Tighty Whities Can Tell You About Your Soil Health

This is a fun experiment you can try with your own pastures and fields. It comes to us from Anthony Bly and Sara Berg of South Dakota State University Extension. Just remember that different areas will have different kinds of soils and you may get different results. Soil microorganisms require carbon to survive. Men’s cotton underwear briefs contain high amounts of carbon. Therefore, briefs can be buried in the soil and retrieved later to see and evaluate soil microbiological activity and ultimately, soil health status. During the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition’s first Soil Health School in the Aberdeen and Ipswich areas, a “Tighty Whities” demonstration was conducted. The briefs were buried to about the waistline in the soil five weeks ahead of the school at 3 sites that included: corn with conventional tillage, soybeans under mulch tillage, and no-till soil currently with growing cover crops. Soil health school participants had the opportunity to extract the briefs and view the results of five replicates in each field. Results were revealing…to say the least. A new brief was compared to one brief from each field. The first soiled brief in the picture above (second from the left) was from the no-till field with cover crops. Hardly anything remained of the brief, indicating extensive soil micro

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7 thoughts on “Tighty Whities Can Tell You About Your Soil Health

  1. Hi Kathy
    I saw this “tighty whitey” demonstration at a soil health event earlier this year.
    I would like to include this in one of my pasture tours.

    Do you know the depth in the soil that the undies get placed at?

    I the information you make available, keep up the great work!

  2. I’ve just been reading about the importance of carbon for soil health. This article just confirmed this necessity. A picture is worth a thousand words. Thanks Kathy

    P.S. My website will be live around December 10th

  3. Kathy – this is a wonderful article. Can I have permission to use the photo and tell the story on my blog GardenMyths.com? Full credit and a link to this page will be given.

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