I AM HUMUS

Those of you who are familiar with me and live with me, be sure that besides you, I feel like the luckiest entity in the Universe.

As always, with my humility, I will continue to allow you to obtain the highest harvest yields possible, at the lowest cost imaginable.

To those of you who know of me and don't yet live with me, I beg you for just one chance to help you.

Is it possible that some farmer would pass up the opportunity to harvest twice as much for half the cost?   That would be difficult to believe.

For those of you who are not familiar with me, let me introduce myself:

My name is HUMUS, at your service, personalized by the author of these pages as the cartoon that appears frequently in this site.

My father is The Great Architect of the Universe, or if you prefer, The Great Universal Energy, from wich we are all small parcels.

My mother, well, she is the Organic Matter, or if you prefer, The Great Universal Energy too.

My home, when they don't send me away or destroy me, is the soil.

It can be any soil.   Even the one on your farm or on your home garden.

My physical existence begins when organic matter, my mother, begins to decompose by the action of biochemical processes caused by microorganisms and by strictly chemical and physical phenomena.

Basically, organic matter is a mixture of various plant and animal residues wich all farmers, sometimes involuntarily incorporate into the soil, or leave abandoned on its surface.

Due to its plant and/or animal origins, that matter has incorporated into it an immense variety of microorganisms which decompose it in order to survive.

They remove from it energy and elements which are essential not only for their formation and survival, but also for their reproduction.

For this reason, the soil appears to us as a mass in a state of continuous evolution.

It is a living thing.

And it is precisely this organic matter and its constant decomposition which provide the soil with chemical and biological characteristics which are of an extreme importance to the life of the plants.

Organic matter can be therefore be considered to be composed of two parts or fractions.

The first consists of vegetable and animal residues in a constant state of decomposition which is identified as Non-Humic Matter or Non-Humic Substances, which by mineralization, produces carbohydrates and releases fertilizing elements.

That is why it is often identified as Nutritive Humus.

Non Humic substances play a very important role in soil dynamics as they provide the food for the vegetal microorganisms, and for microscopic animals in addition to more highly developed species such as the Annelids (ex.: earthworms).

The second part or fraction of organic matter, is dark colored, and is highly resistant to biological decomposition.

It has been identified as Stable Humus, Permanent Humus or Active Humus.

That is ME. Yes, here I am.

A black substance formed in soil by the decomposition of organic substances under the combined action of the air, the solar spectrum, humidity and micro-organisms.

I am Living Matter, and don't like to live alone.

I am always accompanied by micro-organisms such as bacteria, earthworms, algae, fungi and others.

I must confess, just between us, that without them, I could not exist.

The author of these lines chose to personify me as the cartoon that appears several times on this page.

I hope that he did not make me not too ugly.

My chemical composition consists, in a large part, of humic acids (you can say humic acid to make things easier for you), fulvic acids (you can say fulvic acid to make things easier for you) and insoluble humus, in addition to other more or less complex substances, such as amino acids, nucleic acids, phospholipids, phytin (thiamin phosphate), vitamins, hormones, enzymes, antibiotics, organometalic complexes and numerous other substances.

If somebody mixes me with ammoniac (NH4OH) at cool temperatures, I am transformed in a black liquid and in an insoluble precipitate.

That black liquid, is a colloidal substance called Ammonium Humate, formed by the combination of my humic acid with ammonium.

That insoluble precipitate is called Insoluble Humus.

My humic acid resembles a colloid in its behavior, which is similar to clay, however it is not technically a colloid.

Even so, it is more stable than clay.

Thus, it provokes the same absortion phenomena, but with much more intensity.

As I told you, I don't like to live alone.

And so, I am also associated with colloidal minerals in the soil, and in this fashion, I play a key role in maintaining the equilibrium of the retention and release of fertilizing elements, and even in water retention in the soil.

If someone were to compare me to colloidal mineral, I can guarantee that you could not determine which of us is more beneficial to the soil.

Together we are complete, and our presence is essential to the maintenance of agricultural productivity.

In the case of heavy or compacted soils, I produce a mechanical effect of disintegration, I increase the lacunary spaces, I stabilize the aggregates, increasing the soil's water retention capacity, and preventing the formation of surface crusts.

In this manner I improve water drainage and aeration, in this way reducing erosion caused by water.

Also as a result of these properties, I facilitate the activity of micro-organisms, and I create good conditions for the diffusion of plant roots and root hairs.

Because my presence the apparent density of soil is decreased.

In light soils, my colloidal composts have the opposite effect, agglutinating them and granulating them, giving them more body.

Lacunary spaces and consequently the permeability of the soil are reduced, while at the same time I increase its ability to retain water.

I also absorb water at a rate of 5 or 6 times my weight.

When I absorb water, I increase my volume, and when I loose it, my volume diminishes.

In this way, I change the soil structure, as a result of the mechanical movement that I cause.

As a consequence of my effect of granulation upon light soils, I avoid some of the erosion caused by the wind (aeolian erosion).

Since I reduce the plasticity and cohesion of the soil particles, in turn it is easier to work the soil.

Due to my dark tint, I darken the color of the soil, and as a result, as it is obvious, it absorbs a larger quantity of radiant energy.

In this way, the soil heats up more rapidly and cools more slowly, reducing the germination time for seeds.

This also reduces to a great extent the thermal oscillations to which soils are normally subjected.

I have an enormous Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), and when I'm in the soil, its CEC also increases.

As I've already explained, although I am not a colloid, I have a colloidal behavior, which is especially beneficial for sandy soils, since, I can increase in them the contents of colloidal elements.

Acting as a colloid, I have cohesive properties, and I cause the coagulation of sandy particles.

In this way, I facilitate the formation of aggregates, especially in the presence of bivalent cations, such as Calcium or Magnesium.

Just like a colloid, I am electronegative, and in this way, I absorb and retain nutritional elements in the form of cations, such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium or Ammonium, and I keep them from being leached, as a consequence of my electromechanical action.

However, I leave these elements sufficiently free as to be easily absorbed by the plants.

In fact, the substances of I am composed, provide a very useful source of nutrients, since these are supplied to the plants in a slow and progressive manner.

That is why whenI I am present in the soil, you require fewer mineral nutritive elements.

I have mentioned before that I increase the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and I am partially composed of organic acids, the humic acids.

When these acids are combined with Phosphorus and Calcium, they function as acidity buffers, and supply phosphates which are easily assimilated by the plants.

This most likely occurs in an amphoteric reaction similar to that which happens with milk.

The more humus you have in the soil, the better will be its resistance to shifts in pH.

Therefore, when the soil where I am present becomes acid or alkaline, there is no need to worry about adjusting its pH.  

Let me do my work first.

If I am not able to do everything, I'll ask for help.

Why should I permit someone to needlessly use limestone or Sulfur?

As a consequence of my humic acids, mineral substances in the soil are dissolved, and are made available to the plants.

An example of this is what I do with fixed Potassium in the soil.

As I already told you, and I will tell you again, I do not enjoy living alone, and if there is someone that I try to maintain nearby, it that part of my mother, which I named Non-Humic Matter, Non-Humic Substance or Nutritive Humus.

Nutritive Humus is very important, as it is the source of nutrients for micro-organisms.

And that is not all.

It also contributes to the formation of composts usefull for the metabolism of those organisms.

Some of the nutritive humus, is consumed by micro-organisms in the process of respiration, during which carbonic gas (CO2) is formed.

And some of this gas spreads into the atmosphere, and is assimilated by green plants through the action of chlorophyll.

Another part dissolves in the Soil Solution and forms carbonic acid, which dissolves nutritional elements which are in a form which cannot be assimilated.

It also contributes to the formation of a more stable granular structure through the dissolution of Calcium compounds.

During the biological transformation of organic compounds, those in the state which are easy to attack, decompose, while the more resistant ones accumulate.

The disappearance of the former, facilitates the transformation of the latter.

As long as the conditions are favorable, these are transformed through self-oxidation, condensation and polymerization into dark-colored humic compounds with a higher molecular weight.

Due to the respiration of micro-organisms, these consume large quantities of oxygen which is removed from air pockets in the soil, resulting in a reduction in the oxygen levels in that air.

What happens next is that elements such as Iron or Manganese, which in aerated soils are in an oxidized state (Fe+++ and Mn+++), and not available to the plants, are reduced to Fe++ and Mn++ form, which can be absorbed.

And I go on.

In the process of my formation, other organic complexes are also formed, as those of Iron, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, and other ones.

These elements are called microelements, and as they are maintained in the form of those organic complexes, they don't precipitate.   Therefore, they are always available for the plants.

I've known how to do this for a long long time, and I've always made that capacity available to whoever wants it.

However only recently, scientists have developed those sinthetic organometalic complexes known as chelates, which prevent the precipitation of those elements.

Let me summarize for you my primary functions in the soil:

1 - I improve its physical characteristics, facilitating the development of a structure which is beneficial for plant growth.

2 - I am a source of nutritive elements.

3 - I am a source of Carbon and I facilitate the formation of carbonic gas which, dissolved in the water of the soil forms carbonic acid, which improves its solubility capacity.

4 - I keep Phosphorus in a state which can be assimilated by plants, even in the presence of limestone and free Iron due to the formation of phospho-humic complexes.

5 - I am a very important source of Nitrogen.

6 - I reduce Potassium fixing (immobilization).

7 - I provide large quantities of micro-organisms to the soil, and I provide favorable conditions for their development.

9 - I improve the productivity of the soil, being justifiably considered to be the foundation of soil fertility.

Unfortunately, I slowly dissipate from cultivated soils.

Why? There are many reasons, some of which I will tell you about in the following.

Organic matter, such as plant residues and any residue that stays on soil after harvesting, are not present in sufficient quantities for me to be restored.   I am consumed faster than I am replaced.

Poorly aerated soil, either does not permit me to to be formed, or prevents my fixation to the soil.

Plowing or tilling of the soil are the activities which most contribute to my destruction.

I don't even want to speak about what happens when they burn the plant residues on the surface of the soil.

What a crime they commit against me.

The temperature and the humidity conditions present in poorly structured soils destroy me, or they inhibit my development.

Those soils from which I am depleted, become infertile, and make my restoration a very difficult task.

Sometimes the topography of the soil makes it difficult for me to develop.

And also, as with all living beings, the age of the soil doesn't my life any easier.

In a young soil, I am always present, although for no more than five years, if tf the soil is worked and they don't take care of me.

After people use the soil for agriculture, they forget me.   They use me, and don't replenish the organic matter which is essential for me to be formed again.   And finally, speaking the truth, they are sending me away.

But I'm not human. I have no feelings. I simply exist.

I don't get sad. I don't cry, I don't get happy, and the most important, I don't die, because somewhere, a small part of me still continues existing.   I could say that I move to places where people want me.

I am a form of energy, and there is no definition for energy.

We can only define the consequences of the several forms of energy.

So, I transform myself, as I can't be destroyied.

Whoever created me also provided, somewhere, always, a small fraction of soil for me to settle into.

Please, don't destroy this too.

However, I am not as good a boy as some might believe.

If one sends me away and wants me back, I must say that it takes a long time for me to return.

In the end, any living thing requires some time to reach adulthood, and to be able to exercise fully the activities of its species.

And finally, in one form or another, I am Living Matter.

If you want me to return, and you follow the natural processes, you would normally incorporate additional organic matter into the soil, maybe even using those known "organic composts "or "cured manures".   However after 5 years you will only have 6,0 or 7,0 % of the organic matter changed into my person.

It really takes a long time, doesn't it?

Now, there is no reason for anybody to be sad, nor even to desist of the idea of having me.

In the long run it is the best idea one could have.

Some groups of academics and researchers, in the fields of Agronomy, Engineering, Biology, Biomedicine, and Biochemistry, were concerned about my gradual disappearance, and for being my friends, they decided to help me.

And they rolled up their sleeves and went work.

They researched Nature, they gathered data and information, they spent nights in their laboratories, and finally, they succeeded.

They discovered simple, inexpensive and efficient methods to stimulate the natural processes which make me develop and appear rapidly.

Based on the processes which have been discovered, after only 30 days, any organic material can have 40,0% of it's total converted to Active Humus, and in no more than 90 days, 70,0% will be this friend of yours, the Humus.

That is a lot more than the 5,0% of Humus that nature provides after 5 years.

You see?   I still have friends.

Well, my friends, this is ME, the HUMUS.

I hope that now, that you know me a little better, you will value me.

In this text, I've done my best to get you to know me a little better, showing you some of my main features.

I hope you have enjoyed me.

And if among yourselves, now that know me better, there is someone who wants me quickly in the soil of his farm, ask for that group of scientists I spoke you about.

Somewhere you will find them.

As for me, I'll go wherever I'm wanted.

May the Greatest Force of the Universe be with you always.

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