A pair of ‘soiled undies’ before and after being buried in the ground [Courtesy of Oliver Knox] Armidale, Australia – What can white cotton underwear tell you about the health of the soil in your farm or garden? Quite a lot, it turns out. Hundreds of people – from farmers to schoolchildren – are burying their cotton underwear in their back gardens to dig up eight weeks later as part of a citizen science project called the Soil Your Undies Challenge that began in the United States before spreading overseas and is now gathering momentum in Australia. Cotton is made of a sugar called cellulose, making it a tasty snack for microbes and the army of other tiny decomposers that live in soil. The state of the garments when they are retrieved will indicate the health of the microbiome. If there is not much left of the cloth, then the soil is healthy and teeming with activity. If it is mostly intact, then work is necessary to improve the situation. Oliver Knox, a senior lecturer at the School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England (UNE) in New South Wales and CottonInfo, the Australian cotton industry’s joint […]


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