Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Farmers, gardeners bury cotton underwear to determine amount of microbes in dirt

COURTESY PHOTO - A hazelnut grower proudly shows off his microbe-eaten underwear — testament to the health of his farms soil. Last summer Clackamas Soil and Conservation District began a campaign to persuade landowners to "soil their undies" in an effort to determine the health of the soil in their garden.

Farmers and gardeners buried 100% cotton underwear, hoping the healthy microbes in the soil would degrade the cotton. Very little breakdown of the cotton meant that the soil was not host to enough microbes.

Accordingt to Lisa Kilders, education and outreach program manager, "Being the the first year for this undertaking, we were not sure what to expect. Lots of jokes, of course, but we learned a bit as well."

The follow-up of the soil experiment yielded three landowners with no cotton left when they dug up the "experiment," three with very little left, and two with very litle decomposition (and evidently very sterile soil). Two unluckly landowners could not find their buried underwear.

Lessons learned from the soil health experiment included:

n Clearly mark where you bury your underwear and do not plant where the marker may be damaged or moved.

n Do not plant where you've recently sprayed any chemicals.

n Water the site if the soil is very dry.

One unlucky experimentor dug up his underwear then forgot it in the tractor, later becoming concerned what the next person to operate the tractor would think of the soiled and degraded underwear, Kilders said.

The conservation district is challenging property owners to try the soiled undies test again this growing season so they can see for themselves how well-suited their garden is for optimal plant growth.

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