Underwear Composting Experiment Proves Importance of “Living” Soil

September 22, 2021 at 12:31 am

How “alive” is your soil? Take the #SoilYourUndiesChallenge to find out. Living soil quickly biodegrades things, like underwear, while “dead” soil preserves them indefinitely, farmers find.

Many of us beginning gardeners are so obsessed with adding the right nutrients to our soil, we forget the living micro-organisms that help make those nutrients bio-available to the plants we’re trying to feed.

A regenerative farm in Australia teamed up with the University of New England to test how “alive” various types of soil are by burying biodegradable cotton underwear in them.

“It is commonly misunderstood just how ALIVE soil is,” Our Alter Eco farm wrote in a Facebook post. “More than 25% of our planet’s life [by species] live in the soil, mostly in the form of microbes.”

“Microbes play a huge role in plant health. They act as the plant’s ‘stomach,’ digesting nutrients and providing key chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorous for plant cells to take in. Microbes can also move water around and prevent diseases.”
To demonstrate the power of living soil, the team buried 100% cotton underwear in four kinds of “dirt”:

1. Conventionally farmed land
2. Richgro All Purpose Organic Compost

3. Osmocote Premium Potting Soil Mix
4. Homemade compost

You can see which one had the most hungry microbes in the picture below. Hint: it wasn’t the conventional farmland, which is repeatedly sterilized by tilling and petro-chemicals.

The homemade compost (which “ate” up everything but the elastic) was made from microbe-rich green and brown waste from friends, family and local businesses.

Some more fun facts about soil:

*In just 3 inches of healthy soil, there are 13 quadrillion living organisms, weighing 100 million tonnes.

*Up to 90% of living organisms live or spent part of their lifecycle in soils.

*50% of the planet soil passes through the gut of earthworms each year.

*Soil biodiversity contributes to the remediation of soil pollution by breaking down contaminants

*Soils organisms help soils store carbon and reduce green-house-gas emissions.