation between the holding ability and how much carbon and humus is in the soil. Humate generally have a CEC of 200 and our Humate range can be varied to suit from our R&D to levels of up to 4000.

By adding Humate the holding capacity of any soil will increase dramatically.

Reducing Toxicity

Humate stabilises or assists in the degradation of toxic substances such as: nicotine, aflatoxins, antibiotics, shallots and most organic pesticides. In the microbial degradation process, not all carbon contained within the toxins is released as CO2. A portion of these toxic molecules, primarily the aromatic ring compounds are stabilized and integrated within the complex polymers of humic substances.

Humic substances have electrically charged sites on their surfaces which function to attract and inactivate pesticides and other toxic substances. For this reason the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends the use of Humate for clean up of toxic waste sites. Many bioremediation companies apply Humate based compounds to toxic waste sites as a part of their clean up program. Growers interested in cleaning up their soils (destroying various toxic pesticides) can accelerate the degradation of poisons (toxins) by applying humic substances.

Reduces Salt

The presence of humic substances within saline soils (those soils which contain high salt concentrations, e.g. sodium chloride) aid in the transmutation of the sodium ions. The transmutation reactions, a biological process that occurs within living organisms, result in the combining of sodium with a second element, such as oxygen, to form a new element.

Application of humins, humic acids and fulvic acids to saline soils, in combination with specific soil organisms, results in a reduction in the concentration of sodium salts (e.g. NaCI). The reduction is not correlated with a leaching of the salt, rather with an increase in the concentration of other elements. The addition of humic substances to soils containing excessive salts can help reduce the concentration of those salts. By reducing the salt content of a soil its fertility and health can be “brought back” to provide a more desirable environment for plant root growth.

Prevents and Counteracts Disease

Harmful soil enzymes are stabilized and inactivated by humic substances. Once stabilised and bound to the humic substances enzyme activity is greatly reduced or ceases to function.

These enzyme stabilization processes help to restrict the activity of potential plant pathogens. As the potential plant pathogen releases enzymes designed to break down the plants defenses, the pathogens enzymes become bound to humic substances. As a result the pathogens are unable to invade potential host plants.

Minimizes Soil Texture Challenges

Humic substances are key components of a friable (loose) soil structure. As the humic substances become intimately associated with the mineral fraction of the soil, colloidal complexes of humus-clay and humus silt aggregates are formed. These aggregates are formed by electrical processes, which increase the cohesive forces that cause very fine soil particles and clay components to attract each other. Once formed these aggregates help create a desirable crumb structure in the topsoil, making it more friable. Soils with good crumb structure have improved tilth and more porous openings (open spaces). These pores allow for gaseous interchange with the atmosphere and for greater water infiltration.

Clay Disaggregation

Clay particles normally lay together flat, but are repelled by the negative charges across their face. Salt (Na+) is present in minor amounts.

Soils with high clay content can become so dense and compact that they may resist plant rooting.

Humate loosens soil, allowing roots penetrate more easily. Humic acid’s effect on clay soil is more evident as time passes. In heavy clay soils, six months or more may be needed before you will see a noticeable improvement in the soil’s density.

Increases Water Retention

Humate helps create a desirable soil structure that facilitates water infiltration and helps hold water within the root zone. Because of the large surface area and internal electrical charges, humic substances function as water sponges. These sponge like substances have the ability to hold seven times their volume in water, a greater water holding capacity than sod clays. Water stored within the topsoil when needed, provides a carrier medium for nutrients required by soil organisms and plant roots.

Soils which contain high concentrations of humic substances hold water for crop use during periods of drought. This is why growers who apply Humate based fertilizers and integrate production practices that preserve humic substances, can frequently harvest a crop during periods of dry weather.

Stabilizes Soil Temperature

Humate help stabilises soil temperatures and slow the rate of water evaporation. The insulating properties of humic substances help maintain a more uniform soil temperature, especially during periods of rapid climatic changes, such as cold spell or heat waves. Because water is bound within the humic substances and humic substances reduce temperatures fluctuations, soil moisture is less likely to be released into the atmosphere.

Improves Seed Germination

Whether seeds are coated in our seed mix (50 percent powdered Humate/50 percent seaweed) or dipped in fulvic, humic or liquid Humate, strike rates and growth speed increase.

For improved germination to occur, the humic substances must be present within the cells of seeds. As the humic substance enter the seed cells, respiration rate increases and cell division processes are accelerated. The same respiratory processes enhance root meristem development and activate other growing points within the seedlings. Humic substances have been demonstrated to enhance mitotic activity during cell division under carefully controlled experiments. Placement of these humic substances on seeds (seed treatment) or within the seed furrow will significantly improve seed germination and seedling development.

Enhances Root Systems

Humate has a very pronounced influence on the growth of plant roots. When humic acids and/or fulvic acids are applied to soil enhancement of root initiation and increased root growth are observed.

Root stimulation occurs when the smaller molecular components within fulvic acid occur at concentrations that range from 10 to 100 mg/liter of solution. Growth is further stimulated when fulvic acids are used in combination with humic acids and otheressential plant nutrients.

Use with Foliar Sprays

Liquid Humate, humic acid and fulvic acids are excellent foliar fertilizer carriers and activators. Their applications in combination with trace elements and other plant nutrients, as foliar sprays, can improve the growth of plant foliage, roots and fruits.


By increasing plant growth processes within the leaves an increase in carbohydrates content of the leaves and stems occurs. These carbohydrates are then transported down the stems into the roots where they are in part released from the root to provide nutrients for various soil microorganisms on the rhizoplane and in the rhizosphere. The microorganisms then release acids and other organic compounds, which increase the availability of plant nutrients. Other microorganisms release “hormone like” compounds, which are taken up by plant roots.

Energy metabolism is accelerated and the chlorophyll content of plant leaves is enhanced by the presence of Humate substances. When applied to plant leaves the chlorophyll content of those leaves increases and as the chlorophyll concentration increases there is a correlated increase in the uptake of oxygen.

Foliar applications can be timed to meet the needs of specific plant growth requirements such as to activate vegetative growth, flowering, fruit set, or filling and ripening of fruits.

Contact U-Mate International Inc. and our technical team will recommend a solution for you.