Living roots are crucial for healthy soil. As plant roots grow down, they break open the soil, which makes it possible for air and water to enter deep into the soil. There are a lot of plants that act like nutrient pumps. They grow down very far, where they can reach minerals and other nutrients.
Plants are also feeding life in the soil. Through their roots they give sugars and other carbohydrates to microorganisms and fungi in the soil. In return they receive nutrients and water.
Where does the sugar come from? Through photosynthesis, plants use carbon molecules from the atmosphere to produce sugars. They are turning the problem that we have in the atmosphere into amazing food in the soil.
Carbon gets locked up in the organisms that consume it. These organisms take it further down into the soil. When they get eaten by other organisms it goes further and further.
This exchange also happens with fungi. Through a network of fungi, plants can increase their reach multiple times. Thanks to this exchange at the root level, plants grow much better and can survive harsher conditions.
When chemical fertilizer is applied, plants don’t develop this relationship. The plant has no need to produce extra sugar for the organisms around it. However, as soon as the chemical fertilizer washes away or is used up, the plant is left hungry and a dependence on chemical fertilizer occurs.
When soil is tilled, these networks get destroyed as well. Undisturbed living roots are crucial for healthy soil life.
The longer we can keep living roots in an undisturbed soil, the healthier the soil will be and the more carbon can be stored.