what is humic acid?
humic acid is the organic result of the degradation of organic matter. it’s not a single acid, but rather a complex group of multiple acids that form a humic colloid.
so what does that mean?
a humic colloid is going to be an emulsion or gel that consists of large particles all the way to microscopic particles. relating this to humic acid, the colloids will consist of a humic sludge like material (the large particles) that contains microscopic particles (fulvic and ulmic acids).
these ‘acids’ can play an interesting role in the development of soils, and in particular, turfgrass.
how does humic acid help?
to understand how humic acid helps we first have to understand what does humic acid consist of beyond the realm of particle sizes. humic substances vary in composition depending on where the originating product is sourced. but it’s common to see 50+% carbon chains, 40+% oxygen, plus a little hydrogen to top it off. being a direct source of carbon chains, it has the ability to chelate. chelating is the effect of taking an otherwise insoluble unusable form of an element and making it – well – usable. on top of that, being a carbon source, it also has the ability to capture and hold on to macronutrients, extending their release and root uptake efficiency.
the case for humic acids
humic acid alone is not a game changer for turfgrass professionals. as a standalone product, yes, you are providing benefit to the soil. but there is no immediate visual impact that would justify its continued use. so why use it? when combined with elemental micronutrients, humic acid plays a role as a chelating agent. this will aid in absorption through foliar and root uptake. also, applied in conjunction with macronutrients, it will extend the release and minimize the amount of loss through volitalization, leaching, and run off, due to its ability to tie the nutrients up in the carbon chains.
when choosing to use a humic acid, it’s important to consider your source, consider your fertility loads, and a performance need to be met. it’s the not the secret sauce, but it is an excellent tool we have in our arsenal.