It seems like just a fun, even silly, thing to do — bury a pair of underwear made of white cotton, and then dig them up a couple of months later to see what soil microbes have done to them.
But the Soil Your Undies campaign has a very serious purpose: To show people that microbes are critical to soil health and, more importantly, that not all soils are healthy.
“People have found that a more biologically active soil will do a lot more damage to cotton shorts than one that has been tilled and had its microbial communities and structure shattered,” said Greg Sekulic, a Canola Council of Canada agronomist and a director with the Soil Conservation Council of Canada.
“We’ve got producers and agronomists showing off their soil health by their demolished undies.”
It’s impossible to say how many pairs of whitey tighties are being buried, but the annual event gets a lot of attention on social media, and the soil conservation council estimates 1,000 or more people participated this spring.
“This is important to us and to our industry because it’s the biggest chance we have every year to talk to all Canadians about the need for soil health and soil conservation,” said Jim Tokarchuk, the council’s executive director. “These are not issues that generally capture a lot of attention with the general population of Canada because they are so removed from the ag business. It’s a real opportunity for us.”
The council wants the public to understand that soils are living, breathing entities — and that they need protection.
“The real interesting thing is the interest we’re getting from urban audiences, which is really important to the whole cause of soil health,” said Tokarchuk.“We are definitely seeing growth in people outside the ag industry who are taking an interest in this.”
For more on the campaign, see the Programs section of www.soilcc.ca.