Use Care When Burning Grasslands
April 4, 2008
Prescribed burning CRP or pasture can improve stands, prepare them for interseeding, control weeds and trees, enhance wildlife habitat, and improve forage quality, but it must be done safely.
Fire improves many grasslands, removing dead mulch and enabling stands to thicken, but wildfires can start easily when it is hot, dry, and windy. Fire also can reduce the invasion of woody plants, weeds, or cool-season grasses into warm-season grasslands. These less desirable plants are injured or killed by a well-timed burn. This can be especially useful in summer pastures.
Timing is important, though. It's too early to burn warm-season grasses. Burning now will open up the ground to weed invasion, soil erosion and moisture loss through evaporation. The best time to burn warm-season grasses is when they just start to grow, usually from late April to early May. Burning then will result in rapid green-up and thickening of desirable warm-season plants.
Never burn unless weather conditions, topography, and other factors enable you to control the fire. Plus, make sure your burn is legal; obtain a burn permit from your local fire chief. Also, never burn unless someone experienced in prescribed burning is part of your burning crew.
Extension Forage Specialist