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soil science Why Swiss kids are burying their underwear

Swiss children have been urged to bury their undies to see what happens to them in the ground. 

It's the brainwave of researchers at the Agroscopeexternal link agricultural research centre, affiliated to the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG). Soil scientist Marcel van der Heijden told Swiss Public Television, SRF: "We want to show the children in a playful way that there is a lot of biodiversity underground."

Agroscope is in the tenth year of a 12-year study into soil quality, which is being carried out with the federal technology institute ETH Zurichexternal link. As part of their investigation, they buried tea bags - rather than pants - in various fields.

The way in which the bags are broken down by bacteria, fungi and bugs is an indication of soil quality. From the level of decay, scientists can deduce how many nutrients are in the ground. The test results should help scientists to better advise farmers on how to manage their land and could lead to a reduction in the use of fertilisers in some areas.

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