Many species of wildlife need weed areas with thin vegetation and bare ground. Strip disking is a simple and cost effective way to set back succession and create food and cover. Disking old native grass stands, odd areas of fescue, Conservation Reserve Program lands, or old fields removes thatch that has accumulated on the ground. This removal of thatch allows annual weeds and other plants to grow. Disturbing the ground with a disk also brings seeds already found in the seedbank to the surface providing ideal conditions for these plants to germinate and grow. Many of the "weedy" species found in crop fields and fallowed areas during the first couple of years provide excellent wildlife food and cover especially for a variety of wildlife. One reason that quail were abundant in the period before the 1950's was due to the weediness of many agricultural fields and odd areas. These weeds were important for survival.
Strip disking should be done on a 3 year rotation which allows for 3 different vegetation stages to occur in the field. Under a 3 year rotation a strip is disked in year 1 the width of the equipment with a space double the width of the equipment not being disked before another strip is disked (figure 1). This will continue across the field until you have done all of the field or the portion you want to do. In year 2, a portion of the non-disked area is disked adjacent to the area disked the previous year. In Year 3 the area that was not disked in Year 1 or Year 2 is disked. The process starts again in Year 4 with the area disked in Year 1 being disked again.
Strip disking should occur between November 1 and March 30. Disking between November 1 and February 1 is the best time to increase broadleaf weeds and annual grasses. In areas having tall thick vegetation, it is recommended to bushhog the strips before disking. The mower should be set as low as you are comfortable setting it to avoid hitting stumps, rocks, or other debris. The disk should be a minimum of 6 ft wide. Each strip should be as wide as your equipment. If you are using a light to medium weight disk a minimum of 3 passes is needed. After disking the strips 3 times check the amount of plant residual left on the strips. Strips should have from 10% to 30% plant residual. If more than 30% residual remains it is recommended that the strips are disked 2 or more additional times to break up the residual. Leaving heavy residual and thatch will reduce broadleaf plant and annual grass germination and growth. If you are using a heavy disk/bog disk it is recommended that no more than two passes/strip be done.
Plants that Respond to Strip Disking