How soon is to soon to disc?


Well-Known Member
I want to start prepping my fields for Sprint planting. I'm about a month away from planting soybeans, which I broadcast. Is it to early to break the ground up now and then hit it again lightly right before I plant.

My issue is I start getting busy with work so my time is limited. So if I can eliminate a few hours of work now that would be beneficial for me.
I take it that you, like me, are in the northern tier states or Canada? Guessing from your statement that you're a month away from bean planting.

I don't think there's any set answer to your question. For me in east central MN, it comes down to when is it dry enough for my equipment.

The one caution that comes to mind is if you happen to be in an area that had a dry winter so that you are already low on soil moisture, I would not want to turn dirt any earlier than necessary. The more you till, the more moisture you're going to lose from the topsoil and the longer that the soil stays "open" without being planted and compacted, the more moisture you continue to lose.

But if you're in an area with enough moisture, I can't see much of a downside to getting in there when you have time. We food plotters have to do a lot of things when we have time as opposed to waiting around for "better" conditions, times, etc. Many times I've had to work when it's too hot, too dry, too wet, too windy, etc, but unless you live on the property and have endless time, you can't always wait for the right conditions.

I'm in NE Pennsylvania. Maybe I'm off on my planting dates and if so let me know but I thought roughly May 15th is the planting dates for my area.
Jlane, I'm in the northern Catskills and wouldn't think of working the soil until things dry out considerably. The danger, in addition to clots, is compacting the soil. FYI, we had snow Sunday night. For corn and beans, I usual am waiting for soil temps to rise which means late May planting. We usually start working the soil first or second week of May. You may be in an area that warms sooner.
Ok thanks Elk, I'll hold off but it seems like I'm correct about the mid May bean planting date.
Depending on soil temps, yes. I shoot for 55 degrees for my corn/soybean mix. Last year, they were in the ground last week of May which worked well
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When the dirt/soil/mud sticks to your disc's too early!!! Don't ask how I know!!!! In all reality my concern would be that discing too soon allows rainfall to undo the work you have done. A decent rain shower can essentially re-pack a disc surface pretty easily. If your working in soil amendments that is one thing, but if you are going to have to disc again seems more like an excuse to play in the dirt.....not that there is anything wrong with that! We can that "working in organic matter"!!!!:D
My fields are soaked. Like walking on a marshmallow. I usually start tilling mid may, let sit til memorial day. By then it's starting to green up again. Hit it with roundup and plant
Ok thanks Elk, I'll hold off but it seems like I'm correct about the mid May bean planting date.

Beans are very frost sensitive and are killed by even mild frost. In addition to soil temp, it helps to research the long term average last frost date in your area and then consider your terrain. Last frost dates can vary considerably even in a small region, there can be a one week difference in the average in a very short distance.

We're not farmers, so pushing your luck with frost has no real benefits for the food plotter. The extra week of growing time doesn't net us anything in terms of yield.

I check for the avg last frost date for the area and then look for soil that has a steady temp of 60* or more for spring plot planting. Locally, I have noticed that once it starts getting close to the last frost date, the soil has hit the magical temp and has usually been there for a week or so. Keep tabs on your local farmers of when they start working ground and that will give you a good start time to do yours. Depending on the acreage they have and what crop, they will disc a couple of weeks ahead of planting.
J-bird got it right, when it sticks to the disc blades it's too wet. It makes a huge difference on your soil type as to when that is. I've got sandy type shale soil on top of a ridge that's impossible to compact, I can till the next day after a rain, but the downside is it always gets dry in the summer, so I don't even want to till, no-till helps hold moisture. South central PA I'll plant beans and corn around May 1st, when you have dry conditions planting earlier is key to grow nicer crops, like has been mentioned get them out as soon as the last frost date.
To answer your question, if you're trying to break up sod I'd get out and disc it as soon as fit, then let lay for several weeks.

A trick that my dad showed me to test soil fitness is to compact a 2-3" dirt ball in your hand and throw it on the ground. If it falls apart its fit. If it stays in a ball it's not fit.
Keep tabs on your local farmers of when they start working ground and that will give you a good start time to do yours.
Not exactly
You have to keep tabs on the moisture level of YOUR fields. The timing that the farmer next door uses has no bearing on when YOUR field should be worked. Heck, I have some wet areas on my small 31 acres that can't be plowed for a month after my next door neighbor's dry field can be worked.

As said above, discing wet field is a sure fire path to soil compaction.
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I didn't mention the farmer next door. I stated LOCAL farmers, <----- plural, that can be quite a few of people depending on location. It is a general statement that gives the OP some help of a time frame.
I didn't mention the farmer next door. I stated LOCAL farmers, <----- plural, that can be quite a few of people depending on location. It is a general statement that gives the OP some help of a time frame.
I understood your point.
But I stand by my have to have a grasp on the moisture level of the soil on your own land.
I used to watch some local farmers working their fields very early and I thought I was behind schedule so I'd start mine. I did a lot of damage to my soil in those days.
Same with excessive tillage. Just because some other farmers are doing it doesn't make it correct. The times and farming methods are changing. Modern ag is learning that the "old" ways are not always the best thing for soil health.

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OP is planting soybeans. In my area, the farmers start planting soybeans towards the end of April, early May. They start prepping the soil towards the end of April or early May. Most have gone to no-till around here, but a few still use tillage. If they use no-till only, you can tell when they are going to plant or have planted by the brown/dead fields that have been sprayed before planting. Of course, I am out enough that I see equipment in fields and that lets me know. Our last frost is mid to late April, depending on the year. We had a hard frost this past Saturday and I expect at least one more frost before months end. We are warm enough now during the day(it has been 80-85 for a couple of weeks) that, unless it is a really low spot, it usually has good/optimal moisture and it isn't taking long for the wet spots to dry up. Right now is when we get the most rain, wind and storms(that includes tornados). Between the hot sun and 10-25mph winds, fields don't take to long to dry. The OP can watch his local farmers and when they start, he can check to see if his fields are ready to be worked up. If they are to wet, don't do it; if they are to dry, wait for rain. We are talking food plots here, not 100 acres of beans.
If you want to disk and it is dry enough, disk. At least in the early spring you will get moisture to replenish what is lost from evaporation.

Disking now and later will hold some benefits. You are in essence doubling up on weed suppression. Similar to disking then spraying regrowth, Just without the herbicide.

Disking twice will burn up double the amount of OM which is another consideration. OM is what holds moisture within the soil where your plant roots can access it after the rains start to fade.

Like anything, there are trade offs and one needs to make decisions based on their needs, equipment, and expectations.

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