Growers heading to this year’s Cereals event in Lincolnshire will get the chance to check out their fellow farmers’ soiled underwear – all in the name of improving soil health.

Stowmarket and Huntingdon monitor farm hosts Brian Barker and Russell McKenzie will put their pants on show at the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds stand, having previously buried them for a rather unusual test.

Brian Barker digging up his soiled cotton pants © AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds

Brian Barker digging up his soiled cotton pants © AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds

As a simple visual experiment, once dug up, the condition of the white cotton underwear shows the amount of soil microbial activity going on beneath the surface and can be used to highlight ways of improving soil health.

See also: Video: How to sample your soil for analysis

The more decayed the pants are, the more microbial activity is taking place – a good sign of a healthy soil.

At 11.30am on both days of the event, Mr Barker and Mr McKenzie will lead a farmer discussion about their findings and how their pants experiences have changed their management practices.

The debate will focus on the effect of different establishment methods, worm numbers and cover crops.

Tim Isaac, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds head of knowledge exchange, explained while the craze may sound bizarre, burying cotton pants gives a handy indication of what’s going on in the soil.

“It sounds like a bit of fun, but it can also give us some serious messages about future-proofing our soils.

“It can reveal the state of our soil health and give us an insight into which tools we should develop across the farm to encourage soil biology and improve soil structure.”

Cereals logoThe Cereals event is to be held on 14-15 June at the 64ha site just south of Lincoln, with nearly 500 leading suppliers already booked to attend.

Further discounts are available: for groups of 11-20 the price comes down to £19 a ticket; for groups of more than 21 the cost is £18 a ticket.

Cereals is organised by Comexposium Haymarket Exhibitions, and Farmers Weekly is the media partner.