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I'm trying to figure out what the predominant acidic substances in peat moss are. Peat moss is said to have a pH of approximately 4.0. So, I'm curious what is making it acidic.

I know not all acids bind to various elements in the same ways. So, I'm trying to find out which acids (and/or acidic salts) are present in peat moss in order to aid me in my research to discover approximately how long it might take to acidify soils with it compared with the traditional methods of adding various forms of sulfur to soil. You don't need to tell me how long it takes, by any means. I can do more research after I find out which acids or acidic salts are in peat moss, in what levels.

I'm not familiar with this particular SE site's customs. So, if this is the wrong place to ask, or if I used the wrong tag(s), feel free to let me know. I figured people might be more likely to know here than on Gardening and Landscaping, though.

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This 1992 article by Gagnon and Glime suggests that the ability of Sphagnum to lower pH depends on the presence of cations in the surrounding environment and is not (contrary to prevalent belief) due to organic acids in the plant itself. Here is a more recent article from New Phytologist amplifying that cation exchange is responsible for lowering of pH.

If you want to acidify soil using sphagnum/peat--assuming the authors are right--it's more important what cations you put into the soil. The sphagnum will then exchange them for $H^+,$ lowering the pH of the soil.

This does not mean there aren't organic acids in moss. You would have to look in specialized journals to determine what acids are found in the plant, but they are not necessarily very acidic and are, according to both articles, not the cause of acidity of the soil associated with the plants.

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  • $\begingroup$ By "in the plant" do you mean in the peat moss? $\endgroup$ – Shule Jun 18 '18 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Shule: Yes I mean in the peat moss. $\endgroup$ – daniel Jun 19 '18 at 5:54

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