The constituents of soil play a crucial role in the growth of plants. According to soil science, humus depicts the part of soil organic matter that is amorphous and without the "cellular cake structure characteristic of plants, micro-organisms, or animals. Humus substantially affects the overall density of soil and helps to its retention of moisture and nutrients. However, the terms humus and compost are informally utilized interchangeably. In reality, they are different soil components with distinct origins; humus is made through anaerobic fermentation, whereas compost is defined as the result of aerobic decomposition.

What are Humic Substances?

Humic substances are defined as organic compounds that are crucial components of humus, the major organic fraction of soil, peat, and coal (and also a constituent of several upland streams, dystrophic lakes, and ocean water). For a long time in the 19th and 20th centuries, humic substances were often observed through a lens of acid-base theory that explained humic acids, such as organic acids, and their conjugate bases, humates, as vital components of organic matter. Through this perspective, humic acids were defined as organic substances extracted from the soil that coagulate (form small solid pieces) when a strong-base extract was acidified. Whereas, fulvic acids are organic acids that are still considered to be soluble when a strong-base extract is acidified.

Humic matter in isolation is explained as the result of chemical extraction from the soil organic matter or the dissolved organic matter. It represents the humic molecules distributed in the soil or water. The latest study views humic substances not as high-molecular-weight macro-polymers but as heterogeneous and relatively small molecular components of the soil organic matter auto-assembled in supramolecular links and made of a variety of compounds of biological origin and synthesized by abiotic and biotic reactions in the soil. It is the large molecular complexity of the soil home that confers to humic matter its bioactivity in soil and its role as a plant growth promoter.

About Humic Acid

As explained above, humic acid is a group of molecules that connect to, and support plant roots receive, water and nutrients. A surge in humic acid levels can substantially increase yields. Deficiency in humic acid levels can curb farmers and gardeners from growing crops with the most optimum amount of nutrition. Conventional wisdom today ignores humic acids, though, holding that it is impossible to grow and maintain an urban landscape such as a park, golf course, or lawn without high-analysis NPK fertilizers.

Some of the most common substances that are collectively considered as “humus” are:

  • Fulvic acid

A yellow or yellow-brown humic substance that is soluble in water under all pH conditions and is of low molecular weight.

  • Humic acid

A dark-brown humic substance that is soluble in water only at higher soil pH values and is of greater molecular weight than fulvic acid. Humic acid may remain for centuries in undisturbed soil.

  • Humin

A black humic substance that is not soluble in water at any pH, has a high molecular weight and is never found in base-extracted liquid humic acid products.

Benefits of Humic Acid

  • Using organic matter is certainly an efficient way to rematerialize soil that has been leached or has no chemical reactions, such as with some sands. Sand that has a low cation exchange capacity (CEC) has a problem in holding onto the cations of nutrients, and these cations can easily reach deep into the soil and become unavailable for plant uptake.
  • Humic acids are extremely vital, as they act as a medium for transporting nutrients from the soil to the plant because they can carry ionized nutrients with them, preventing them from leaching away. Humic acids are also attracted to the depletion zone of the plant root. When they get to the roots, they carry along water and nutrients the plant requires.
  • Often, sandy soils are unable to hold onto water when arid conditions are present and deficiency of humus is there. Sands reside in a condition of famine since water and nutrients are only available for a short time after they are applied. Biomolecules of humus can help in holding water and the ionized nutrients that are produced by the natural cycling of organic biomass, compost, or other sources of fertilizer.
  • The electronegativity factor of humic acids is very crucial in making and maintaining healthy and sustainable soil. The source of these humic acids in a sustainable agricultural program, organic certified farm, or urban landscape can be decaying organic matter such as compost. Therefore it is similar to fertilizer in an organic form. It is therefore of utmost importance to know the ingredient source and the nutrient analysis of the compost. Humus is powerful stuff, and a small amount can generate a huge measurable result. We have seen as little as 40 total pounds on an acre of farmland increase the yield of a crop dramatically.

Humic Acid Water Soluble Fertilizers

The humic acid water-soluble fertilizer is constituted with the following components in percentage by weight: 8-10 percent of humic acid, 14-16 percent of urea, 10-12 percent of potassium nitrate, 8-9 percent of mono-potassium phosphate, and the balance of water.

Compared to its counterparts, the humic acid water-soluble fertilizer has reasonable compatibility of components, simple preparation process, easy operation, and high implementation property, has three effects of nutritional supplement, antibacterium, and antivirus, can effectively improve soil, has persistent fertilizer effect, can flourish plant roots, amplifies antivirus ability, can effectively improve crop quality at the same time and can be widely used for crops of leaf vegetables, melons, fruits, allium species, root vegetables, tubers, and others.

Market Outlook

According to a detailed report by Growth Market Reports, the Global Humic Acid Water Soluble Fertilizers Market was valued at around USD 8.3 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to reach USD 10.2 billion by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of about 3.5%, during the forecast period. As explained above, humic acid is an organic molecule having a major role in soil fertility and plant nutrition.

Following are the Drivers for market growth:

  • The growth of the global humic acid water soluble fertilizers market is expected to be driven by a rise in demand for organic fertilizers in agricultural activities over synthetic variety.
  • Factors such as they enhance the structure & water storage capacity of soils and boost the drought & disease resistance quality of plants. Also, they improve the yield of crops, increase the production of vegetables & fruits, facilitate the growth of superior & deep-rooted turf, improve fertilizer uptake of plants, and support ecological balance. These factors are further expected to bolster market growth in the coming years.
  • Scientific studies exhibit that the fertility of the soil is calculated to a very large extent by the content of humic acids. Humic acid has a high cation-exchange capacity (CEC), the oxygen content, as well as the above average water holding capacity, are the reasons for the high value of using humic acids for improving soil fertility and plant growth. This characteristic of humic acid is projected to boost the demand for humic acid water soluble fertilizers, which in turn, will lead
  • The most important feature of humic acids lies in their power to bind insoluble metal ions, oxides, and hydroxides, and to release them slowly and continually to plants when needed. Due to these properties, humic acids are known to produce three types of effects: physical, chemical, and biological.
  • It improves the structure of soil: prevents high water and nutrient losses in light, sandy soils. Simultaneously transform them into fruitful soils by way of decomposition. In heavy and compact soils, aeration of soil and water retention is improved; cultivation measures are facilitated.
  • Prevents soil cracking, surface water runoff, and soil erosion by amplifying the ability of colloids to combine.
  • Help in loosening and crumbling of the soil and thus amplifies aeration of soil as well as soil workability.
  • Increase the water holding capacity of the soil and thus help resist drought.
  • Darken the color of the soil and thus help the absorption of solar energy.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Market

The world markets are currently struggling with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that is clouding the globe. The fertilizer sector as a whole has been affected since the outset, primarily in China, the most significant producer and consumer for phosphates, sulfur, and sulphuric acid, while going forward it could be Brazil and India that hit the headlines. However, the reaction on prices has been combined with a rigid supply of phosphates, because of the production constraints in China, leading to a reversal in the downward trend while the price of sulphuric acid, already weak, has all but shattered.

The outlook of impact can be divided into the following possible scenarios:

  • According to the optimistic scenario, the global humic acid water soluble fertilizers market is anticipated to remain under the massive impact of COVID-19 in the first quarter of 2020, and from the second quarter, the demand is expected to rise.
  • Under the probabilistic scenario, the market is expected to remain under the strong influence of the crisis until the second quarter, and from the third quarter onwards, the situation will alleviate.

Segmentation of the Market

Based on types, the global humic acid water soluble fertilizers market is bifurcated into, liquid fertilizers and solid fertilizers. Among these two segments, liquid fertilizers were the largest product segment in the global humic acid water soluble fertilizers market in 2019. The segment contributed almost half of the global market value in the same year. Growth of the segment can be attributed to factors such as it is easier to handle when blending and applying, provides uniform application, can be used for both starter, and in-season application.

In terms of applications, the market is segmented into, crops, vegetables, fruits, turf, and others. Among these segments, the crops segment is projected to grow with a substantial CAGR, during the forecast period owing to the surging use of the water-soluble humic acid in the process of growing crops.

Regional Analysis

In terms of regions, the market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. Asia Pacific is expected to be a lucrative region for the market. It accounted for a 43.6% share of the market in 2019. The market in the region is anticipated to flourish at a CAGR of 3.5% during the forecast period. Asia Pacific is anticipated to register the highest demand growth attributing to industrial practices being adopted in agriculture to improve crop yield. High agricultural growth in China and India are projected to be major drivers for Asia Pacific industry’s growth. North America holds the second-largest value share in the global market.

Prominent players in the Market

Key players in the market include Haifa Chemicals, Yara, Omex, The Andersons, Arab Potash Company, HUMINTECH GmbH, TAGROW, and UralChem. The players are substantially aiming at product innovations to sustain in a highly competitive and fragmented market. Moreover, partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions are some of the other strategies being used by these prominent players to expand geographical presence and have a hold of potential market opportunities.

Following are some recent developments by these players:

  • In Jan 2019, Haifa Group (Haifa) rolled out NutriNet, an online expert system that focused on support and optimized the process of creating customized fertilization programs. The service is free of charge for users. The new NutriNet platform was developed at the Haifa Group Innovation Center. It integrates plant nutrition-related knowledge that was collected by Haifa during decades of field and R&D activities worldwide. The NutriNet is engineered to help growers in setting fertilization programs. The software directs, step by step, farmer's workflow, supports decision-making, and simplifies calculations. The majority of the process is carried out before the season, leaving the grower with a detailed work plan for the season. The fertilization programs may be retrieved at any time, for adjustments and to create task reminders.
  • In May 2018, Yara International ASA shut down its acquisition of the Vale Cubatão Fertilizantes complex, strengthening Yara's integrated position in Brazil. This acquisition marked the beginning of a new phase in Brazil for Yara as the acquisition brought nitrogen production assets into their growing portfolio in Brazil. This strengthened and amplified Yara’s integrated position within both industrial and fertilizer. The transaction was valued at USD 255 million.