Using undies to further science

Enviroschools Otago regional co-ordinator Robyn Zink has a pair of undies to be used in the soil...
Enviroschools Otago regional co-ordinator Robyn Zink has a pair of undies to be used in the soil health experiment.PHOTO: NOSLAM
Teachers will soon have a new catch-cry: "Soil your undies".

The soil health project involves North and East Otago’s Enviroschools, whose teachers were shown how to do the deed themselves at Maheno School last week.

It involves burying cotton undies for two months, then digging them up to see how they have been affected by soil micro-organisms, worms, and dung beetles.

The greater the deterioration, the healthier the soil.

Enviroschools Otago regional co-ordinator Robyn Zink led the training day that was organised by North Otago Sustainable Land Management (Noslam) and supported by AgResearch, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, University of Otago, Otago Museum, and East Otago Catchment.

Weston School teacher Jenny Kitchin places soil from her home garden on to a map of Otago during...
Weston School teacher Jenny Kitchin places soil from her home garden on to a map of Otago during the Soil your Undies training day at Maheno School. The samples from each participant showed the region’s widely varying soil types. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

Dr Zink said it was "really exciting" to have those experts on hand and to get young people interested in soil.

The teachers learned how soil was formed, why it was important, how to test it, and how to improve its health.

The project would include an earthworm survey and a study of dung beetles as well as the undies experiment.

Earthworms and dung beetles were "soil engineers" that recycled nutrients, incorporated carbon, and helped to reduce leaching and sediment runoff.

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