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The aim of this work was to evaluate the humus composition from an Ultisol from Campos dos Goytacazes, RJ, Brazil. Soil samples of four depths (0-0.05, 0.05-0.10, 0.10-0.20 and 0.20-0.40 m) and its chemical nature were analysed by elemental composition, E4/E6 ratios and Fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy. The bioactivity of these humified substances was evaluated through their action on maize root growth and H+-ATPase activity of roots microsomes. In topsoil, the content of highdoi:10.1590/s0100-204x2004000300005 fatcat:q7427zg6ifbv5eq4mqqb4iflre