Researching Soil Quality Using the Tee Bag Index: Here’s what the students are doing at Earth Expedition – a good idea from the Research Department.
Tea bags as a research tool? You have to come to this first. But it works. The “Tea-Bag-Index-Method” is a scientifically recognized procedure. It can be used to see how quickly soil organisms break down plant debris. A thorough test has been carried out in this country since Friday. Tea bags are used as special probes at about 9,000 sites in all 16 federal states in order to obtain data for sustainable land use and climate modeling.
And another bonus: the researchers who provide tea bag information are not academic. They are – completely normal students. You are participating in the “Earth Mission”, launched by the Federal Ministry for Research. More than 300 schools are participating in the campaign.
But how exactly does the tea bag method work? The plant material, here green tea and sage tea, are carefully weighed, packaged in bags and then buried in the ground for three months. There it gradually disintegrates. After drilling at the end of the test, the tea is weighed again. The TBI, the tea bag index, can then be calculated from the weight difference between the starting and ending weight of the tea bags.
An expedition to Earth
The TBI is used in ‘Earth trip’ as an indicator of biological activity in soil, but it is supplemented by other factors. The pH value and soil type are also recorded, as these values influence the rate of decomposition. But since an unusually large number of sites are examined with the Teabag method, a good overview of the local soil condition is obtained.
Expedition is Germany’s first comprehensive research project in soil science. Introducing children and young people to the topic in this unusual way is more than reasonable. Because unlike climate, ocean or energy, the importance of soil is not exposed, whether in school or in public debate. “The health of our soils concerns us all,” Research Minister Anya Karlichik rightly noted at the start of the campaign. They are our livelihood, and they play a critical role in food production, biodiversity and climate protection.