Underwear measurement of soil microbial activity

Underwear measurement of soil microbial activity

When Amanda Volsen and her husband buried four pairs of new cotton underwear, they were bombarded with four children’s problems. The biggest, maybe you may want to know: Why do you want to bury underwear?

In recent years, Walson and her husband have gained new insights into the soil health of corn, soybeans and small farms in southern Minnesota. The “dirty underwear” test gives them the opportunity to see which areas contain the most microbial activity and which areas are still improving.

“My husband has been farming because he can walk with his grandfather and his father. For the past few years, he has been looking for cover crops and conservation tillage methods,” Volsen said. “We already have some no-till fields because they are very susceptible to erosion, but we are really digging for crops.”

The family has been experimenting with crops for the past three years. This experiment proves that their efforts create a healthier environment for microbes.

Volsen said: “In the four buried underwear, only the five-year no-till and three-year coverage crops are left behind.” “Almost intact is the rotation of corn and beans and traditional farming.”

Farmers who perform soil testing for viscera basically use the garment as a substitute for corn stalks to more evenly compare soil health. The US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Authority and others have been encouraging this practice in the past so that farmers can truly understand the role of soil in the field.

“If I do this, I will look at the characteristics of the field I want to improve and the current management practices,” said Michael Lehman, a microbiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Laboratory. Decomposition and decomposition are attributed to whether the microorganism has food and soil structure.

“They need food, and the important thing is that they need root exudates,” Lehman said. When plants survive, they produce energy through photosynthesis, but about 20% of them are lost in the soil through the roots. He added that long-term rooting in the soil causes microbial exudates to stimulate more activity, leading to faster decomposition and contributing to healthy soils.

This extra energy may be why the Volsen family used cover crops and no-till in the field to see the most disintegration of underwear. In addition, studies have shown that no-till and minimal soil support soil structure better than conventional arable land.

“If your soil structure allows air and water to flow through, microbial activity will increase,” Lehman said. Fields with poor soil structure are usually promoted through aggressive farming and fallow periods, and oxygen and water microbes cannot be continuously supplied.

“However, after you reach the soil, it produces an outbreak of microbial activity, but it does not last because the soil subsidence structure is not that large, limiting the flow of air and water, resulting in low activity,” Lehman said. . “It is also more susceptible to stagnant water [may reduce microbial activity].”

He said that a better option is to provide a mild year of activity by improving soil structure and providing food in the form of root exudates. If you do a underwear test and find it still intact after 60 days, Lehman says you need to take steps to add new crops to your rotation, reduce tillage, retain residue and keep the field growing for as long as possible.

At Volsen Farm, test reminders and prove that their efforts to help the soil are working.

Walson said: “We work with multiple generations on the farm, so it is good to prove what we see in crops in underwear.” “Covering crops and protective measures is not a magical solution, it needs With proper management, you can’t just try it once and have a learning curve that makes it fit your operation. But it’s worth it.”

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