Turns out the cotton in underwear can works as an indicator of the soil's health
soil my undies challenge
Credit: Faba-Photograhpy / Getty Images

An unexpected trend has spread from California all the way across the Atlantic to the rolling greens of Scotland: burying underwear in the ground. But this isn’t some strange hippie statement … okay, maybe it is a little bit. Farmers across Britain are being encouraged to try an inexpensive and natural way to determine the health of their soil: Bury a pair of 100-percent cotton briefs in their fields for two months, then dig them out and see how they’ve held up. The worse they fared, the healthier your soil.

This “Soil My Undies Challenge” was originally launched by California’s Farmers Guild this past July, encouraging farmers to “measure the biological activity of your soil with a pair of skivvies!” “Cotton is an organic material and breaks down naturally just like anything else you’d put in your compost pile,” Evan Wiig, executive director of the guild, told the Telegraph. “So if you bury cotton in soil teeming with life, all those creatures will begin to feast.” As a result, thriving soil can eat a pair of pure cotton briefs down to the strap, whereas sterile, lifeless soil with leave a pair of underwear you could wash and put back into your drawer.

Inspired by the simplicity of this method, both the U.K.’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Quality Meat Scotland have begun advising farmers of the test as a way to check their soil. Even livestock farmers are being encouraged to bury their unmentionables because healthier soil grows better grass and other feed to create healthier (and tastier) sheep and beef.

“The results were very interesting,” said Scottish farmer Iain Green. “We have quite a wet field here and obviously that has been starved of oxygen and the underpants were hardly touched. However, with our arable fields, which are cultivated heavily, they were eaten away, but we do cover them with a lot of muck. It was a success and a simple and cheap way of testing soil.”

Just make sure you’ve left yourself enough pairs to get through to laundry day.