AISWCD is pleased to share that an educational display promoting conservation and soil health using the “Soil Your Undies Challenge” has been installed in the state capitol rotunda! The display, installed in early January, will remain in place until March 8th when conservationists and dignitaries will reveal the powerful work of the soil.
What in the heck is the Soil Your Undies Challenge!?
The Soil Your Undies Challenge was first developed by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to demonstrate the power of soil health and importance of conservation. This fun, educational demonstration showcases the transformative power of healthy soils.
As the world’s population continues to grow and the demand for food production continues to rise, careful natural resource management and planning is needed. Keeping our soil healthy and productive is of paramount importance to ensuring sustainability into the future. By farming using soil health principles and systems that include no-till, cover cropping, and diverse rotations, more and more farmers are increasing their soil’s organic matter and improving microbial activity. As a result, farmers are sequestering more carbon, increasing water infiltration, improving wildlife and pollinator habitat—all while harvesting better profits and often better yields.
Farmers are not the only ones digging into the principles of soil health, homeowners and businesses are learning that healthy soil can promote the growth of a healthy lawn and landscaping, as well as help water filtration and prevent erosion.
How it Works:
It’s simple – a pair of clean cotton underwear is submerged in soil at a depth of 2-3’’ for a period of 60 – 70 days. Afterwards, the underwear is removed and depending on the healthiness of the soil, very little should remain following the natural biological degradation process that has occurred right under your feet!
Healthy soil contains billions of microbes that consume organic material (in this case, cotton underwear). In fact, one teaspoon of healthy soil contains more microbes than there are people on the planet. In addition to chowing down on organic matter like cotton, healthy soils also help resist erosion, cycle nutrients, and store water.
The Power of Soils!
Soils perform vital functions to sustain plant and animal life, regulate water flow, filter and buffer pollutants, cycle nutrients, and provide physical stability and sort.
What is Soil Health?
Soil health is defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Healthy soil gives us clean air and water, bountiful crops and forests, productive grazing lands, diverse wildlife, and beautiful landscapes.
- 10 Percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in soil.
- 1 Tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than there are people on earth!
- 70,000 Different types of soil in the U.S.
- 500 minimum years it takes to form one inch of topsoil – it’s a precious resource!
- 1,400,000 Earthworms that can be found in an acre of cropland
What Does Healthy Soil Do?
- Regulates water by controlling where rain, snowmelt, and irrigation water goes.
- Sustains plant and animal life
- Filters and buffers potential pollutants
- Cycles nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and many more
- Provides physical stability and support providing a medium for plant roots.
Ways to Improve Soil Health:
- Avoid soil disturbance through tillage wherever and whenever possible.
- Maximize soil cover with living plants and residue such as cover crops and silage.
- Maximize biodiversity by growing a variety of plants and managed integration of livestock.
- Maximize living roots in the soil throughout the year.