Five Essential Reasons Why You Should Include Disking in Soil Tillage

Tanja Folnovic

Agronomy Expert

High quality and healthy soil is the base for successful farm management. By using the best soil tillage practices, farmers can ensure well-prepared soil that will manage weeds, recycle plant nutrients, provides a soft mass for sowing, and a suitable surface for seeds.

Disking is a soil preparation practice that usually follows the plowing, whether it was deep or shallow soil tillage. Plowing cuts, granulates, and inverts the soil, creating furrows and ridges. Additionally, disking breaks up clods and surface crusts, thereby improving soil granulation and surface uniformity. It is always performed shallower than plowing, at a depth of 10-15 cm (4-6 In).

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Advantages of Disking Soil

Disking has many advantages which assist with easier soil management. The positive effects of disking are as follows:

  • Closing of the furrow made after plowing, thus preserving the soil’s benefits
  • Breaking down large chunks of compacted soil
  • Provoking of weed growth and destroying the emerged ones
  • Cutting, crushing, and mixing of the soil
  • Entering of crop residue into the soil.

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Disking is the preferred farm measure to manage residues from the previous crop, such as soybean and cornstalks. It chops and incorporates crop residue into the soil, promoting rapid decay of the plant material, making the soil easier to manage.

Another great farm measure with disking is the incorporation of agricultural lime into the soil when there is the need to increase soil pH.

Tillage with disks supports the mixing of the soil and the lime, creating the perfect ratio, thereby reducing acid saturation in the top soil layer.  This also provides ideal conditions for healthy and strong root development.

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When Disking Can Cause More Damage than Benefits?

Although disking has many advantages to soil properties, in some circumstances it can negatively affect the soil and disturb its structure. For example, herbicides and other products applied to crops during the vegetation, which then become part of the crop residue, are incorporated into the soil during the disking.

Additionally, the disking of too wet soil may lead to a non-uniform incorporation of crop residue, and creates clods that will require additional tillage operations. Furthermore, the layer of compacted soil left below the depth of disking can affect root growth and reduce yields. For this reason soil moisture must be considered when planning soil disking.

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Disking as a Valuable Farm Tillage Practice

Disking is an important tillage practice, even for farmers who manage crop production with reduced tillage. In order to reduce disturbing the soil, the most successful famers reduce the use of various farm machines and equipment. However, disc harrow still remains included as part of the farm machines used for soil preparation. By breaking down soil clods into smaller pieces, water penetrates more easily into the soil, increasing soil aeration as well as enhancing the activity of the soil flora and fauna. The final result is a seedbed that is suitable for growing crops.

Although disking seems to be yet another soil tillage practice that needs to be done, it ultimately has significant effects on both the soil and yield.

 

Image sources: University of Minnesota || TracPacker || Ash Creek Photo || INTERNATIONAL BIOCHAR INITIATIVE