Monday, June 18, 2018

Soiled Briefs

The other day I was surfing Facebook and I came across an interesting photo, 3 pairs of underwear hanging on the line, one fully disintegrated, one partially disintegrated and the last fully intact. This was a rather intriguing photo so I wanted to further investigate. I discovered that farmers in South Dakota have been planting their tighty whities to check their soil quality!
Photo taken from the original article at
They start out with a few pairs of 100% cotton briefs and bury them a few inches in the soil and dig them up about six weeks later. If the soil quality is poor, the cotton underpants will remain fully intact, but if you have a healthy, high quality soil, then the briefs will begin to disintegrate leaving only the elastic band! This is a very visual representation of soil health for farmers and ranchers!
The scientist that began this silly test is Dennis Hoyle of Roscoe, South Dakota. He stated that “We need to keep the roots and residue on the soil so that we have more activity to eat up the cotton (carbon) in the underwear,” explained Hoyle.  “Tilled land does not have enough of the biology to “eat” the tighty whities,” he said. “When you are tilling the land, it’s like you are creating a tornado in the soil and removing much of what’s hungry for carbon.”
Eric Barsness, the Natural Resources Conservation Service Agronomist,  in Brookings, SD said “With proper management, the ground beneath your crops should teem with millions of tiny lifeforms—bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, earthworms—all eating and decomposing organic material, such as the carbon in the briefs.”
You can try this soil test on your fields at home with 100% Cotton briefs or you can always stop in to your local County Extension office to get a soil test done as to not soil any clean underwear.

Kim Woodring
Toole County Extension

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