What is Humus?

Humus is an aggregation of reddish-black colored matter created through the microbial decomposition of the dead vegetation (leaves, branches) and microorganisms. The decomposition process happened in the top of soil by most aerobic and a little of anaerobic decomposition. Humus creation is a continuous process for further decomposition by the presence of water moisture, the presence of oxygen and simultaneous synthesis by micro-organisms.

Humus is made of a mixture of fauna, flour, and microorganisms. Humus is not a one-time creation like chemical fertilizer. It is a continuous process of decomposition on the soil.

The mulching mixture should consist of Monocot grasses like the straw of paddy, sugarcane, wheat, jowar, ragi, maize, millets with Dicot crops like pigeon pea, cowpea, Bengal gram, black gram, green gram, beans, drumstick, gliricidia, any oil seed residue(groundnut).

What is Humus made of?

Humus soil contains 55% of carbon and 6% nitrogen. The C: N ratio of the Humus is almost 10:1. In simple words, 10kg of Carbon combines with 1kg of nitrogen forms humus. Humus is created naturally in the forest. But can we replicate the same? To maintain the 10:1 C: N ratio, the decomposing material should include a mixture of more dicot and less monocot biomass. (2:1 respectively).

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Live mulching learn Natural Farming

Mulching plays a major role in humus creation. Continuous mulching on the soil will help in maintaining humus always. The mulching mixture should consist of Monocot grasses like the straw of paddy, sugarcane, wheat, jowar, ragi, maize, millets with Dicot crops like pigeon pea, cowpea, Bengal gram, black gram, green gram, beans, drumstick, gliricidia, any oilseed residue(groundnut). For the decomposition process to happen fast, the count of microorganisms should be increased. The count of microorganisms can only be increased by the usage of desi(Indigenous) cow dung. The more utilization of the cow dung on the soil, the more the number of micro-organisms will be activated in the soil. Eventually, more humus is created. More humus in the soil, more fertile and productive is the soil. The straw mulching and desi cow dung help in the creation of Humus continuously.  Stop using already decomposed manure.

Why is Humus important?

  1. Humus is a source of nutrients for the feeder roots.
  2. A chief source of the food for the micro-organisms.
  3. Humus combines with other soil components to absorb water.
  4. The presence of Humus makes soil soft, granular and airy.
  5. One kg of humus absorbs 6 liters of water from the atmosphere(humidity) in a day and supply to the roots and micro-organisms in the soil.
  6. Mycorrhiza fungus acts as a bridge between humus and plants. Mycorrhiza fungus grew on Humus, then this fungus is consumed by roots of crops. The root gets available Carbohydrates and proteins through the fungus.
  7. Humus gives resistance power to crops to fight against diseases.
  8. Humus acts as a shock absorber when the heavy tractors are moved over the soil.
  9. Humus maintains the soil PH value around neutral.
  10. Even the fodder grown on the Humus rich soil makes a huge difference in quantity, quality of milk production in cattle.

Humus is constituted by 40 to 45% lignin, 35 percent of protein and remaining fatty matter, others. Lignin is prepared through matured residues of the vegetation involved in the creation of the Humus and proteins are synthesized by the micro-organisms, involved in the creation of humus. Plants are matured after seed maturation and Lignin is present in the matured vegetative biomass, So in the process of creation of biomass, we have to utilize biomass for mulching after seed maturation and not before seed formation. In the monocot biomass(Ragi, Maize, Wheat, Paddy, Jowar), more lignin is present and in dicot biomass(Red gram, black gram, Green gram, Pigeon pea, cowpea, Beans) more protein is present, this means both of them are to be added in order to create humus. It is recommended to have dicot as intercrops between mono-crops and mono-crops as intercrops in dicots. Example Cowpea in maize, red gram in corn& sunflower. In horticulture use drumstick, gliricidia to be considered for mulching to create humus.

8 thoughts on “What is Humus?”

  1. Very well written article! Thanks for putting this up.
    I have a question: Can you explain more, why should one stop using already decomposed matter on soil? Can’t we use compost prepared in farm it self?

    • Hi Gautam, thanks for compliments. On mulching(dried organic matter), the decomposition takes place. During this process the oxidation happens and CO2 is released. Due to this slow decomposition small amount of CO2 will be absorbed by plants which helps photosynthesis to produce food. But already decomposed compost, will not have this. Everything will be emitted already.
      One more thing during mulching, the microorganisms have food to eat. Which will increase the number of organisms. But compost will have nothing to feed them.

  2. This topic was nice, since we are students it was really nice to know about this kinds of farming.
    And I admire all our Indian farmers, it’s all their hard work which makes a healthy future for all the people around the world.


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