|Soil Health and the Cotton Brief Challenge
by Meredith Hoffman
Are you curious about the health of your soil? Join a group of Marion County Farm women who are burying cotton underwear to assess the biological activity of their soil and the soil health. Ten pairs of 100% cotton briefs are being buried by farm women across Marion County! Over the next two months, soil microbes will be breaking down the cotton.
After two months the briefs will be dug up. The more shredded and ragged the briefs, the healthier the soil. If the briefs look a lot like they did when they were buried, then there is some work to be done in making the soil healthier.
How does this experiment work?
A healthy soil is full of bacteria, fungi, arthropods, protozoa, and earthworms. You see, 100% cotton is a food source for the microbes and other organisms in the soil. This is why after two months in the ground, the worse looking the briefs, the more biological activity you have in your soil. Biologically active soil is healthy soil.
Why does soil health matter?
The increased popularity in home gardening and growing your own food, plus the ever-present interest of farmers in producing healthier crops and forage, has people thinking deeply about soil health. Healthy soils are more productive which means your crops – be it a backyard garden or 80 acres of hazelnuts – will be healthier and produce higher yields. Healthy soil also requires less fertilizer, has better water infiltration, and improved water holding capacity. This reduces soil erosion and irrigation requirements, and healthy soil is climate friendly because it can hold more carbon.
Soil Health Workshop coming in November. More information to follow in Summer Newsletter.
If you have questions about soil health, we will be glad to help you. Reach us at www.marionswcd.net or call Marion SWCD at 503.391.9927.