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What is a Soil Activator?

By Kay Blynn
Updated May 16, 2024
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A soil activator is a general term used to describe a wide variety of products that can be added to the soil to improve its structure and increase plant productivity. Soil is a complex mix of clay or sand; organic material; beneficial bacteria and fungi; and chemicals such as oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. As plants grow, they take chemicals and nutrients in through their roots, which can deplete the soil over time. A soil activator is designed to revitalize the soil's quality by replacing these components.

There are as many types of soil activators as there are companies which sell them. A soil activator can contain a wide variety of substances that are believed to improve soil quality. The most prevalent ingredients in a soil activator include humus and beneficial bacteria and fungi. Soil activators can also include, but are not limited to, seaweed, molasses, carbon, and chlorophyll.

Given enough time, all dead organic materials decompose. Humus is a general term used to describe any organic material that has decomposed to its most base element. Humus can also be referred to as humic acid, a by-product of humus, or by its scientific name humates. Although humus does not contain a significant source of nutrients in itself, it can help improve both clay and sandy soil structure. In clay soils, humus helps loosen heavy soil that has become hard and compacted over time. Looser soil structure allows water and nutrients to flow more freely in the soil. In sandy soils, humus helps the soil retain water and hold nutrients for plant use.

In the past, bacteria and fungi have been associated with disease and rot. Over the years, scientists have discovered many types of beneficial bacteria and fungi. These microbes play a complex and important role in healthy soil and plant production. They typically break down larger pieces of organic matter and convert them into chemicals plants need, such as nitrogen.

In addition to these products, some soil activators may include seaweed and kelp. Typically, seaweed and kelp contain trace minerals beneficial to plant health. Molasses is another ingredient found in some soil activators. Molasses is generally a good source of carbon, which stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil. Some products will include chlorophyll, the chemical that allows plants to photosynthesize sunlight into energy.

Soil activators can include other more obscure, and sometimes proprietary, ingredients as well. Most ingredients have been well studied by scientists over the years. Each ingredient generally can help improve the soil structure and promote plant growth and health.

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