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Agronomy 2018, 8(5), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8050076

Concepts and Misconceptions of Humic Substances as the Stable Part of Soil Organic Matter: A Review

Ausbau 5, 18258 Rukieten, Germany
Received: 3 March 2018 / Revised: 14 May 2018 / Accepted: 15 May 2018 / Published: 17 May 2018
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Abstract

In the last three decades, the concept of soil humic substances has been questioned in two main directions. Misinterpretations of CP MAS13C NMR spectroscopy led to the conclusion that soil organic matter is mainly aliphatic, questioning the theory of polymerization of humic substances from phenolic molecules. Conversely, some critics of humic substances assume that a great proportion of aromatic soil organic carbon originates from fire-affected carbon, often termed as black carbon (BC). However, the determination of BC in soil by two widely applied methods, the benzene polycarboxylic acid marker method and the UV method, is not reliable and seems to strongly overestimate the BC content of soils. The concept of humic substances continues to be relevant today. The polymerization of phenolic molecules that originate from the degradation of lignin or synthesis by microorganisms may lead to humic substances which can incorporate a variety of organic and inorganic molecules and elements. The incorporation, e.g., of triazines or surfactants into the humic matrix, leading to bound residues, illustrates that humic substances are important to explain central reactions in soil. Humic substances are also important to understand the availability of plant nutrients in soil, including P, Fe, and Cu, and they may have a direct effect on the growth of higher plants in soil. Therefore, there are good reasons to reformulate or to further develop the concepts and models of humic substances introduced and developed by M. Schnitzer, W. Flaig, W. Ziechmann, and F.J. Stevenson. View Full-Text
Keywords: polymerization; phenolic molecules; humification; aromatic humic core; supramolecular structure; black carbon overestimation; misinterpretation of quantitative 13C NMR spectroscopy polymerization; phenolic molecules; humification; aromatic humic core; supramolecular structure; black carbon overestimation; misinterpretation of quantitative 13C NMR spectroscopy
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Gerke, J. Concepts and Misconceptions of Humic Substances as the Stable Part of Soil Organic Matter: A Review. Agronomy 2018, 8, 76.

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