I have to admit, writing about farmers soiling their undies makes me feel like an elementary school kid with the giggles. I can hear classmates coming up with a million ways to use the phrase — Did you soil your undies? Uh, oh teacher, so-and-so soiled his undies. Does it smell when you soil your undies? and so many more things. But we are introducing a pretty important concept in this silly way when we talk about why farmers soil their undies.
What is “soil your undies” about?
The fact that cotton has a great environmental footprint as a natural fiber, breaking down over time, cotton can be recycled in various ways. It has the whole earth-to-earth thing going on.
So knowing all of that, some people wanting to help people better understand their farm’s soil health, created the “Soil Your Undies” campaign. Since then, a variety of agricultural groups have been encouraging farmers to do the “Soil Your Undies” challenge — my friend Brenda Frketich did it last year with a massive pair that the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service gave her.
Brenda and her family grow nuts & grass in Oregon. She made it a fun lesson for her kids too. Got them out in the field to help her dig the hole and fill it. It is funny that a few folks asked if they were her dad’s or something, but really, the oversized ones are nice because it is more challenging and easier to see what happens.
This video from Australia’s Cotton Info explains how they were encouraging farmers across the country to bury a couple of pairs of undies in different places on their farms. The undies are buried in the soil getting good soil to cotton connectivity. The fun comes a couple of months later when the farmers dig them back up!
Don’t worry, there is another video for that too!
The Results of Soiling Your Undies
The variations of soils, weather conditions, microbial activity and more are seen as these undies get dug up! This video shows a scientist in the lab talking about it and I have to admit, his talking about all of this scientifically about the amounts of degradation and how much difference he sees in undies between two well known cotton growing areas of Goondiwindi and Moree.
The findings that he shows really grabs my sense of wonder. The fact that they tested a hypothesis that some young scientists had as well as had someone who was too impatient to wait for the ones Cotton Info was bringing their way and planted their own. Ended up planting a cotton blend and you can really see the difference with the elastane!
Wonder about your soil?
The great thing about this is how easy it is to run tests for yourself.
If you are a farmer, you were given a lot of ideas through the videos on how to pick two different environments to choose between.
If you live in the city? Do you have a raised bed garden? A flower bed that you have covered with mulch? Some place in the backyard? Next to a compost pile? Maybe a school yard?
Would love to see any tests you do! Shoot me an email, share it on social media with #soilyourundies.
Soiling Polyester Undies
After this post went live, I saw that my friend Bill Robertson who works for the University of Arkansas soiled some undies! Love that he put cotton and polyester in comparison… clear to see which one is biodegradable after use.
.@arcottonman in cotton field today doing “soiled undies” demo at .@cottonplantkid farm today to display benefits of cover crops & environmental harm of polyester (plastic) clothes vs cotton. .@CottonInc .@soil_institute .@AginArk pic.twitter.com/98pnHNg7Ch
— AgCouncilofAr (@AgCouncilofAr) July 25, 2019