Heavy interest in Hanna Humalite

While there are few certainties in farming, there are a couple things you can bank on: growers will never yearn for lower yields, and they’ll always look for ways to reduce the input costs. 

These facts alone could explain the rising interest in humalite, a naturally occurring substance that offers a range of benefits for farmers.

In Alberta, humalite can be found in a large deposit located near Hanna. It’s extracted by Westmoreland Mining and is one of the most cost-effective inputs for improving soil health.

Containing organic matter and high concentrations of humic acid, humalite is now drawing attention from both growers and academics, and for good reason.

“In looking at our overall soil health about five years ago, we had some concerns,” says Dan Majeau, a third-generation grain and hog farmer in Sturgeon County, Alta. “There was a deterioration in pH levels and growing acidity, and we knew something had to be done.”

Based on his talks with a fellow farmer, Majeau discovered humalite, and the results have been significant.

“We applied 100 lbs. of humalite to our fields every year for three years,” says Majeau. “In reviewing soil samples from before and after, we saw pH levels returning to normal following humalite application and an overall improvement in soil health.”

For Majeau’s crops, those benefits were just the beginning. He found that humalite helped release nutrients, improved soil aeration and increased microbial activity, which is another component of healthy soil.

“Humalite accelerates crop residue breakdown and increases water retention, as it holds 10 times its weight in water,” explains Majeau. “We apply it in granular and liquid form, and have seen better germination and emergence in both cases.”

The science of success

Given the growing popularity of humalite, it’s little wonder that scientists are studying the substance as part of their research.

“Part of humalite’s appeal is that it’s natural, rather than something you bring in from the outside or genetically modify,” says Dr. Linda Gorim. Dr. Gorim is an assistant professor/Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) chair in cropping systems, Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Alberta (U of A).

“We are especially fortunate in Alberta to have one of the highest valued humalite deposits in the world, as it consists of up to 70 per cent humic acid.”

To help growers make the most of that value, Dr. Gorim is leading a project entitled “Applying humalite for enhancing wheat and canola production and soil health”.

The project will evaluate humalite on a variety of crops and focus on three key aspects of the substance: nutrient uptake, soil health, and water retention.

In light of the devastating drought across the Prairies this year, humalite’s ability to hold moisture is also a key aspect of the study.

Though scientists have yet to analyze any data, Dr. Thilakarathna observed the first trial this summer under dry conditions. He noticed that wheat plots where humalite was applied contained less stressed plants that stood much better than their counterparts in the non-humalite plots.

While test results are crucial, it may be the outcomes in farmers’ fields that really tell the humalite tale.

 

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