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Increase soil aeration, tilth, and workability with Leonardite (Tri-Lig)
by 360 Organics
360 Organics

Source of Leonardite (Tri-Lig)

The structure of humic acids varies greatly particularly in chemical structure due to its initial source.  Shale obtained from New Mexico mines is about 30 percent active ingredients, Florida is about 35 percent and North Dakota is about 80 percent active ingredient.  North Dakota has the highest grade available in North America and is consistent in chemical and physical structure.  Because of this, all leonardite (Tri-Lig) is produced from the North Dakota mines located in Gascoyne.  Because of the variability of nomenclature for the material (i.e., leonardite shale, humic acid, coal humates and even lignite), and because of the variability of chemistry in various deposits, we have chosen a name for our agricultural formulation that seems to best fit leonardite (Tri-Lig).

Research With Leonardite

Preliminary experimental work with leonardite (Tri-Lig) by the U. S. Bureau of Mines  indicates that its presence in soil appears to increase aeration, tilth, and workability as well as better water movement (increases soil capillary and noncapillary space).  The cation exchange capacity of the soil is markedly increased thus, improving longer-term retention of applied inorganic fertilizer.

Leonardite (Tri-Lig) increases the buffering properties of soil and chelation of metal ions under alkaline conditions, according to Dr. Senn of Clemson University.  The humic fractions also act to effect a biological stimulation of growth in that they serve as a substrate for microorganisms, as well as direct plant growth stimulation by providing a slow release of auxins, amino acids, and organic phosphates.

Leonardite (Tri-Lig) tends to promote the conversion of a number of mineral elements into forms available to plants.  The increased availability of phosphate in the presence of humic acids has been shown .  Also, it has been shown that humic acids are effective in converting iron into available forms, which protect plants from chlorosis even in the presence of a high concentration of the phosphate ion.  Humic substances facilitate the translocation of iron and phosphorus from roots to shoots of the sunflower.  In the absence of humic acid, iron forms insoluble precipitates with phosphorus.  Additionally, phosphate accumulation in plant tips is linear function of increasing concentration of humic acids even though the higher rates of humic acid (above 5 percent) decrease crop yields.  DeKock suggested that humic acids might serve as carriers of iron by facilitating translocation across cell membranes.  Humic acid stimulates root initiation of hypocolyl segments of beans (8,11) and low concentrations (3.6 percent of humic acid stimulates tomato seed germination.

Freeman found that using leonardite as a soil additive in field experiments resulted in larger yields in potatoes and soybeans.  Similar results were obtained with potatoes in Homestead, Florida.  Leonardite (Tri-Lig) added to fertilizer used as a side dress for tomatoes, at the rate of 15 pounds per acre, obtained a 16.7 percent yield increase in Florida, and used as a seed drill application, it resulted in an increase in seedling and young plant growth and yielded untreated plants.  Inclusion of 0.1 to 5 percent by volume of a Florida humate in the potting media utilized to grow table palms and philodendron improved length, quality, color and fresh weight of tops and roots of those plants.  Verzi  in and unpublished report found that addition of leonardite (Tri-Lig) to agar or soil at the rate of 0.5 grams per liter (30 lbs. per acre) would inhabit ammonia toxicity to citrus roots and result in larger root systems and top growth of the plants.  These tests are now being carried out in large established citrus groves to determine if there is some correlation with young tree decline and soil ammonia toxicity or some other factor that leonardite (Tri-Lig) might correct.  Tissue studies of leaves from these trials and other similar greenhouse studies indicate a significantly higher level of zinc on the foliage of citrus trees when leonardite (Tri-Lig) is added to the soil at rates between 35 and 80 pounds per
acre.

A study by the Fujienda Agricultural Experiment Station, a citrus experiment station in Japan, indicated that addition of 45 kilograms of humate per ten acres aided in the movement of calcium carbonate and magnesium to a depth of 30 centimeters below the soil surface.  They theorized that the humic acid formed a chelate with the calcium and magnesium to aid in its movement through the soil.  In this same report they stated that this same application indicated penetration of the humic acid to a depth of 20 to 30 centimeters into the soil in a period of six months.

They also observed increased aggregation of the soil and increased water permeability in alluvial clay soils.  Available P2O5 was markedly increased in amount with no increase in phosphate absorption coefficient.

Application of Leonardite (Tri-Lig) to Crops

Considerable work has been done to determine the best methods of application of leonardite (Tri-Lig) to plants.  In general, the application of leonardite (Tri-Lig) to the soil combined with fertilizer has produced the best results.

Foliar applications of five pounds of leonardite (Tri-Lig) per acre seems to produce short term stimulation of plants, particularly those that are in stress following excessive rain, freeze damage, or stress of flowering and fruiting.  Plants so treated seem to show quicker recovery from harvesting damage.  Most striking results are obtained when the leonardite (Tri-Lig) is combined with a foliar nutritional spray, possibly due to the chelating and buffering action of the leonardite (Tri-Lig).  Some translocation of cations is also suspected.

Dry finely ground formulations of leonardite (Tri-Lig) plus nutritional materials can be made sprayable but are difficult to handle and cause excessive spray nozzle clogging.  The low pH of these mixtures also causes spray tank problems.  The most effective formulation is an alkaline extract of leonardite (Tri-Lig) combined with soluble forms of nutritional elements and adjusted to a pH of 7.

Various methods of soil application have been tried.  For use on potting soil or seedling plug mixes, addition of a finely ground leonardite (Tri-Lig) at the rate of 2 pounds per 4 cubic feet of potting mix seems most effective.  Rates should not exceed 5 percent by volume or growth inhibition will take place.  Adding 0.5 percent iron and 0.5 percent manganese to the mixture seems to promote growth and prevent seedling chlorosis.

Another commercial practice is that of dusting potato seed pieces with powdered leonardite (Tri-Lig) at the rate of 5 pounds per acre (30 lbs. per truckload of cut seed pieces), combined with decaying inhabiting fungicides.  This treatment appears to stimulate seed piece germination to young plant growth.

Initial soil applications in the field were made by injecting finely ground leonardite (Tri-Lig) into the soil under citrus trees with a water solution.  This method proved very cumbersome and time consuming.  It was found that equivalent results could be obtained by applying the material to the surface of the soil, particularly since research data indicates its rapid movement throughout the top 12 inches of the soil profile.  Chemical analysis, as well as visual observations, indicates that this method of application, particularly if the leonardite (Tri-Lig) was combined with fertilizer, would induce increased top growth and root growth of plants.  Chemical analysis of the soil indicates a movement downward from the 6 inch to the 18-inch level by both zinc and phosphorus.  There is some indication that the mobile ions of nitrogen and potassium are prevented from rapid leaching, perhaps being held by the colloidal structure of the leonardite (Tri-Lig).  Rates of application generally are 30 to 50 pounds per acre broadcast or 15 pounds per acre applied in a band or in the furrow.  As indicated above, best results are obtained by combining leonardite (Tri-Lig) with the fertilizer.  The finely ground material mixes readily with, and adheres to dry fertilizer particles, and is especially effective in liquid fertilizer formulations.  Dry formulations tend to be quite dusty, particularly in the mixing process.  A third method of application has been that of spraying a suspension of powdered leonardite (Tri-Lig) in water over the surface of the field.

Tests are under way to determine if a granular dust-free formation would be as effective as the finely powdered formulation, but reason dictates that the more finely ground formulation should be the most effective because of coverage and greater active surface area.  A method for dedusting the powdered formulation is now under study.  If this does not prove feasible, a liquid extract of leonardite (Tri-Lig) could be impregnated on dry fertilizer granules provided the economics would justify this type of treatment.

Addition of calcium carbonate at an approximate 50-50 ratio to the leonardite (Tri-Lig) seems to increase its effectiveness when used on low pH soils, and it seems most effective on citrus where studies for control of trees shows decline symptoms are being carried out.

For use in irrigation of drip systems, the dry formulation of leonardite (Tri-Lig) poses difficulties in settling out and clogging of emitters.  The liquid extract formulation appears to be the most promising in this case.  Studies are now under way using levels between 5 and 10 parts per million to determine effectiveness.

Crops Benefited by Leonardite (Tri-Lig)

Crops on which leonardite (Tri-Lig) has been used successfully include tomato, potato, pepper, eggplant (Solanaceae), cucumbers, melon, squash (Cucurbits), cabbage, cauliflower (Cole), ornamentals, small grain, tobacco, sweet potatoes, turf, strawberries, and citrus.  Benefits have also been observed in field crops such as peanuts, soybeans, and corn.

Leonardite (Tri-Lig) appears to have a place in agriculture, particularly on sandy soils, volcanic soils, low fertility soils, and soils with low organic matter.  Lesser results seem to be observed on the deep fertile soils of the Midwest, and no results have been observed on much of the high organic soils.  Thus, it is felt that leonardite (Tri-Lig) replaces or substitutes in part for the colloidal structure and chemical reactions that naturally occurring humus and organic matter imparts to the soil.

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