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Growers: Soil Your Undies!

Research & Extension

Would you soil your undies for a good cause? 

Wait, what?

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) PIPS3 Program’s Improved Australian apple and pear orchards soil health and plant nutrition project (AP19006) is calling on growers to take part in the 8-week soil health challenge.  

The TIA Soil Your Undies challenge kicks off 1 September in Tasmania. Growers in WA can also take part. 

All you have to do is bury a pair of 100 per cent cotton undies on your farm, and let nature do the rest. 

Ok, but why?

This TIA challenge will provide useful information about soil biology in these growing regions. 

Soil biology is key to productive healthy soils, and ranges from microscopic bacteria to earthworms. Soil microbes convert organic matter (such as cotton underwear) into nutrients that are made available to the trees.  

The undies challenge is a way of visualising what is happening underground. Weighing or photographing your soiled undies can be a record of changes to your soil biological activity over time. It can show how soil health is impacted by different orchard practices. 

Soiler Spotlight: Hansen Orchards

Wayne Trengrove, manager at Hansen Orchards

Wayne Trengrove, manager at Hansen Orchards, is planning to ‘Soil his Undies’ as part of the Tassie Soil Health Challenge.  This may sound messy – and it is!  A pair of cotton undies is great food for soil microbes, and burying them in the orchard, just under the surface, is a practical way to see how much biological activity is in the soil.   

After 8 weeks underground, Wayne is hoping to see his undies looking more like rags.   

“Our soils here at Rosegarland are pretty tricky black clays,” Wayne said. “They retain a lot of water but once they dry out it’s hard to get any water back into them. We think about soil health all the time. When we mow, we throw our grass clippings back into the tree row but I know we could probably do a lot more to improve our soil.” 

How does it work?

Essentially, the more your undies are munched over 8 weeks, the greater your soils are actively working for you, hosting an abundance of busy biological critters that provide nutrients to your trees. Boosting the size and diversity of beneficial microbial communities can suppress some plant pathogens – a win-win!  

You can even trial a few places around the orchard and compare soil biology activity. 

What’s it all about?

The TIA project is investigating ways to improve soil health by managing inter-rows and tree-lines a little differently.  

Cover crops, compost and mulch treatments, and herbaceous and flowering meadow mix trials are underway on two orchards in the Huon Valley (Tas), Manjimup (WA), Orange (NSW), Adelaide Hills (SA) and at the Tatura Smart Farm (jointly with AP19002 & AP19005) to monitor the impact upon soil health, tree health, water availability, yield and fruit quality.  

The regional site coordinators will also be busy burying undies at each site. 

Let’s get messy

Ready to soil your undies in the name of good soil health? 

Contact Michele Buntain, TIA Horticulturist – Extension & Communication, on michele.buntain@utas.edu.au or phone 0429 957 975.   

Register here to collect your free Undie Pack. 

Western Australia growers can also get involved! Contact Susie Murphy White, Project Manager – Pomewest, on Susan.Murphy-White@dpird.wa.gov.au or phone 0429 413 420. 

Read more on the TIA Soil Your Undies webpage. 

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