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Minnesota farmers use buried underwear to test soil health



EASTON, Minn. (AP) — Some southern Minnesota farmers are using underwear as a creative way to test soil health.

Farmers participating in the “Soil Your Undies” program buried cotton underwear in their fields this summer to see how they would decompose over time, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Farmers recently gathered in Faribault County to share their results.

Using underwear is a fun way to raise awareness about the importance of soil health, farmers said. The gathering also highlighted other signs of soil health, such as signs of worm activity.

Eric Volsen farms corn and soybeans near Walters. He buried two pairs of underwear; one in a field that’s been tilled over the years and one where cover crops have been planted for three years. The pair in the tilled field was almost completely intact while the pair in the cover crop field was more decomposed, Volsen said.

“That contrast is very eye-opening to me,” he said.

Volsen said he believes that illustrates how planting cover crops can improve soil’s health by increasing plants, organisms and nutrients. Tilling fields involves tearing up the soil after crops are harvested to get rid of plant residue.

Program organizer Nathan Carr said the goal was to encourage farmers to share their soil practices. He works with the Faribault County Soil and Water Conservation District, which aims to reduce tilling and encourage the use of cover crops.

“We want to highlight the good stuff people are doing,” he said.

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