‘Soil your Undies’ results revealed after garments buried for 45 days
LAUREL, Del. — For probably as long as it’s existed, mothers have drilled into their children the importance of having clean underwear.
But when comes to gauging soil health, the experts say the dirtier and more decomposed, the better.
After “planting” several pairs of fresh white 100 percent cotton briefs in fields with different management practices on June 29, soil conservationists revealed the results after about 45 days of soil activity at last week’s Sussex Conservation District soil health field day.
Field settings where the underwear was buried included no-till and conventional tillage, cover crops and no cover crops, use of poultry litter and commercial fertilizer for nutrient source.
One pair was buried in a residential backyard.
Jenn Nelson, a soil conservation consultant at Resource Smart LLC, said there was concern the results might not be as definitive since a long stretch of dry weather hit the area right after the underwear was planted.
“I was actually concerned because it wasn’t a lot of time,” added Jayme Arthurs, resource conservationist for NRCS-Delaware. “As we were digging it up, it met my expectations.”
All the underwear that was dug back up looked pretty rough with large holes.
But the pairs buried in fields using no-till and cover crops were virtually non-existent, with only a few shreds hanging from the waistband.
Arthurs said the soil that was less disturbed and had more diversity in crop rotation in turn had more soil microbes that process crop residue into organic matter and help soil filtration and tilth.
“The more soil microbes you have, the worse your underwear is, the better your soil and better your crop is,” Arthurs said.
Nelson said the underwear challenge isn’t meant to be a valid scientific test but an interesting visual demonstration and a way to compare soil health between fields and management practices.
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