Condition Soil to Optimize Organic Matter Levels

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Soil serves as the foundation for growing plants. Conditioning it and optimizing soil health can pay dividends because healthy soil creates conditions for producing high-yielding, high-quality crops.

We at recently introduced a soil conditioner made from humic and fulvic acids. Named Dinosaur Dirt, the product originates from naturally occurring oxidized coal that is high in humified organic matter and low in impurities. Coal deposits used to make Dinosaur Dirt formed as organic matter decayed millions of years ago.

In an agricultural context, the humic and fulvic acids found in Dinosaur Dirt play distinct yet complementary roles for conditioning the soil and enhancing plant health. Together, humic and fulvic acids contribute organic matter, which improves soil composition and plant productivity.

Soil organic matter has several important roles. Those reported by the University of Minnesota as examples include chelating nutrients, enabling soils to hold more nutrients, enhancing soil water-holding capacity, minimizing soil moisture evaporation, discouraging erosion and compaction and serving as a food source for soil microbial life and other organisms. Ultimately, by maximizing soil organic matter levels, producers can drive yields higher and minimize input expenses.

The humic acid in Dinosaur Dirt improves soil structure by portioning the soil into smaller particles. This structural change creates a supportive environment for soil microbial life. It also improves soil aeration and water and nutrient retention. Soil microbes are important as they stimulate plant and root growth, enable crops to manage stresses, solubilize nutrients and offer protection from pathogens. Soils that retain water well encourage plant resilience during dry or drought-like conditions.

Relative to humic acid, fulvic acid supplied through a Dinosaur Dirt application has a smaller particle size, and it interacts with root surfaces and pores. Ultimately, exposing roots to fulvic acid enhances nutrient uptake. Plants that absorb more nutrients produce healthier crops.

Field crop producers may have recently started considering humic and fulvic acid applications, but the organic, greenhouse and horticulture sectors have already adopted the practice in many cases, according a publication from Iowa State University. In a row crop setting, the university explains that humic acid and fulvic acid applications at the appropriate rate may encourage plant growth, promote root development and enable plants to access and absorb nutrients.

Specifically, Dinosaur Dirt applications can improve the soil and growing environment by supporting better water retention; enhancing phosphorus, sulfur and nitrogen uptake; and optimizing nitrogen retention.

Realizing these benefits hinges on appropriately applying Dinosaur Dirt. Dinosaur Dirt is available as a spreadable solid or a soluble powder that can be mixed with a liquid and sprayed. When applying Dinosaur Dirt as a spreadable solid, we at suggest applying 100 pounds per acre to 400 pounds per acre annually.

The specific recommendation will depend on the soil's baseline condition. A soil's appearance and color can help growers to gauge current humic and fulvic acid content of their soils. Darker soils tend to contain more humates, and they would require less extensive Dinosaur Dirt applications. Soils that would benefit most from Dinosaur Dirt being applied are those that have a low cation exchange capacity, high pH, high bicarbonates level or sandy characteristics. Supplementing organic matter and humic and fulvic acids to such soils would improve their productivity capabilities.

Producers using Dinosaur Dirt will begin to see results in the first year. However, the product's soil-building effects are cumulative. In other words, soil health will gradually improve over time when crop fertility programs continue conditioning the soil. Additionally, data have supported that humic and fulvic acid supplementation can be a key feature of high-yielding crop programs.

To learn more about improving soil conditions or using Dinosaur Dirt, call me at 816-773-6018.