Healthy soil doesn’t occur by accident. When farming practices cause imbalance and destruction to soil biology, chemistry and physics, its natural ability to heal and produce healthy plants is greatly decreased.

The end result is soil that can no longer produce quality food without the assistance of fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. Here’s why soil health is so important:

Healthy soil drains well and warms up quickly in the spring

This allows for even germination and increase in activity of the microbes. Moisture from winter snow and early spring rain are valuable both at germination and later in the growing season so soil structure and conditions should facilitate the retention of moisture throughout the growing season. An interesting note – aerobic bacteria play a large role in the production of ammonium nitrate, which has a unique quality in that cools when heated and warms when cooled. Having adequate amounts will regulate the soil’s temperature year-round.

Healthy soil does not crust after planting

The aerobic zone is an interface between the atmosphere and the earth. The action of ‘breathing’ occurs when barometric pressure increases and decreases. Removal of the crust allows the soil’s aerobic zone to take in air and release carbon dioxide.

A crust on the top of the soil prevents this interaction from occurring and the result is loss in soil productivity and efficiency. Usually this crust is caused by a ‘back-up’ of salts that accumulate on the top.

Healthy soil can handle heavy rains and dry spells

Compaction of soil limits its ability to absorb and hold larger volumes of water during heavy rains, causing run off concerns. By flocculating the soil it becomes able to manage water saturations more effectively. It is also able to hold and retain moisture/water in larger volumes, ready for a dry spell.

Healthy soil resists erosion and nutrient loss

Erosion is caused by an unbalanced polarity of soil clay colloids. Nutrient loss can be minimised by incorporating plant residues into the aerobic zone of the soil allowing soil microbes to effectively break down trash and recycle nutrients.

Plant residue left on the top of the soil will oxidize, resulting in nutrients loss. Compacted soil isn’t aerobic.

Healthy soil produces high quality crops without needing more fert

Plant nutrition is based on the plant’s ability to fix minerals from the soil into its tissues and create high sugar content. Well-engineered soil that is balanced and properly managed will provide the energy and nutrients to support this creation of higher sugar content so the plant has its own store of energy to be able to complete its functions and reproduce. As soil conditions correct, the more able the soil becomes to self-provide and the less need there is for ‘additives’ to achieve a healthy crop with a good yield.


In areas that have had heavy chemical application or with high erosion, the anaerobic layer can be found very close to the surface. As there is no oxygen at this level, any decaying plant material worked in will not decay properly. Rather it will be preserved in formaldehydes and alcohols, the by-products of anaerobic organisms living in this layer of soil.

Anaerobic soil will smell musty, may be sticky, slimy and/or have a shiny appearance. Tap roots may penetrate this layer, but feeder roots are generally not found in the anaerobic zone.


The aerobic zone is the layer of soil that is in contact with the atmosphere, where oxygen is able to penetrate between soil particles and atmospheric air makes up 25% of the overall soil composition.

This is the profile of the soil where plant feeder roots spread out and where water-soluble nutrients are transported into the plant. The aerobic zone is able to support millions of microscopic, air-breathing beneficial organisms that perform many vital roles in the growth of healthy crops.

A healthy aerobic zone is soft and mellow without crusting or lumps and smells like fresh air.

The depth of the aerobic zone varies from field to field and within the fields as well. It is important to know the depth of aerobic zone in your fields to ensure tillage does not bring up and deposit lumps of anaerobic soil on the surface.