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What we can learn from the underwear test

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Farmers are intimately connected to their land. Literally. And they have no shortage of imagination when it comes to understanding the health of their soil. Case in point: the underwear test! Bury a pair of cotton underpants in different types of fields for 60 days to better understand the biological activity in the soil. 

What’s the point of this test?

The underwear test has no scientific pretensions, but seeks to prompt reflection on how different farming practices affect the health of the soil. The more decomposed the underwear after 60 days, the more active life is in the soil and therefore the healthier it is.

But why underwear?

Besides the fact that it’s kind of funny, the advantage of using underwear is that they contain an elastic band that does not break down in the soil, unlike the cotton, which breaks down very easily. This helps the farmers locate their underwear when it comes time to analyze them.

Have we piqued your curiosity? Have a look at this video by Odette Ménard from the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) to see what the underwear test is all about:

What your underwear can tell you about your soil

The underwear test demonstrates the biological activity in the soil, and underlines the importance of healthy soil - that is, soil with a solid structure, a high level of organic matter, etc. Because beyond just being able to break down underwear, healthy soil has other, more important powers, such as improved fertility, which can help reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and can help increase the resilience of the farm.

Through innovative practices and approaches, farmers can improve the health of their soil, protecting its long-term productive capacity and ultimately increasing the soil’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

That’s why Équiterre is working hand in hand with Quebec farmers, to encourage and support them in adopting these practices.

In cooperation with Coordination services-conseils, Équiterre recently launched a project called vitrines technologiques, to inspire Quebec farmers on large cultivated farms to adopt soil health and soil conservation practices through a series of videos, profiles and webinars.

For the health of our agri-food system, for our food security and for the health of our planet, we want to see more shredded underpants!

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