Updated: Oct 4, 2020
The use of fossilized humates to promote plant growth may still be met with skepticism in some corners of agricultural science, but there is one fact everyone can agree on — sales of humates and humic and fulvic acid are showing strong growth worldwide.
P & S Market Research in New York City estimated that the global market for the use of humic acid in agriculture was about $326 million two years ago, and the firm expects those sales to top $674 million by 2020 — a compound annual growth rate of almost 13%.
Humates and humic and fulvic acid are used regularly around the world on thousands of growing operations as varied as pineapple plantations, Amish farms, landscaping, alfalfa fields and golf courses — even the turf where the NFL held Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena. Yet the use of humates, humic and fulvic acid is only now becoming a more mainstream practice in agriculture, even though scientists have been studying those substances and their value in promoting plant growth for more than 200 years.
Part of the problem may be that scientists must remove as many variables in an experiment as possible to come to solid conclusions, but the lack of industry standards and consistency of products used in the experiments confounded results. Commercial providers of powdered humate and liquid extracts sell products with widely different compositions of humic and fulvic acids, along with other key organic compounds.
But soil amendments that can’t be evaluated on nutrient composition like common NPK fertilizers are being noticed by organizations such as the American Society of Agronomy, which posted a self-study course in its Crops & Soils magazine for crops consultants on the use of water soluble mined humates and other products. The society recommended that crops advisers “consider these products with an open mind” as they may enhance the uptake of nutrients by plants.
European organic farms appear to be ahead of the United States in terms of adopting the use of humate, humic and fulvic acid to enhance the uptake of minerals by plants. P & S Market found that the key driver in rising sales globally of humic acid came from farmers in Spain, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Eastern Europe. In particular, Russia and the Slavic countries have used humate-based amendments for decades.
The United States shows some signs of catching up in this field, in both the manufacture and use of mined humate products for agricultural applications. There are documented reports that farmers applied humic acids derived from fossil sources on their crops in the 1930s, and now thousands of users ranging from the avid gardeners to agribusiness operations use humic and fulvic acids regularly to promote plant growth.
Humates have been mined for decades in America, primarily for the use in oil drilling mud. While small humate mines devoted to agricultural uses opened and closed from the 1960s to the 1980s, it’s clear that there are now more and larger operations devoted to mining humate for agriculture in the United States than ever before.
AgTonik’s mine in Mississippi has been a small scale operation for decades as a supplier of soluble humic and fulvic acids in both dry powder and liquid extract forms, and the company is now scaling up its manufacturing to meet the higher demands for its products. Further, AgTonik employs independent laboratories using two different chemical testing methods to provide true and consistent assays of its products to customers.