One of the best things about summer is the fresh selection of fruits and vegetables available throughout the warm months.

But a strange crop with far less nutritional value has a Canadian conservation group excited for the season.

The Soil Conservation Council of Canada started a campaign called “Soil Your Undies” earlier this year encouraging gardeners to take a pair of white, cotton underwear and bury it in their soil. After a few months, the undies could be dug up.

The purpose: to determine whether or not a garden had a healthy amount of microbes, bacteria, minerals, earthworms and fungi by analyzing the state of the underwear.

“The more microbial activity, the more breakdown, the healthier the soil is,” Marla Riekman, a soil management expert with the group, told CTV News.

In theory, healthy soil would yield worn, ratty looking undies after a few months. The more holes in the fabric, the more evidence of healthy organisms.

“Basically anything living in the soil can’t tell the difference between a piece of crop residue or a piece of cotton,” Riekman explained.

The group says that healthy soil is a key ingredient in supporting Canada’s agricultural industry and producing sustainable food.

A research farm in Howden, Man. planted two pairs of undies in its fields. One of the fields was tilled, while the other had been left alone for a year.

“My initial reaction was, ‘What are they doing?’” admitted Brian Hellegards, a research farmer from the Richardson Kelburn Farm.

When they recently dug up the underwear, they found that the tilled field produced the underwear with more holes – revealing a healthier crop.

The project isn’t just for farmers. The council has encouraged anyone with a shovel and a backyard to dig a hole and bury a pair of underwear. They’ve posted full instructions online on how to conduct the experiment at home.

The council says it takes about two months before the undies can reflect the state of the soil.

Participants are encouraged to share their results on social media with the hashtag #SoilYourUndies. The council will include some of the posts at the Summit on Canadian Soil Health in August.

Riekman says the project has taken her all across Canada – albeit for an unusual mission.

“It’s the beauty of my job is sometimes I get to drive across the country and bury underwear wherever I go,” she said.

With a report from CTV Manitoba Bureau Cheif Jill Macyshon