boxed-arrow-leftArtboard 1Artboard 1Artboard 1Artboard 1
Open menu

Published: 12 Aug 2021

TIA is encouraging apple growers to take part in its 8-week soil health challenge by burying a pair of 100% cotton undies and have them disappear.

How often are you encouraged to “soil your undies”? Tassie growers, this is your opportunity to do just that.

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture’s (TIA) wants you to take part in its 8-week soil health challenge by burying a pair of 100% cotton undies and have them disappear.

It uses the research project Improved Australian apple and pear orchards soil health and plant nutrition project (AP19006), which is part of the apple and pear industry’s Productivity, Irrigation, Pest and Soils research program (PIPS3 Program). This project is being funded by Hort Innovation using the apple and pear research and development levy and funds from the Australian Government.

Soil biological activity is key to productive healthy soils. Soil life ranges from microscopic bacteria and fungi to earthworms you can see. Soil microbes transform organic matter (such as cotton underpants) into nutrients that trees then use.

So, the more a pair of undies are munched, the greater the soil is actively working, hosting an abundance of busy biological critters providing nutrients to trees.

Boosting the size and diversity of beneficial microbial communities can also suppress some plant pathogens.

Wayne Trengrove, manager at Hansen Orchards, is planning to “soil his undies” as part of the Tassie apple grower Soil Health Challenge starting on September 1.

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

“Our soils here at Rosegarland are pretty tricky black clays,” Mr Trengrove 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.”

The TIA project is investigating ways to improve soil health by managing the inter-row and treeline a little differently.

Cover crop, compost and mulch treatments are underway on orchards in the Huon Valley (Tas), Manjimup (WA), Orange (NSW), Adelaide Hills (SA) and at the Tatura Smart Farm (Vic) to monitor the impact on soil health, tree health, water availability, yield and fruit quality.

But what happens to soil health when you change orchard practices?

The undie challenge is a way of visualising what is happening underground.

Weighing or photographing soiled undies can be a record of how soil biological activity changes over time. Trialling a few differing places across orchards can highlight where there is more soil biological activity.

The eight-week challenge starts on September 1.

To get involved contact Michele Buntain, TIA Horticulturist on michele.buntain@utas.edu.au or phone 0429 957 975.

Register on Eventbrite or head along to the next Future Orchards field day to collect your free Undie Pack.

More information can be found on the TIA Soil Your Undies web page.

Hort Innovation is the grower-owned not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

TIA is a joint venture of the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.

IMAGE: Wayne Trengrove, manager at Hansen Orchards, is planning to “soil his undies” as part of the Tassie apple grower Soil Health Challenge starting on September 1.

Watch Michele and Shane on Southern Cross news HERE