Spring Strip-Disking for Quail
Having dense grass isn't very smart if you want quail. To improve grasslands and old fields for bobwhites consider strip-disking part of the field each year. Strip or light disking reduces residue, creates bare ground, and promotes desirable broadleaf plants that produce seed and attract insects, at a much lower cost than planting food plots. To be effective, complete light disking in grassland habitats next to areas of usable shrubby cover such as covey headquarters, downed tree structures, edge feathering or native shrub thickets.
I prefer strip-disking in the fall, but early spring disking will work too. Fall disking promotes annual seed producing plants like ragweed and lespedeza. Spring disking can sometimes result in annual foxtail and crabgrass--still good quail habitat, but ragweed and annual lespedeza provide better structural habitat and food for bobwhites.
Always disk with the contour. Disked strips should be 25 to 75 feet wide with equally as wide undisked areas in between. Disk a third of the field each year. In future years disk the undisked areas (see diagram below). Don't be gentle either. Go over the strips two or three times to really work up the ground. On CRP fields always check with your local USDA Service Center on mid-contract management dates and how much ground can be worked up each year.
In rank grass fields I like to first burn the field and then strip-disk part of the field. The combination of two disturbances really sets back the grass. Last weekend, I strip-disked part of our CP33 field border. We burned parts of the buffer in January so I went back and strip disked these parts of the buffer. I also like to disk around covey headquarters, brush piles and downed tree structures before burning to protect these areas from prescribed fire and to break up the plant structure in the field. One more hint. I rarely disk straight lines across the field. The disked strips meander across the field. Believe it or not, strip-disking can be fun and is a great way to improve quail habitat on your property.
Habitat is the Key!