Soil is a biologically diverse and complex system made up of weathered minerals and decomposed organic material, but soil is also very much alive, it is home to billions of organisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, nematodes, insects, and animals that drive the process of decomposition and nutrient cycling, making it a diverse ecosystem.
But the system is also fragile and can be easy damaged based on how it is managed. Disturbing soil through such things as tillage greatly impacts a soil health, affecting the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the soil.
Tillage can destroy soil aggregates, breaking apart the soil structure that is held together by biological exudates. Loss of soil structure reduces water infiltration, increases compaction and limits root growth. Tillage also evaporation and soil temperature by removing residue from the soil surface exposing soil to excessive solar radiation and wind causing the soil to dry out, and form crust or expose the soil to increased erosion.
Tillage also decreases and destroys beneficial biology in the soil, such mycorrhizal fungi by breaking up their delicate hyphae networks that assist plants extending the area they can collect water and nutrients from. Tillage also increase amount of oxygen present in the soil, causing rapid decomposition to organic matter, soil carbon and releases of stored nutrients making them easy leached by water and lost.
Overall disturbance of soil by such things as tillage can cause a soil to rapidly degrade its health, on average farmers loss 5.8 tons of soil per acre per year.