I am a consulting agronomist specializing in water management, soils and plant nutrition. I'm guessing that over the last fifteen years, I've pushed a soil probe into the ground at least 90,000 times and evaluated over 15,000 soil and water analyses. After the first fifty samples, I really started to appreciate my customers who softened the soil with soil amendments. Always in my evaluation process a major consideration is what I can do to improve soil structure. I know that by improving soil structure the ground absorbs and holds water better, provides a nicer seedbed and makes ground preparation easier on the tools and implements. In my early years as an agronomist I hesitated to recommend soil amendments because of the prohibitive cost with limited results. For the past several years I have been recommending a product that stretches the value of other soil and water amendments. The customers who use John & Bob's Soil Optimizer are achieving results like they never knew possible. The synergism of John & Bob's specially balanced soil amendment gives my customers benefits not realized when applying just calcium, sulfur, or organic matter amendments alone. I'm not the first person to notice the benefits of adding soluble humus to soils, like the soluble humus found in J&B's Soil Optimizer. For centuries gardeners have observed that manure and compost greatly help improve soil structure. The soluble fraction of humus in these amendments is what makes them so beneficial. However, the cost prevents most people from using them on a broad scale basis. I found out that very concentrated forms of humus are available to my large scale customers at a fraction of the cost of manure or compost. This concentrated form of humus comes from a naturally occurring ore called Humate. Good soil structure is all about macro and micro pores. Macro pores are the voids created between soil aggregates. Micro pores are the voids between individual soil particles. Because individual soil particles are full of negative charges they tend to repel one another. Consequently, the soil particles can tend to “stand alone” leaving more micro pores than macro pores. Calcium satisfies these negative charges, forming stable aggregates and macro pores. Automobile traffic through a city can be used to illustrate the problems of soil structure. Imagine a city with no major thoroughfares or highways. What a gridlocked nightmare! That's what a soil is like when the soil particles are not flocculated together to form aggregates. Every soil pore becomes a micro pore, just like a residential street. With proper aggregation, the soil has plenty of “major highways,” that is macro pores, where water, air and roots can move easily. Most soil amendments either add soluble calcium to the soil, or they create calcium within the soil by some kind of reaction with soil lime (calcium carbonate) such as soil sulfur or sulfuric acid. Soil amendments, besides being expensive, all have downsides. Often they can be short lived. This is because the waters we use for irrigation seldom have adequate amounts of soluble calcium. After a short time the calcium that was applied leaches out of the surface soil where it is needed most. Recently, the role that soil organic matter plays in helping calcium improve soil structure has been studied more thoroughly. As a result, soil scientists have discovered how important the role of the active ingredient in J&B's Soil Optimizer (the soluble part of soil humus) is, in promoting better soil structure. Clay Mineral Soil Optimizer has a tremendous number of negative charges that form a bridge between calcium, and two separated soil particles . The result of such bonding is the “calcium-clay-humate complex.” The figure above shows the chemical bonds involved. Stable soil aggregates result, causing more permanent improvements in soil structure. John & Bob's has been shown in the lab by several university researchers to improve soil structure. I have also demonstrated in field trials the practical value of Soil Optimizer in improving soil structure. I recommend that my customers apply 3 lbs. per 1,000 square feet at anytime of the year. If you take the time to actually look, there will be noticeable improvements in soil structure, as well as plant growth, the first year. If Soil Optimizer is applied three years in a row, you can see further improvements in soil structure and water management. If you have a water penetration problem due to the use of pure (snow melt) water, inject soluble calcium through the irrigation system. The active ingredient in Soil Optimizer will help make the effects of the soluble calcium more dramatic and longer lasting. Soil Optimizer will add nutrient holding capacity to the soil, improve nutrient uptake for nitrogen, phosphorus and all the micro-nutrients including zinc and iron. John & Bob have secured a source of humate that is much higher in short chain humic acids and fulvic acids than any other supplier. John & Bob's Soil Optimizer is air dried, while most other sources of humate and leonardite are furnace dried in the cold and wet areas of North Dakota. Furnace temperatures can reach up to 360 degrees thereby deactivating much of the plant active functional groups. The result is a finished product with as much benefit as charcoal briquettes. John & Bob's source material provider has the ability to mine a great number of truckloads at a time ensures consistency of the product. Other companies order one load at a time, and hope the coal manufacturing company sends them the "good stuff". [infobar box="bar" color="green" align="left" type="text"] References: Greenland, D. J. Interactions Between Humic and Fulvic Acids and Clays. Soil Science 111:34-39 (1971) Piccolo, A. and Mbagwu, J. S. C., Effects of Humic Substances and Surfactants on the Stability of Soil Aggregates. Soil Science 14:47 -54 (1969). Stevensen, F.J.S. 1982. Humus Chemistry. pp. 429- 4 5 2 . John Wiley & Sons, New York. Tarchitzky, Y., Chen, Y., and Banin, A. Humic Substances and pH Effects on Sodium- and Calciu-Montmorillonite Flocculation and Dispersion. Soil Science Soc. Am. J. 57:367-372 (1993). [/infobar]