Soil Your Undies 2021: driving Baltic soil health by soiling pants
Here’s a brief story.
“Soil Your Undies,” a cheeky way to test soil health, challenged farmers across the Baltics to bury white, organic cotton underwear during the 2021 growing season.
The result? Healthy fields — utterly soiled tighty-whities.
Around 300 farmers in 400 fields across Estonia, Latvia, and Poland joined eAgronom’s “Soil Your Undies” challenge in 2021 to promote the importance of healthy soils. The turnout is one of the biggest campaigns on soil health in the region.
The challenge is simple. Participating farmers were given a pair of 100% cotton underpants to be buried in their chosen field of winter crops. Dug up, dried, and weighed after 12 weeks, the field with the most decayed pair wins the challenge.
Uncovering the importance of healthy soils
Soil enables life on earth. It is crucial to major aspects of human life and terrestrial life activities all circle back to the soil. Farmers know firsthand how valuable soils are to produce great yields and a sustainable business.
When soils are in healthy conditions, it holds a good structure that helps lessen erosion and nutrient runoff, water absorption is retained, and nutrients are available for plants and small organisms living off the soil.
Healthy lands benefit crop productivity for farmers — as it does life even at the microscopic level. And these tiny organisms especially love to consume organic material found in the soil.
This is the idea behind “Soil Your Undies”, which has been more popularly held across several states in the US, Canada, and Australia. The microbes feast on the organic material of the garments. Thus, the more tattered the pants are after weeks under the ground, the greater sign of microbial activity is in the soil.
Microbial activity, along with earthworm count, level of compaction, soil structure, organic matter content, soil acidity, water-holding capacity, and nutrient availability, among others, measure soil health.
And the real winner is… soil health awareness!
While hundreds of farmers (with different soil types and conditions) joined eAgronom’s challenge, we cannot thank participants enough for the shared appreciation of soil health.
In Latvia, the average weight after digging the trousers is 51.2 g, which shows that 27% of the initial weight of the trousers has broken down. The best results came in at 16 g, which means that 83% of the trousers broke down in the soil.
Despite the challenging weather conditions during the growing season in Estonia, the best results removed 68.6% off the weight of the pants. Weighing in at only 22 grams from 49.9 grams before being buried. The winning farmer reports the use of organic fertiliser and crop rotation in the field. These techniques are also notable for carbon farming to help increase the organic matter in the soil.
Soil organic matter is an important driver of soil health as it promotes the biological, chemical, and physical functioning of soils. And as extreme weather conditions become more frequent, the focus on healthy soil’s capacity to accumulate greenhouse gas emissions is becoming more widespread.
Maintaining soil health is central to carbon farming which aims to store carbon in soils and provide additional income sources to farmers.
If you’re curious, talk to our expert agronomists about soil health or get in touch with us about carbon farming.
More importantly, watch out for the next edition of Soil Your Undies! 🩲
Check out more results from eAgronom: Soil Your Undies 2021 in pictures
Or watch the news coverage in Estonia!
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