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Benefits of Strip Disking

If game birds are disappearing from your land, it’s time for action. Restore the area for wildlife by disking the ground.

Sometimes, creating a good wildlife habitat is about taking away rather than adding. Strip-disking gets rid of thick mats of grass, briars, and shrubs. It stimulates the soil and regenerates valuable cover and food.

Wildlife specialist Brian MacGowan at Purdue University says strip-disking encourages good habitat for wildlife such as quail, pheasant, and wild turkey. There are two predominant locations where strip-disking would be very beneficial. 

“Usually, if you’ve got an early successional plant community adjacent to a woodlot, you can disk a strip along there. It can also be managed that way in large blocks of grass and wildflower plantings,” says MacGowan. “The rule of thumb is that you don’t want to exceed one third of the area that you’re managing for early successional habitat.”

MacGowan advises doing another third next year and the final third the year after that. The strips should be cut about 10 to 15 feet wide and as long as you can make them. You may have to mow or burn an area prior to disking if the vegetation is thick. Multiple passes may be necessary depending on your soil type. 

MacGowan says some people might find this kind of ground disturbance excessive, but it’s a simple, effective management tool. 

“You really need that bare soil component in there because that’s how you get those annual grasses and annual broadleaves that are so important to wildlife in terms of food production from seed and also insects,” says MacGowan. “It’s not something you just plant and walk away from. It’s a continual investment. If landowners do that, I’m confident they’ll see satisfactory results.”  

To avoid disking during nesting season, which is from about March 1 through August 15, plan to start this fall.

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