Farmers ‘soil’ underwear for better crop health

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 11:59 AM MDT
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SUSSEX COUNTY, Del. (WMDT) – Men’s “tighty whities” are helping Delaware farmers keep their crops in check.

The farmers have found a new use for cotton briefs by burying them under the soil.

In the beginning of May, the Sussex Conservation District planted several pairs of 100% cotton underwear in farm fields in Bethel and Georgetown.

Just shy of 60 days later, pretty much all that’s left of the underwear is the elastic waistbands.

Jonathan Walton, with the Sussex Conservation District, said the more organic the matter, the more microbes there are.

“It typically goes hand in hand,” he said. “The better the ground and the heavier it is, the more microbes and activity you’ll have, which transpires into the underwear being consumed by them. Basically, any of the cotton that was actually buried into the soil has decomposed with the natural microbes.”

It’s a sign of healthy soil when more of the cotton in the underwear has disintegrated after being buried.

Earthworms are also an indication of good earth, as their burrowing creates tiny channels for water to flow through.

Farmer Martin O’Neal said he was glad to see he had that much microbe activity.

“I’d be happy to do it again,” he said. “Any time you can run an experiment, you stand the chance of learning something you didn’t know.”

Healthy soil also means less spending on fertilizer and wider profit margins for the farmers.

“Especially this year, there’s extensive cost in it, and they want to put down enough to get what they’re after and no extra, really,” Walton said.

The last time the Sussex Conservation District experimented with soiling their undies was in 2018. They say they’ve only seen improvements since then.

“We have seen, in general, that the soil health is definitely increasing, just through awareness and people trying different things,” Walton said. “The biggest thing is that you don’t have to do it all at once. You start small and see what you’re comfortable with.”

The Sussex Conservation District plans to try staggering where and when they plant the underwear next time and when they check on them.

That way they say they can see how the decomposition is progressing over time and in different environments.

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