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Planning prescribed burning
Forage Minute

Planning prescribed burning

Burning pastures 2

Invasive eastern red cedar trees are destroyed in a prescribed fire. Controlling the trees when they’re young is important, said Brian Teeter of Pheasants Forever in Nebraska.

Late March and April is a key time period when prescribed burning of pasture and CRP lands occurs. Within this time period, there are a limited number of days when weather conditions such as wind speed, direction, and humidity meet the required prescription for the unit that is being burned. With this, having a detailed burn plan is needed to make sure the work is done safely.

The primary objective of most prescribed burns in Nebraska is to control eastern red cedar trees. However, prescribed burns can also improve grass stands, prepare them for interseeding, reduce annual grassy and broadleaf weeds, enhance wildlife habitat, and improve forage quality.

Safe and controlled prescribed burns don’t just happen. It takes preparation, planning, and an understanding of how fire reacts in certain weather conditions, with particular fuel loads, and on various types of topography.

Prescribed fire is useful on CRP or other fields that are overgrown with dead growth from previous years. This mulch can smother plants and new seedlings, causing stands to thin. Fire removes this mulch, enabling stands to thicken, and it improves wildlife habitat.

Timing of a prescribed fire is important. For warm-season grasses, a good time to burn is when they just start to grow, usually mid-April to early May. Burning then will result in rapid green-up and thickening of desirable warm-season plants, and reduce invading cool-season grasses.

Plan your prescribed burn carefully and be aware of the topography and other factors that will affect how the fire behaves. Never burn unless weather conditions are within your burn prescription. Plus, make sure your burn is legal. You must obtain a burn permit from your local fire chief. And finally, it is always a great benefit to have someone experienced in prescribed burning as part of your burning crew.

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