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Agriculture: Humic acid as a remedy

By Khalid Mehmood

AGRICULTURE HAS been the mainstay of Pakistan’s economy for many years, though in recent years its importance has somewhat declined. There are several issues regarding agriculture, but some are directly associated with soil and plant productivity. The productivity-related issues are plant health, plant nutrient requirement, and improper use of fertilizer and availability of fertilizer or supplement at the right time. Both these issues reduce the overall productivity of crop and ultimately affect the yield at the country’s level.

Humic acid is known as the black gold of agriculture. It is a principal component of humic substances which are the major organic constituents of soil, peat, and coal. It is highly soluble in water and easily taken up by a plant as compared to fertiliser because it has numerous active sites which make it soluble in water. This property of humic acid makes it special when it is applied to the soil.

Humic substances (humic and fulvic acid) constitute 65 to 70 per cent of the organic matter in soils. It contains nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, copper and zinc. Humic acid is reported to be more beneficial in soils with less than two per cent organic matter contents. Pakistani soil has already less than one per cent of organic matter. So, this is very effective in our soil condition.

There is a growing interest in the use of humic acid as organic fertilizers or soil tonic. This may be attributed to 1) an interest in the reduction of the use of chemical fertilizers, 2) public concern for the potential polluting effects of chemicals in the environment, 3) a pressing need for energy conservation and 4) prices of fertilizers.

The supplementation of chemical fertilizers with cheaper lignite coal-derived humid acid could reduce cost of production without compromising on the yield. The humic acid is the natural product which is present in Pakistan’s lignite coal in reasonable concentrations and is used in agriculture and industry but on a limited scale.

Pakistani soils are usually deficient in this compound, though a minute quantity of which is necessarily required in the soil to facilitate proper agricultural growth. Researchers developed an economically feasible process for the production of humic acid from indigenous coals of Pakistan.

Several field trials have been conducted to observe the efficacy of humic acid produced from Pakistan coals and the results have been found satisfactory.

Experiments on normal calcareous irrigated soil showed that application of lignite coal-derived humic acid increased maize and wheat yield from 25 to 40 per cent. These are the major crops of Pakistan and contribute to the GDP on a sustainable basis.

Cotton being a salt-tolerant crop is grown on a large area of Pakistan. There are also numerous researches to assess the degree and extent of the use of humic acid as a low-cost organic supplement as compared to costly chemical fertilizer to enhance cotton yield in salt-affected soils.

Moreover, it can be used for soil amendment to improve soil quality and health. Pakistan soil is gradually becoming hard due to application of poor quality of ground water.

Humic acid is available with the concentration of five per cent and 10 per cent in packing of five, 10 or even 50kg but their purity is questionable.

So, the agriculture department should inspect the manufacturing places to make it a more reliable product in the market.

The agriculture department should create massive awareness to use humic acid at the farmer’s level. The government should recommend it as crop supplement or soil amendment along with fertilizer recommendation. The government should launch a programme to subsidize the humic acid on a commercial basis and provide it at cheaper rates.


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