Humates are considered commercially available forms of humic matter for use in agriculture, environmental, industrial, livestock and human wellbeing.
Humates are in essence the salts of humic and fulvic acids. Humic compounds make up the bulk of organic matter in the World抯 soils. Through millions of years compaction of plant and animal material, this material can be found Worldwide. Humic matter comes from a variety of sources including aquatic environments, geologic deposits and wetlands. Humic matter is also created from agricultural, industrial and municipal activities.
Humates have been used in agriculture for many years, possibly thousands of years by early corn, squash and bean farmers in the Southwest U.S. In other countries, humic and fulvic acid use has been ongoing for many years with continual dollars put into research. However, In the U.S. there has been much misinformation regarding the use of humates, unintentionally spread by suppliers, distributors and marketers who are not scientists and who do not understand the humate research available (this is also due to lack of uniform testing, which we will go into later). Only in the last decade or so have we even understood how humates work. We now talk of an auxin-like response, not really knowing what causes it. It was never realized how effective humate was at very low application rates and how much soil change it can effect in a short time. Stimulation of biomass production at the bottom of the food chain is a part of the benefit of humates. Release of essential minerals from the soil for plant uptake is part of this process.
Result of Humate depletion
Humic acids are crucial to life on earth and when they become depleted via oxidation or deactivated by sodium or aluminum, soil problems develop and can cause negative effects all the way up the food chain. Conditions of soil depletion resulting in low yield and/or susceptibility to diseases and pests have resulted in devastating effects for many civilizations of the past. Once humus (organic matter) is depleted, trace element availability along with phosphorus and calcium availability starts to decline. Anthropologists have observed this in many ancient civilizations. Human skeletons have shown the effects of deficiencies such as dental problems, osteoporosis and bone degeneration possibly resulting in many dying at young ages. When zinc is depleted learning ability is lost in the population along with fertility, and that is the end of that civilization. Analyzing the bone of the compound builder? civilization of the U.S. Midwest has proved this. Bones found at the bottom of the mounds were in good health, whereas those found towards the top of the burials (or the end of the mound builders civilization) teeth and bone problems were very apparent through analysis of low-level zinc, calcium and phosphorus mineral content. Therefore, we can learn about mistakes of past civilizations concerning the need for improving agricultural soils through use of humate product, but are we doing enough in this country to reduce this problem? Other countries of the world are becoming more and more interested in humates, have completed large-scale research projects in many areas of humic use and have incorporated use of humates into their agricultural practices with much success.