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How hungry is your soil?

Organisers of LEAF Open Farm Sunday, Linking Environment And Farming, are encouraging farmers to plant their cotton ‘pants’ now to demonstrate to visitors in June the importance of soil management in agriculture, and the role of microorganisms in maintaining its health.

This option­al activ­i­ty, is one of a num­ber of ideas avail­able to LEAF Open Farm Sun­day (LOFS) host farm­ers to talk about this year’s theme health”. The focus is on the health of soil, crops, live­stock and bio­di­ver­si­ty through to food, peo­ple and community. 

Farm­ers want­i­ng to get involved need to plant any 100% cot­ton items before East­er Sun­day (17th April), and then dig them up on or just before LOFS on Sun­day 12th June 2022. Over the next 60 days or more, at 8” deep, the life­forms in the soil will begin eat­ing the cel­lu­lose sug­ar, from which cot­ton is made, and start decom­pos­ing the organ­ic material. 

Ster­ile, life­less soil will have lit­tle impact on the cot­ton, where­as organ­i­cal­ly thriv­ing soil will result in very lit­tle to dig up, demon­strat­ing a real­ly healthy soil. 

Annabel Shack­le­ton, LOFS man­ag­er explained:

All farm­ers, grow­ers and crofters who take part in LEAF Open Farm Sun­day have access to a wide range of free resources and activ­i­ty ideas, aimed at spark­ing con­ver­sa­tions and demon­strat­ing to vis­i­tors the range of skills and work that farm­ers do. Plant Your Pants’, is a fun way for farm­ers to talk about soil man­age­ment, and the role it plays in cli­mate health – from seques­ter­ing car­bon, flood pre­ven­tion and sup­port­ing biodiversity.” 

The idea is not a new one, with farm­ers and school chil­dren in USA, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and more recent­ly Switzer­land, mon­i­tor­ing soil micro­bial activ­i­ty by bury­ing cot­ton pants! 

LEAF Demon­stra­tion Farmer and AHDB Strate­gic Mon­i­tor Farmer Bri­an Bark­er, brought the con­cept to the UK after vis­it­ing Cana­da as part of his Nuffield Schol­ar­ship, and has shared the results of his own plant your plants’ exper­i­ments on his social media chan­nel @the_barker_boys.

Annabel added, Soil is always a pop­u­lar dis­cus­sion top­ic with vis­i­tors on LEAF Open Farm Sun­day, whether its dig­ging for worms or look­ing at root struc­tures in a soil pit. This plant your pants activ­i­ty I’m sure will put a smile on everyone’s faces on the day! We are encour­ag­ing farm­ers to take pho­tographs before and after they plant items to demon­strate the dif­fer­ence to vis­i­tors. We would love to see every­one who gets involved to write #LOFS22 on the cot­ton, and then upload a pho­to and post it on social media!”

For farm­ers inspired by this activ­i­ty and want­i­ng to take part in LOFS, it is free to reg­is­ter and farm­ers do not need to be a mem­ber of LEAF. Every farmer decides the type of event they want to host. A sim­ple farm walk for an hour or so is a great way to start. A free online tick­et­ing ser­vice is avail­able to man­age vis­i­tor num­bers, and a series of Zoom meet­ings are sched­uled to share top tips and answer farm­ers’ questions. 

The next Zoom meet­ing, on Thurs­day 7th April at 7pm will touch on plant your pants’ and oth­er activ­i­ties and resources avail­able to help farm­ers share their sto­ry. To find out more and to reg­is­ter to take part in LEAF Open Farm Sun­day, vis­it www​.farm​sun​day​.org.

The full press release can be found here.

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