How active is your soil? Try the underwear test!


by Contributor:  Claire Coombs1, Ridgetown Campus, University of Guelph

Soiled underwear has taken on a whole new meaning in my world, where the dirty and decrepit reign. In June, I planted something in the ground that I had never even considered burying, 7 pairs of men’s cotton briefs.

Soil biology can be a difficult concept to study, measure and teach. There are several tools and methods that can be used to measure soil biology, however these do not generally provide interesting or engaging, extension material. All this changed, when myself, and soil management specialist, Anne Verhallen, heard a presentation at a Midwest Cover Crop Council meeting. Using the cotton test, a soil biology measure using cotton swatches, as a basis, this researcher placed men’s 100% cotton briefs in the soil and removed after a set period of time to measure biological activity. The cotton test uses pre-measured squares of…

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About Sean Westerveld

Ginseng and Medicinal Herbs Specialist, OMAFRA
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