We interview Claudia Bono Mestre to talk about potassium humate. She studied in the ETSIA of the UPV and is currently working in Even Agro S.L., company that is associated to AEFA and that manufactures and sells fertilizers and biostimulants, not only at a national level, but also internationally.
Claudia, what is potassium humate?
Potassium humate is a 100% water-soluble powder product. Is has a high concentration and provides organic matter and potassium, so not only improves the soil in a physical, chemical and biological level, but also provides one of the three primary elements that every plant needs. It is recommended for its dilution in the water with which farmers prepare the mix and be used like the traditional liquid humic acids, to be applied to the soil through the fertirrigation system.
When we use potassium humate, we are providing a high percentage of humic acids, and also a small amount of fulvic acids.
Which is the manufacture process?
For the manufacture of potassium humate, we start with mineral leonardite. After the proper treatment of this raw material, we obtain humic extracts of more quality and agronomically profitable.
Leonardite is a humified substance (vegetal material that is been decomposed since antiquity. It has a high content of organic matter and it is in the middle point between the turf and lignite total transformation to carbon. The manufacture process or extraction is complex and it is required the use of the needed raw materials in their right proportion to obtain an optimal extraction, which is done by potassium hydroxide (to get the best final product). The final result is a liquid product that is dried and commercialized in bags of different size.
Which is the difference between applying the solid and liquid formulations?
The humic acid concentration in solid products is higher than in the liquid ones.
Thus, with a small dose of product, it is obtained an important effect on the crop. However, the dose with liquid products should be higher.
As solid products are very concentrated, we only move during transport the material that is going to have a positive effect on soils, avoiding the movement of water. This water would be used later by the farmer in order to have the mixture and dilute the product directly on the field, before its application through the irrigation system. As an alternative, it can be used liquid humic acids, being in this case containers of 1000 l volume or carafes of 20 l the most common packaging; as the dose per hectare to be used is around 40-50 l/ha, divided in several applications.
Although the product can also be applied via foliar or directly to the soil, it is recommended the application after dilution with the irrigation water, because it is on the soil where it will have a big effect. With this technique, the product is dilute in the water that will be used later for the irrigation, profiting the flux of water as a carrier of the product. This modality entail water and energy saving and avoid environment pollution.
Which is its agronomic activity?
It improves the soil at physical, chemical and biological levels, so the structure is improved, as well as the cation exchange capacity and the soil microorganisms. As a consequence, the nutrient assimilation is better, and not only the growth and development of the crop is favoured, but also the quality of crops is improved.
When we apply the product, we are providing one of the biochemicalliest active materials that can be found on soils. Nowadays it we use this kind of product because it has a recognised and growing use because of its beneficial impact on the growth of crops, being specially noticeable in the soils with few organic matter.
The benefits of its use are:
- Addition of organic matter to deficient soils and increase of soil fertility.
- Increase of vitality and root development.
- Increase of the cation exchange capacity and improvement of nutrient absorption.
- Increase of chlorophyll synthesis.
- Improvement of seed germination.
- Stimulation of beneficial microbial activity.
- Improves the soil structure and the water retention capacity.
- It naturally chelates the microelements of alkaline soils and increases its availability for plants.
The plant growth is improved through the structural improvement of the soil, not only in clay soils, but also in the sandy ones; it improves the development and the radicular growth. When this product is applied to clay soils, it helps to break the compacted soils and it allows to increase the water penetration and to improve the growth and development area of roots. When it is applied to sandy soils, it adds the essential organic matter, which is needed for water retention. Therefore, roots can grow and the clay soils can keep and avoid the washing of vital nutrients for plants.
The plant growth is also favoured, due to the improvement of the plant hability for absorbing nutrient. It is especially beneficial for the liberation of the nutrients that are retained on the soil, so it makes them available for the plant when it needs them.
The activity of the beneficial soil microorganisms is crucial for the soil sustainability and for the plant growth. Humic acids stimulate the microbial activity, because they are a carbon source for their alimentation, favouring then their growth and activity. Soil microorganisms are responsible of the nutrient solubilization, like phosphor, making them available for the plant. Besides, microorganisms are responsible too for the continuous formation of hummus in the soil, because they break organic matter that is not completely decomposed.
The use of the product on a regular basis reduces the fertilization needs, because both, soil and plant, are going to do a better use of nutrients. In some cases, fertilization can be completely eliminated if the is enough organic matter, so the soils can be self-sufficient through the microbial processes and the hummus production.
Finally, what is more interesting for farmers is that plants are more healthy, with a stimulated growth and it is obtained a higher productivity, profitability and quality of the harvest.
Would it be suitable to improve the natural fertility of the soil?
This is like the main question, from
which the interview stats. And the answer is of course. Even more, it has
activity in different levels:
- Incrementa la capacidad de retención de agua.
- Increases the soil airing.
- Improves the soil work.
- Helps to resist drought.
- Improves germination.
- Makes the soil more friable or breakable.
- Reduces soil erosion.
- It chelates nutrients to improve its absorption by plants.
- It has a high cation exchange capacity.
- Increases the buffering capacity of soils.
- Increases the total nitrogen percentage on soils.
- Accelerates the celular división and promotes growth.
- Increases the seeds germination and their viability.
- Increases the formation and respiration of roots.
- Stimulates growth and the proliferation of soil microorganisms.
- Helps the photosynthesis.
How humate potassium fit inside the current law?
At a national level, according the Real Decreto 999/2017 de 24 de noviembre that modifies the Real Decreto 506/2013 de 28 de junio about fertilizer products, it would be classified in the 4th group of other fertilizers and special producs, as humic acids are in the 3rd point. According to this paragraph, this is a product obtainer by treatment or process of lignite, leonardite, turf or any of the organic amendment of the 6th group, which essentially has humic acids. They must have a mínimum of 7% humic acids and a total humic extract (humic + fulvic acids) of 15%.
At a european level, we need to have a look to the REGULATION (EU) 2019/1009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 June 2019 laying down rules on the making available on the market of EU fertilising products and amending Regulations (EC) No 1069/2009 and (EC) No 1107/2009 and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003. According this legislation, it would be classified as bioestimulant, which are products that stimulate the nutrition processes on plants, independently of the nutrient content of the product, which the only objective of improving one or several of the following characteristics of the plant or its rhizosphere:
a) efficience in the use of nutrients
b) tolerance to abiotic stress
c) quality characteristics
d) availability of nutrients that are inmobilized in the soil or the rizosphere
This product fits the Group number 6 of plant biostimulants, specifically as non-microbial biostimulant.
Is it affected by any other legislation?
This product is registered in REACH as potassium humate (humic acids, potassium salts) with EC number: 271-030-1 and CAS: 68514-28-3. Concretely Even Agro has the REACH number: 01-2119484861-29-0014. Therefore, we respect the quality and security standards that ECHA requires (European Chemical Agency).
Can it be used for organic farming?
It is a product that can be used for Organic Farming according to the Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products. The certifying companies have it validated because of its characteristics as solid humic extract.