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The Scientific Truth About Yongye International (YONG)

|Includes: Yongye International Inc (YONG)

Yongye International's products consist of fertilizers using fulvic acid in combination with various micronutrients. The main benefit of fulvic acid or humic acids in these fertilizers is to facilitate the uptake of nutrients, resulting in healthier and faster-growing plants.

To understand this, let's start with the basics: what exactly is this stuff? Well, humic acid and fulvic acid are two closely-related classes of acids that naturally occur in the humus found in soil. They are produced by the biodegradation of dead organic matter (decomposing leaves, etc). So, when you put compost on your garden at home, you are essentially feeding your garden a mixture of humic/fulvic acids and micronutrients - sound familiar?

Humic acid produces the greatest benefits in areas with poor soil, and shows fewer benefits in areas where the soil is already healthy. With this in mind, it shouldn't be a surprise that YONG's products cause such a large increase in crop yields in the areas where they are used; areas which are notorious for being low in nutrients. On their homepage, YONG explains that the company "carries out its main operations in the city of Hohhot,  Inner Mongolia, PR China".

On the Wikipedia page for the city of Hohhot, we can see that, "due to desertification, the city sees sandstorms on almost an annual basis." With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that YONG's products have been so successful, especially on farms located in the regions of Inner Mongolia and Northern China.

In his article on YONG,  Ian Bezek claimed to have done research into the effectiveness of fulvic and humic acids. He wrote:

"I could not find a single Western study to support the use of humic or fulvic acids in increasing crop productivity"

Many of his readers were left with the impression that humic acid is some sort of new-age fertilizer ingredient, which is unsupported by scientific evidence. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have found that there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of western studies supporting the effectiveness of humic and fulvic acids in increasing crop productivity. Several people have already shown these studies to Ian, yet he has repeatedly ignored them. To this date Ian still has not responded to this evidence, nor has he issued a correction or retraction to his article, so I can only conclude that he is more interested in bashing YONG than he is in conducting serious research and due diligence.

Scientific studies are not hard to find. One way to find them is by using Google Scholar, a search engine for scientific publications and patents. I recommend excluding patents from the search results, so that you will only find scientific studies. Another good source is Science Direct. You will find a staggering number of results by using search terms such as "humic acid fertilizer" ; "fulvic acid fertilizer" ; "humic acid foliar spray" ; "humic acid plant growth", etc. The vast majority of these studies found that humic/fulvic acids had positive effects on plant growth. (Here I should mention that foliar spraying is a common technique where fertilizer is applied directly onto the leaves of a plant, instead of being added to the soil. YONG's products are often used in this way).

In many cases, only the abstracts of these scientific studies are available online. This is sufficient for our purposes here because the abstracts contain a summary of their findings, along with their conclusions. If you want to read the full studies, your local library should have no trouble finding a copy of these journals for you.

I selected ten of the most directly-relevant studies to include here. All of them appeared in highly-regarded, peer-reviewed, scientific journals related to the field of agriculture. Each of these studies concluded that humic and/or fulvic acids had positive effects on plant growth. Dozens of additional, related studies can be found in the reference sections of each of these papers:

Effect of different levels of humic acid on the growth and nutrition uptake of teak seedlings.
Journal of Plant Nutrition, 17: 173–84
Fagbenro, J.A. and A.A. Agboole, 1993.

Effect of humic substances on plant growth.
In : Humic substances in soil and crop science.

American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Madison, pp. 161–86
Chen, Y. and T. Aviad, 1990.

Effect of a soil fulvic acid on the growth and nutrient content of cucumber (Cucumis sativus) plants.
Plant And Soil, 63: 491–5

Rauthan, B.S. and M. Schnitzer, 1981.

The effect of commercial humic acid on tomato plant growth and mineral nutrition.
Journal of Plant Nutrition, Volume 21, Issue 3, 1998, Pages 561 - 575
Fabrizio Adania; Pierluigi Genevinia; Patrizia Zaccheoa; Graziano Zocchia.

The effect of foliar application of fulvic acid on water use, nutrient uptake and yield in wheat.
Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 37 (4) 343 - 350
X Xudan 

A humic acid improves growth of tomato seedling in solution culture
Journal of Plant Nutrition, Volume 17, Issue 1, 1994, Pages 173 - 184
P. P. David; P. V. Nelson; D. C. Sanders

Iron in Relation To the Stimulation of Growth By Humic Acid
Soil Science, June 1932, Volume 33, Issue 6, pages 413-454
Burk, Dean; Lineweaver, Hans; Horner, C. Kenneth 

Effect of Humic Acid on Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) Seedling Growth
Environmental and Experimental Botany, Volume 25, Issue 3, August 1985, Pages 245-252
Kauser A. Malik and F. Azam


Effect Of Humic Acids On The Growth, Yield And Nutrient Content Of Sugarcane
Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 117-118, 30 May 1992, Pages 575-581
R. Govindasmy and S. Chandrasekaran


Effect of Pre-Sowing Seed Treatment with Zinc and Foliar Spray of Humic Acids on Yield of Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.).
International Journal of Agriculture and Biology. v. 7(6) p. 875-878
Muharrem Kaya, Mehmet Atak, Khalid Mahmood Khawar, Cemalettin Y. Çiftçi And Sebahattin Özcan

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.