Photo Courtesy of SDSU Extension
Erosion (sheet, rill or gully) and soil surface sealing are visual examples that indicate poor soil health.
The occurrence of these events are a result of soil with poor structure, low organic matter (carbon), un-protected soil surface, possibly little or no earthworm activity, and tillage.
Effects of Tillage
Tillage destroys and prevents soil from developing stable soil aggregates, greatly reduces macro pores and earthworm populations, and oxidizes organic matter (excessively converts to CO2 released into the atmosphere).
Aggregates are clumps of soil particle held together by stable humus and organic glues released from soil microbial populations and other organisms (insects and fungi) that convert soil organic matter to stable humus.
Soils with good aggregation and macro pore structure have higher water infiltration rates that greatly reduce run-off from the soil surface.
Soil surfaces that are protected with crop residues and organic matter promote greater water infiltration because the soil aggregates don’t break down from rain drop impact and seal the pores which would result in water runoff and less infiltration.
No-till is the key to healthy soil management because it maintains and promotes soil macro pores and aggregation through increased carbon storage and supports soil macro- and microorganisms including earthworms, insects, fungi, and bacteria.