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Are you using a top quality Humic Fulvic Acid product? This is our checklist to find it out!

One of the biggest challenges in the Humic Acid industry is the lack of tests that measure the quality of Humic Fulvic acids and not just their quantity.

Challenged by this situation, we carried out an insightful market study with the objective of better understanding what is for sale in the international Humic Fulvic Acids market. From the results, we have developed a series of indicators that could help in the assessment of the quality of Humic and Fulvic Acid products. Here you have our checklist to assess the quality of Humic and Fulvic acids and some of the most interesting findings.

1. Quantity: does the label match the real contents inside the bottle?

A high quality Humic Fulvic Acid would obviously contain or exceed the concentration of Humic and Fulvic Acids that the manufacturer has declared on their own label. However, in our study we found out that more than 50% of the products in the international market did not meet the concentration or quantity of Humic Fulvic Acids that were declared on the manufacturers own label.

In some cases, this could be related to the varied tests used in different countries or by different companies. However, the most concerning was that a high proportion of the products that did not achieve the declared label concentration could never have reached their declared content, regardless of the test used.

 

2. Is it 100% soluble?

A high quality Humic Fulvic Acid product would incorporate only 100% soluble Humic Fulvic Acids to keep filters and drippers free from blockages. But, 1 in every 3 products contained high levels of fine insoluble particles that could potentially block irrigation equipment.

We found three main types of insoluble products:

  • precipitated Humic Fulvic Acids that had become insoluble during storage
  • remnants of the raw material that remained after processing
  • micronised raw materials

A high quality product is designed to avoid the precipitation of Humic Fulvic Acids during storage and across seasons. Regarding raw materials, while it is inevitable that a small quantity of these will remain in the final product, there were large variations in insolubles levels between the products analysed. Most high quality Humic Acids should not contain any raw material remnants that will not pass through a 200 mesh (74 micron) sieve to minimise the risk of blockages.

In some cases, when the insoluble particles of the product were removed, there were little to no soluble Humic Fulvic Acids remaining. This indicates that micronised Leonardite, or other unrefined or unpurified micronised materials were utilised in the product. As a result, the Humic and Fulvic Acids in these particular products would not have been available in the soil, or to plants, possibly for decades.

A high quality Humic Fulvic product would be highly refined by the manufacturer, with all of the Humic Fulvic Acids delivered in a soluble form (either liquid or highly soluble granule / powder) for immediately functionality when applied to the soil, or sometimes in the case of Fulvic Acids the crop.

 

3. Which raw material does it use?

With so many sources of Humic Fulvic Acids now available in the market a high quality Humic Fulvic Acid product should be derived from well-researched, established, natural sources of Humic Fulvic Acids. Novel sources of Humic Fulvic Acids, with no scientific literature to validate their claims, should be treated with caution.

American Leonardite is a safe bet when dealing with this indicator. American Leonardite remains the most widely studied and understood source of all supplementary Humic Fulvic Acids sources in the international market.

 

4. What is the pH?

At a simpler level, the pH of the liquid Humic Fulvic Acid product, while still in the bottle, can give some useful indications:

  • A pure liquid Humic Fulvic Acid product (e.g. one that is not mixed with NPK, etc) with a high proportion of Humic Acids will typically have a pH close to 11
  • A product that is high in Fulvic Acids will usually have a pH around pH 6 – 7
  • A product with more equal proportions of both Humic and Fulvic Acids will often have a pH of about 9

Of course, this is only an indicative test. pH can be influenced by other factors, so it does not indicate quality by itself. However, these indicators can still be useful for growers and distributors when reviewing products side by side and a no-frills, low-cost pH meter is all that is needed.

For example, if a product claims very high Humic Acid proportions, relative to Fulvic Acids, but the pH is 8, this indicates contradictory information as a product very high in Humic Acids should have a pH closer to 11. Similarly, a product that claims high Fulvic Acids but has a pH of 10 is also indicating contradictory information, as it would be expected to have a lower pH and this would also call into question the quality of the product as data and product claim are not aligned.

 

5. What colour is your product?

Humic Acids tend to have a black colour, whereas Fulvic Acids are often brown. While this is a subjective indicator, and can be influenced by extraction process or manipulated, it is a quick and low-cost way for growers and distributors when looking for contradictory indicators that can call a product’s quality into question. A high quality product rich in Humic Acids will usually have strong black colour and a high quality product rich in Fulvic Acids will have a lighter caramel or brown colour.

 

6. Cutting Edge Technologies to assess the quality of Humic Fulvic Acids

A Humic Fulvic Acid product usually contains 10’s or 100’s of different types of Humic and Fulvic Acids. One of the most detailed and effective qualitative tests that can be used to analyse both quantity and theoretical quality of Humic Fulvic Acids is pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry (py-gcms).

Py-gcms is an analysis method that allows all the different types, and sizes, of Humic Fulvic Acids in a product to be analysed, quantified, and visualised. It is so accurate that it can be described as a creating a chemical fingerprint, identifying the individual Humic or Fulvic Acids at a chemical level, as well as their concentration.

This method is so detailed that in effect it allows each product to be more or less identified back to the manufacturer, even without product labels or other identifying features. So, two companies can take the same raw material, for example American Leonardite, and through using their differing Humic Fulvic Acid extraction processes, each resultant product will have different quantities of each individual Humic and Fulvic acids type in the final product. This explains why Humic Fulvic Acid products extracted from similar raw materials do not always perform the same in the field.

These cutting-edge techniques, while still expensive and requiring extremely specialised equipment, are increasingly available and offering new insights into the differences in quantity and quality of Humic Fulvic Acid.

 

7. What are the agronomic results?

Of course, the true and best test of the quality of Humic Fulvic Acids is performance in the field. Humic and Fulvic acids have differing results in soil or plants with each having differing strengths. Knowing the relative strengths of each before selecting a product allows growers and distributors to choose the option that is best suited to their particular agronomic needs.

  • Humic Acids are typically most effective at improving root biomass and have a strong secondary effect of strengthening soil structure. They should be applied directly to the soil as a soil spray, drench, or fertigation.
  • Fulvic Acids also have positive root biomass effects, but their effect is shorter as they degrade quicker. High quality Fulvic Acids are generally recognised as having a higher nutrient complexing capacity in soil and when tankmixing, compared with Humic Acids. Thanks to their smaller relative size and higher nutrient complexing capacity, Fulvic Acids have better foliar absorption potential compared to Humic Acids.

For best agronomic efficiency, co-application to soil of high quality Humic and Fulvic Acids will give the best combination of rooting, soil structure and nutrient recovery.

It is important to emphasise that all crop types will respond to high quality Humic Fulvic Acids when applied to soil to promote root growth. However, the quantity of root produced and other agronomic effects vary and depend both on the quality and quantity of Humic and Fulvic Acids used, as well as the individual crop type to which they were applied.

 

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