A highlight from How Healthy Is The Soil On Your Farm? 'Soil Your Undies' To Find Out

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From Question for the sake of the environment. Are you willing to soil your undies before you lunch for the radio. Dial in discuss. I should explain. We're talking about bearing cotton underwear as a way to test. The health of your garden topsoil in australia. Dozens of farmers of taken the soil. Your undies challenge. Oliver knox helped organize the effort. He's a senior lecturer at the school of environmental and rural science at the university of new england in new south wales so these farmers take their pairs of pants under their field and dig a shallow hole literally five centimeters deep. You know the depth of their fingers and they lay the pants down flat. Cover them up and then they go back eight weeks later they dig them up and they're looking for degradation is a call the breakdown of the pant so in a nice healthy soil where the soil biology's both diverse active old. He'll get back. We'll be the elastic waistband and the poly cotton stitching because the the bacteria and fungi and the soil have really gone to work on that conflict and broke it down into the sugar that is made of and consumed them the tasty cotton underwear was actually supplied by knox and cotton info and australian industry group. Eight weeks after sending fifty pairs of undies to fifty farmers. The results came in fifty ziplock bags. Came back with soiled underpants and it became a real competition between the farm. My soul's better than you also because my pants more degraded them sort of create that competition between themselves but also just to start that conversation around seoul biology and this soil health. This sawyer undies. Challenge began in the united states and canada a few years ago but when knox and his colleague sally dickinson brought the project to their own country. They encountered especially australian problem. The protocol by bury the on defense leaves the waistband above the surface. So you can go back and zoom them real easily so the first pair. We tried we did that. And we went back within a few weeks and the pants had gone. But there was lots of kangaroo or prints around the halls or somewhere skis out running around the outback with a pair of taty. Whiteys they like to go from here. So after that complete burial and a flag so they were jokes about kangaroos aside the sawyer undies. Challenge is a low tech accessible way to gauge soil. Health and draw attention to the shrinking supply of the world topsoil biggest risk is probably erosion. And then it's climate. Change gives us more severe and more unpredictable rain events. We always run. The risk of erosion of topsoil is so important you know it's where loaded on nutrition and mineral turnover occurs which is what our plans for light to grow on so we've got a lot of guility The risk from pollution. And i always throw into that mix as well particularly in open areas that that risk from ceiling of our soil's concrete tarmac the things the houses are infrastructure that we build on it. We've sealed it up. We can't grow on that anymore. Schoolteachers in australia are also drawn to knox's project. Though covid lockdown had affected his work not to go to school groups and do are usually extension. We decided we'd open up this solely randy's as a citizen science in particular school base challenge so last year we basically got two hundred and seven pairs of pants out to community. Groups are one hundred and sixty one of which schools and they sold their undies and we zoom them and they sit in the back to the university of england and put images up on social media and we just go really nice. Feel for the state of our soil's right across australia to get school. Kids engage in thinking about what goes on. In these soils. I think if we can stimulate an interest in that young age and encouraged that then i think hopefully we can see changes in the way that maybe we behave towards our soil's in our landscapes and make more sustainable through them that's oliver knocks

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