They found that when the prairie is burned in fall or winter, grass composition and production was not negatively affected compared to burning in the spring.
"This research indicates that ranchers do not have to restrict their pasture burning to only late April," Towne said. "Burning earlier in the season offers increased flexibility in ensuring that the pasture gets burned without reducing grass production."
Several benefits also were found for burning in the fall or winter.
Grasses in areas burned in the winter or fall had more time to respond to precipitation, which reduced their susceptibility to mid-season drought. Burning in the fall and winter also resulted in a more diverse prairie with more cool-season grasses. These grasses are available earlier and are of a higher forage quality for cattle.
By burning when many animals are active, fires in the late spring can devastate wildlife. Snakes, turtles, prairie chickens and other nesting birds are less likely to be destroyed during fall and winter burns, as wildlife is often hibernating underground or have not yet built nests, Craine said.
Additionally, moving to a more flexible burning schedule helps manage the large volume of smoke that carry to Manhattan and Wichita, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska, and other cities downwind. Burning over a wider time window would reduce the intensity of the smoke that carries to cities downwind and would be produced at times that are less likely to produce ground-level ozone.
"By burning earlier in the spring than what has been traditionally recommended, many of the smoke management issues in downwind cities can be alleviated," Towne said.
Researchers say that while there is always more research that needs to be conducted, there is no e
|Contact: Joseph Craine|
Kansas State University