Linking the humification of organic amendments with size aggregate distribution: Insights into molecular composition using FT-ICR-MS

Ho Gyeong Chae, Andrew J. Margenot, Jong Rok Jeon, Min Sung Kim, Kyoung Soon Jang, Ho Young Yoon, Pil Joo Kim, Jeong Gu Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soil organic matter (SOM) plays a pivotal role in enhancing physical and biological characteristics of soil. Humic substances constitute a substantial proportion of SOM and their increase can improve crop yields and promote agricultural sustainability. While previous research has primarily assessed the influence that humic acids (HAs) derived from natural water have on soil structure, our study focuses on the impact of HAs on soil aggregation under different fertilizer regimes. During the summer cropping season, maize was cultivated under organic and synthetic fertilizer treatments. The organic fertilizer treatment utilized barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa R.) as an organic amendment five days prior to maize planting. The synthetic treatment included a synthetic fertilizer (NPK) applied at South Korea's recommended rates. The organic treatment resulted in significant improvements in the soil aggregates and stability (mean weight diameter, MWD; p < 0.05) compared to the synthetic fertilizer application. These improvements could be primarily attributed to the increased quantity and quality of HAs in the soil derived from the organic amendment. The amount of extracted HAs in the organic treatment was nearly twice that of the synthetic treatment. Additionally, the organic treatment had a 140 % larger MWD and a 40 % increase in total phenolic content compared to the synthetic treatment. The organic treatment also had an increased macronutrient uptake (p < 0.001), an 11 % increase in aboveground maize biomass, and a 21 % increase in grain yield relative to the synthetic treatment. Thus, the enhancement of HA properties through the incorporation of fresh organic manure can both directly and indirectly increase crop productivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number172147
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jun 1 2024


  • Humic acids
  • Macroaggregate
  • Microaggregate
  • Silt + clay size aggregate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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