IT IS perhaps one of the odder do-it-yourself experiments available to farmers with an interest in soil biology, but the annual 'plant your pants' initiative by green farming body Linking Environment And Farming has become a firm favourite – and it is once again time to get those undergarments underground.

In preparation for LEAF's national Open Farm Sunday event on June 12, farmers around the country are being encouraged to plant a pair or two of cotton pants in their cropping ground, setting up a demonstration for their summer visitors of the importance of soil management in agriculture, and the role that microorganisms play in maintaining soil health.

Farmers wanting to get involved need to plant any 100% cotton items before Easter Sunday – April 17 – and then leave them for the next 60 days or more, at 8 inches deep, where the lifeforms in the soil should begin eating the cellulose sugar, from which cotton is made, and start decomposing the organic material.

The pay-off is that sterile, lifeless soil will have little impact on the cotton, which will emerge mucky but intact, whereas organically thriving soil will result in very little left to dig up, demonstrating a really healthy soil teeming with hungry life.

This optional activity, is one of a number of ideas available to LEAF Open Farm Sunday host farmers to illustrate this year’s health theme, focussing on how the health of soil, crops, livestock and biodiversity translates through to the health of food, people and community.

LOFS manager Annabel Shackleton 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 since regularly shared the results of his own ‘plant your plants’ experiments on his social media channel @the_barker_boys.

Ms Shackleton 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.”

She stressed that for farmers wanting to take part in LOFS, it is free to register and they 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 would be the typical way new LOFS hosts get started. But via LEAF, 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.

To find out more or to register to take part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday, visit