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Bury your undies and learn about soils

News release
06 July 2021

Posted 06 July 2021.

The Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board invite you to participate in soiling your undies … learn about soil health. Why not get the dirt on your neighbours and ask them to soil their pants too and compare your results?

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator Eliza Rieger said we are encouraging everyone to participate in the Soil Your Undies project. It is easy, fun and educational for people to learn about the soil’s biological activity.

“You can join the project by registering through Eventbrite or by contacting the region’s Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator,” she said.

“Once registered, you will receive two pairs of 100% cotton underpants and instructions on how to bury them at two different locations of your choice.

“We are aiming for everyone to undertake their undie burials during National Science Week in mid-August.

“After the undies have been buried in the topsoil for two months, you will need to dig them up. Then mail them back to us for drying, photographing and weighing.

“We will return your soil results and provide information about improving soil health and function for enhanced sustainability.

“It’s that easy,“ Ms Rieger said.

“At the end of the two months, if there’s not much left of the buried undies, you have a lot of healthy biological activity in your soil. These same soil organisms can break down plant materials in a similar way.

“Burying cotton undies is an easy way to compare the biological activity in different soil types, at numerous locations on the farm, in various crop types, in garden beds, under a variety of watering regimes or even in different environments.

“It’s up to you where you bury your undies. Just remember to let us know where you have put them when you send back the soiled undies,” she said.

You can even share your soiled undie photos on Twitter by using the hashtag #soilyourundies.

Biological activity is critical in soils for nutrient cycling. By breaking down organic matter such as leaf litter and recycling the nutrients, microbes make them available to plants.

This process also develops and maintains soil structure, improves water infiltration and the soil’s ability to store water for plant use.

These critical biological soil functions ensure plants have a healthy soil environment to grow. It increases the range and diversity of micro-habitats that increase the variety of soil organisms and the soil’s overall health.

Fun soil facts

  • Soil is a living resource, home to more than 25% of our planet's biodiversity.
  • It is estimated that only 1% of soil microorganism species are currently known compared to 80% of plant species.
  • Up to 90% of living organisms live or spend part of their lifecycle in soils.
  • Soil organisms can break down certain contaminants.
  • One cup of soil may hold as many bacteria as people on earth, over 6 billion.
  • Over 1000 species of invertebrates may be found in a single square metre of forest soil.
  • Five tonnes of animal life can live in one hectare of soil.
  • Soil contains the organism with the largest surface area. A single colony of the honey fungus, Armillaria ostoyae, covers about nine square kilometres.
  • Mature trees can have as many as five million root tips.

The Soil Your Undies project is being conducted by Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board. It is linking with a national Soil Your Undies project being run by the University of New England and CottonInfo.

The project is supported by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from a National Science Week SA Community Grant and the landscape levies.

More information

Senior Media and Communications Project Officer