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Carbon Nutrient Management

Developing humic-based programs to enhance soil health

Plant health has traditionally gotten a lot of attention from farmers, but to achieve greater yields and higher quality crops, growers are now focusing on soil health as well. Besides adding nutrients, keeping the land well irrigated and avoiding compaction, farmers can further enhance the overall health of the soil by implementing a humic-based management program.

How it works

A soil-centric nutrient management plan works by adding humics to enrich the ecosystem of the soil. So what are humics and why do they have such a positive impact on the health of the soil? Humic substances are produced by the biodegradation/decomposition of dead organic matter. They are the major organic constituents of soil, peat and compost. Humics stimulate microbial activity, help break up compaction, assist in transferring micronutrients from the soil to the plant, enhance water retention, increase seed germination and improve the breakdown of plant residue. In their natural state, however, humics do not dissolve, making then more difficult for growers to use and reducing their effectiveness in the fields.

Joe Dedman, Vice President of Agronomy at Monty's® Plant Food Co., explains how his company has changed how humics work. "When we extract the humic substances from brown coal, we have a unique, proprietary process that activates the humics making them soluble," Dedman says. "The activated humics act as a catalyst in the soil, complementing everything that's native to the soil.

There are many humic-based products available on the market that have little or no effect on the soil. "It's important that growers understand the difference," adds Dedman, "otherwise they may purchase a product that is much less effective."

The Humic Advantage

The benefits of a humic-based soil health program are far reaching. Crops respond positively as healthy soil makes for healthy plants. Dedman lists some of the well-recognized advantages of a humic-based soil health program. Humics have demonstrated the ability to:

  • Chelate (bind) soil nutrients;
  • Improve nutrient uptake;
  • Remove toxins from soils;
  • Stimulate soil biological activity;
  • Solubilize minerals;
  • Improve soil structure; and
  • Improve water-holding capacity.

Developing a custom program

Humic-based products can be used with any crop. "Even homeowners wanting to enhance their plants and garden at home can see benefits from the humics," Dedman says.

Usually, growers will add humics to their fields whenever they make a run so that they don't have to make an extra trip. "After harvest is a good time to put down the product, but it can really be added at any time. You can even put it down in row on the seed at planting," Dedman adds.

Every farm faces its own unique challenges, so a humic-based nutrient management program can be tailor-made. "We get soil samples, measure the soil compaction, determine grower practices and get as much information as we can. Depending on the severity of problems, we'll make recommendations of amounts and timing," Dedman says. "Monty's Liquid Carbon, available at many Southern States locations, is an ideal solution: its activated humic technology can improve the health of a growers' soil and maximize yields year after year. Monty's Liquid Carbon is OMRI listed with no restrictions on use or amount. It is non-corrosive to farm machinery and growers have discovered that when applying nitrogen, the addition of Monty's Liquid Carbon helps buffer the burn of the nitrogen on the plant."

For more information on humic-based soil nutrient programs, consult your local Southern States professional or local agronomist.

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