Have you ever heard of the practice of discing a field?
Discing is an important tillage practice that is used for soil preparation.
It’s done using a disc harrow, which is a piece of farm machinery utilized to break down soil clods.
This allows water to penetrate more easily and that increases soil aeration as well as enhances the activity of the soil flora and fauna.
Ultimately, when you disc a field, you’re left with a seedbed that is suitable for growing crops.
In this blog, we’re going to discuss all you should know about what disc harrowing is and how you can use it to improve your farming practices.
Let’s get started.
1. What is a disc harrow?
A disc harrow is an agricultural implement that is used to till the soil where crops will be planted.
It can also be used to chop up any unwanted weeds or crop remainders.
Throughout your research, you may also hear the term “discer” if you’re interested in discing a field.
A discer is an evolved form of a disc harrow.
It was developed in the 1940s, and it does not leave ridging as it is lighter in weight.
This is helpful because it can also be made larger.
However, after the 1980s, these instruments ceased to be as dominant in the agricultural field.
In the United States, it is common to consider disc plows a separate class of implement from discs (disc harrows).
A disc plow is a true plow, which is primarily used for tillage and leaves behind a rough service.
A disc harrow, on the other hand, is a secondary tillage tool.
Today, modern disc harrows are tractor-driven and are either raised by a three-point lift or hydraulically by wheels.
The tandem disk harrow is the most commonly used tillage implement in the Corn Belt.
It will often be followed by a field cultivator for final seedbed preparation.
2. What is discing a field?
Discing a field includes disturbing and exposing the soil.
It helps to establish food strips, create field borders, install fire lines, and simply set back older vegetation and renew succession.
Discing may be used in larger areas where burning may not be feasible or will not provide the desired results.
It is often the preferred farm measure to manage residue from the previous crop like soybean or cornstalks.
This method chops and incorporates the crop residue into the soil, which promotes rapid decay of plant material.
When this happens, the soil is ultimately easier to manage as a perfect ratio of agricultural lime and soil is created with reduced acid saturation in the topsoil layer.
3. How do you disc a field?
Discing can be done in strips or plots.
You should make the strips about 30 to 50 feet wide, and they should be laid out on the contour in an alternating pattern.
If you’re dealing with a steeper area (a slope greater than 4 percent), then you should use 50-foot-wide strips with inactive strips in between (also at least 50 feet).
Plots should also be a minimum of 50 feet wide and divided into thirds.
The plot or strip should be disced in one or two passes so that 30 to 40 percent of the vegetation remains.
The discs should run at a shallow depth of 2 to 3 inches.
You should disk 1/3 of your site each year on a rotating basis.
For best results, disk the areas in late winter to early spring.
4. What are the advantages of discing a field?
These are the top five advantages of discing a field.
They all relate to easier soil management.
Closing the furrow made after plowing which helps to preserve the soil’s benefits
Breaking down large chunks of compacted soil
Provoking weed growth and destroying newly emerged ones
Cutting, crushing, and mixing soil
Entering crop residue into the soil
5. When is discing or tilling not a good idea?
Discing soil provides many benefits, but there are some circumstances when it will negatively affect the soil and disturb its structure.
For instance, if you apply herbicides and other products to crops during the growing season, then they will become part of the crop residue.
When you disc the soil next, these will be incorporated into the soil and wreck its structure.
Furthermore, some people make the mistake of discing soil when it is too wet.
This can lead to a non-uniform incorporation of crop residence, which creates clods that require additional tilling.
Moreover, if layers of compacted soil are left below the depth of discing, they can affect root growth and reduce yields.
Thus, soil moisture must be considered when planning for soil discing.
6. What’s the difference between plowing, discing, and tilling?
As you read about discing a field, you may wonder if there’s really a difference in what you’re doing when discing, plowing, and tilling.
How different are they really?
And how different are the results?
Here’s a quick overview.
Plowing a field turns the soil over and buries all the residue.
It can work deeply but often leaves large clods of soil.
Tilling a field uses rotating tines to break up the soil and mix in residue.
This usually works to a medium depth and leaves a fine and smooth finish.
Discing a field cuts the soil and buries part of the residue.
It also breaks up clods after plowing.
This is done to just work the surface (a depth of up to about 10 inches).
It leaves a semi-smooth surface.
Together, all of these operations are referred to as “tillage.”
7. When is the right time to disc a field?
For optimal results, you should disc your field in late winter to early spring.
While discing a field in the fall will save you time in the spring, the erosion potential from wind and rain will be higher.
If you choose to disc your field in the spring, then the risk of snow entrapment is reduced, and it minimizes erosion during the winter.
Spring discing is well-suited for drainage as well as lighter textured soils.
8. What is fallow discing?
Fallow discing is when you disc an area after the first freeze and before the last freeze of winter.
It gets its name from “fallow” which is an agricultural term for land that has been, but is not currently in crop production.
Fallow land may also be referred to as “laid out” or “idle.”
Fallow discing has long been an accepted management practice that helps improve the availability of naturally occurring food plants for wildlife.
Specifically, the white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, Rio-Grande turkey, and mourning dove benefit from the practice.
Other seed-eating songbirds and small mammals may also join those targeted wildlife species.
While fallow discing is not a suitable wildlife habitat management practice when used by itself, it can be paired with other practices like rotational grazing systems, proper stocking rate, and adequate deer harvest.
Fallowing discing is also known to be more effective than merely planting food plots.
9. What are the requirements for fallow discing?
For fallow discing, you’ll need the following supplies: 1 plow, fertilizer (optional), no seed, and only one type of farm implement.
10. Where and when should you fallow disc?
Fallow discing should be performed in areas in close proximity to available cover.
These are locations where wildlife can readily escape from predators or other disturbances.
When selecting a site, consider terrain, drainage areas, and location of soils suitable for discing a field.
These include old crop fields or 1 to 5 acres located in the middle of dense woods or brush.
You may also consider cleared fence lines, old well sites, previously cleared sites, and abandoned roads.
Typically, a smaller-sized area (1 to 5 acres) works best.
11. What are some terms I may need to know while discing a field?
If you’re preparing to disc a field, you may need to do some research.
As with most industries, ground tillage comes with a lot of terminology.
In this section, we’ll help you get familiar with some of the language you may not already know.
Offset discs: These are also referred to as “bush-and-bog discs.”
These are often the largest discers available.
They have very heavy frames, and their blades are deeply concave, set widely apart, and are of a large diameter.
This large diameter helps to cut heavy fescue; tough, woody plants; and heavier debris found in set-aside fields.
They are also used to break virgin ground.
Agricultural discs: These are sometimes called “heavy discs.”
Agricultural discs have small blades with closer blade spacing.
The blades may either be serrated or smooth.
Tillers: This is a very popular seedbed preparation tool.
They’re often a top option for a one-step tool for turning fallow fields if they’re covered in light vegetation like grass.
They are smaller and so require less horsepower, but can cause a field to be overly loose or fluffy.
Gangs: Disc gangs are mounted end-to-end on finishing discs to make one row of blades all the way across the implement.
Each individual shaft with discs is referred to as a “gang.”
Learning how to properly care for your soil is an essential part of farm management.
Discing is one element of soil tillage, and this method will enable you to manage weeds recycle nutrients, provide a soft mass for sowing, and allow a suitable surface for seeds.
We hope this information was helpful to you as you learn the process of discing a field.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.