A comparative study of the properties of industrially produced humic substances
¹University of Latvia, Department of Environmental Science, 19 Raina Blvd, LV-1586 Riga, Latvia
²University of Latvia, Department of Analytical Chemistry, 19 Raina Blvd, LV-1586 Riga, Latvia
Humic substances (HSs) are produced industrially in large quantities from low rank coal, weathered coal, peat, also from soils, composts and other sources. Considering that the applications of industrially produced HSs also include food, pharmaceutical applications and environmental technologies, it is important to evaluate their composition and quality and to identify their sources. The aim of the present study is to compare the properties of industrially produced HS samples. HSs were characterised using spectroscopic and other methods. For the identification of origin of HSs, different methods can be used, such as elemental analysis and ratios of light stable isotopes. The results of the study indicate that many industrially produced HSs are of poor quality (low concentration of basic substance, admixture of undesirable substances, pollutants, no quality indications). In this situation, rigorous quality control should be implemented, providing detailed characteristics of the product. The composition of materials suggested for agricultural applications has not been analysed much. Most of the studied materials were designated as HAs, followed by fulvic acids (FAs) and HSs. However, an analysis of the humic matter types indicates that the majority of substances offered on the market are in fact mixtures of HAs and FAs; so, it would be more appropriate to designate them as HSs or their salts. This study identifies the main quality problems of industrially produced humic substances: 1) lack of strict quality indicators, 2) absence of indication of source materials/origins of HSs.