• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

prescribed burning

 
John Pollard
Posts: 125
Location: Ozarks
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Anyone here set their property on fire, on purpose? I set a field on fire once by accident. Just a small area but not within reach of the water hose. Picture me and the wife 1800s style with buckets. The grass came back greener than ever. Anyway,

A lot of people around here do prescribed burns and mostly it's supposed to bring up dormant seeds of things that deer like and everyone around here are all about filling there freezers with meat every fall. Other reasons are to get rid of fuel to make forest fires less intense and/or it's easier than raking up the leaves.
I have very acid soil here so I'm thinking burning would convert all those acidy oak leaves into alkaline ashes. Probably wouldn't make a huge difference all at once but I heard it takes several burns to change things. I'm still in the process of thinning right now because it needs it badly. Then I'm thinking on burning a few spots once some sunlight can get to them. I have lots of blueberry and a few deer berry aka huckleberry so I won't be burning around them.

So what do you know about prescribed burns?

I'm in the Ozarks in an oak/hickory forest with acid silt loam for 12" or so with cobbly clay below that.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Pollard wrote:
A lot of people around here do prescribed burns and mostly it's supposed to bring up dormant seeds...

Other reasons are to get rid of fuel to make forest fires less intense and/or it's easier than raking up the leaves.
So what do you know about prescribed burns?

I'm in the Ozarks in an oak/hickory forest with acid silt loam for 12" or so with cobbly clay below that.


Burning brings up seeds/weeds that prefer that environment. Probably anything that likes potash/potassium. The problem with burning is that it changes the clay forever, you can never get the clay back so if you ever need that clay (to hold water like in a pond, maybe) you can't get it back.

When you burn, you put resources into the air that are probably better off in the soil -like carbon.

Why would you rake leaves?

You may need a burn permit.

Consider changing your profile to add your location.
 
T Moritz
Posts: 3
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I do a lot of prescribed burning for my job, so this is something I could talk a lot about. A few of the important reasons we burn properties- mainly natural areas so prairies, wetlands, and woodlands.
1. Nutrient cycling- it releases nutrients back into the soil that would typically take a very long time to break down and become available to the plants growing in these ecosystems.
2. Reduction of plant debris and reduction of the risk for wildfires- accumulated plant debris poses serious risks for wildfires if allowed to build up for a very large amount of time. This is mainly the reason we see so many large wildfires out west. Over the last 100 years, we have really suppressed the use of fire in natural areas so the woods are allowed to build up for decades. A regular burn cycle would prevent this enormous build up of fuel. Fire was made a part of our natural landscapes in N America from the Native Americans using it as a tool for their land management. Contrary to what many people think that it was a natural cycle caused by lightning. In fact, a very low percentage of fires were historically started by natural causes. The overwhelming majority were started by man.
3. Reduction of invasive species and weeds- many non-native plant species become suppressed when burns occur regularly. Also, deeply rooted native prairie species respond favorably to fire especially prairie grasses. Since most tallgrass prairie species are warm season species, exposing the black soil allows for the soil to warm up quicker, giving the grasses and forbs a leg up on out competing the cool season invasives.
4. Some plant species are dependent on fire, and their seeds will not germinate until a fire has occurred. In your situation in the ozarks with oak/hickory forests, regular burns will reduce the preponderance of cedars (a fire-intolerant species), and encourage the growth of oaks and hickories- (fire tolerant species). It will also create a situation where younger tree species will become thinned out, reducing the competition between trees, creating a more open woodland with more sunlight reaching the forest floor and encouraging the growth of herbaceous species at the ground level. Plants such as spring ephemerals, and woodland grasses, and sedges.

Regarding the clay changing, very few prescribed burns occur at a duration or intensity to alter more than a miniscule amount of soil vertically in the soil profile. If you've ever lit a head fire in a prairie, you'd know that once the wind gets behind it, it burns up very quickly. And while it is hot, most of the heat is directly upwards, or in the direction the wind is carrying the fire, away from the soil. An exception would be very hot crown fires where entire trees are burning. Typically that is not the objective when conducting a prescribed burn, it's usually the result of a wildfire due to excessive fuel build up.

I could go on about this for a very long time! I'll try to come back to this later today.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Another very powerful tool, often misused.

There are a lot of farmers/ranchers that refuse to burn, then wonder why their pastures are overrun with cedars in 10 years.

There are others that burn all the time and then wonder why they have no beneficial insects or birds.

It is a useful tool here for killing problem annuals like cockleburr--burns the dry seeds but doesn't kill the perennial roots of the grasses. I selectively use it for problem areas, but not nearly as much since I balanced my animal rotations. The combination of goats, sheep, and cattle take care of most plant balance issues.
 
John Pollard
Posts: 125
Location: Ozarks
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cj Verde wrote:

Why would you rake leaves?

You may need a burn permit.


I was actually talking about my neighbors burning instead of or along with raking. One guy just burned an area where leaves collect on his lawn. Another has raked them out of his shrubs and burned them on the lawn. No permits for anything but well and septic around here. Everybody burns their trash around here too because there's no trash pickup. Rural.
 
John Pollard
Posts: 125
Location: Ozarks
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
T Moritz wrote:I do a lot of prescribed burning for my job, so this is something I could talk a lot about. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
I could go on about this for a very long time! I'll try to come back to this later today.


I'm listening. I had recently read about the Native Americans with their burning. I wouldn't think I'd be getting the same effect with my small scale but I don't mind manually thinning saplings.

Let me start with my plans/goals and we'll see what burning might do to help. Being on permies you can get a pretty good idea of my direction. I want to add some native forage besides acorns, hickory nuts and low bush blueberries. We want to be able to run some goats here and actually had some for a while but with nothing but trees they didn't have enough to thrive here. They spent half their time across the road on the neighbors pasture. So we need some ground flora. Grass, legumes, weeds whatever. I've cut quite a few trees to get some sun coming in (solar panels, future garden,electric easement) and will be doing some more thinning. The State Nursery is right up the road and they sell all kinds of shrubs and trees that are desirable and cheap, $18 for 50 trees. We'll also be getting some chickens. Basically we've got lots of brown oak/hickory leaves to get rid of. We use leaves for humanure pile and don't mind composting some in the regular compost pile but there's way more than we could ever compost. If we burn them off in the areas we want to convert from dry/wet mesic to something more like a glade, will things just pop up so I don't have to worry about erosion? Also, until I get the permanent buildings built and landscaped (edible), we're going to have a fairly conventional garden. Probably raised rows, long raised beds basically. Would burning that area be of any help or a hurt?

This is young growth forest. Very few trees over 14" in diameter. 150-200 years ago they did a lot of mining in this area for iron ore and as history has it they cut down just about every tree they could for smelting. Once they ran out of wood they quit mining here and it converted to cattle land. Most of my property is level enough for pasture so I think it probably was pasture 50-100 years ago.

I also have a couple of spots where water stands for days/weeks after a rain and it's pretty much soggy there most of the year. I was thinking about making it a wetland area.
 
Michael Qulek
Posts: 148
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We pile burn every year on our property. Not so much leaves, but the small, twiggy branches that come off of fallen trees. Like you, the majority of my trees are Oak, which makes excellent firewood. Basicly, whatever blows over during the winter storms get chopped up into firewood. Anything less than wrist thickness ends up in the burn piles. We don't do broadcast burning because the fire danger in California is just too high. The only time it's safe for burning is when the ground is too wet for the grass to burn.

It's been my observation that the burnspots stay bare for about a season, then get colonized by the native vegetation within 2-3 years. After that time, you have to study the ground hard to spot exactly where a burn was completed.

The biggest single issue for burning is liability. If you want to burn, you have to ask yourself what happens if it gets out of control? What will be your containment strategy? How much water is available to extinguish a fire? It's been my observation that just a few ladles of water (less than a gallon) of water tossed on a pile at just the right moment turns what is about to become a raging inferno into a mild campfire. What steps will you be taking to make sure your fire stays under control? Getting back to permits, who told you no permit is required, a neighbor, or staff at the fire station? In my immediate location, we first get a permit, then call an automated recording that has daily burn information. Information about weather, humidity and specific areas were you may and may not burn. Lastly, we call the local fire station and give them our location on a burn day. That's so they don't rush out to our place with their firetruck just because some passerby saw smoke.

Good luck, and be safe!
 
John Pollard
Posts: 125
Location: Ozarks
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My neighbor is a forest fire fighter or has been and he will be present for at least the first time. There's lots of deadwood laying around and I've been cleaning it up. Anything solid goes to the woodstove, anything half rotted goes for hugel beds. I figure the burns will be easier/safer without that stuff laying everywhere.

One question I forgot to ask is.......... How many bugs will get killed? I'd love it if lots of ticks would perish. We've got at least three different kinds including seed ticks that love to bite in the worst places. Can't wait to get some chickens and maybe keets. We've also got lots of chiggers. Don't want to kill a bunch of beneficials though.
 
Roberto pokachinni
Pie
Posts: 885
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
62
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi John,

Compost piles may not be your goal with a large volume of leaves, but when you describe wanting to establish raised garden beds it put in my mind that you had also mentioned hugulkultur. Continuing with the hugulkultur idea and using the leaves, sticks and other debris in your woodland, make hugul beds, or hugul piles, there and plant heavily with forage crops for your goats. So long as you have a water source to saturate the piles (and you should have a water source of volume if you are considering burning in a forest/grass area), this would be an excellent medium for establishing your shrubs and plants that you described from the nursery.

Burning is one way to gain quick fertility and to change the ph of the soil. The loss of aerobic bacterial growth in your highest soil horizon is a potential problem. Fire is too hot for them, and the fire consumes the oxygen. The rapid growth after a fire is due to the quickly available nutrients, but a lot of the nutrients are also washed or blown away, and so this initial flush of green is not often continued for very long, and the net loss of nutrients can be substantial.

Rotating animals, like Allan Savory does with cattle, will also break down the debris turning it to soil in a much more productive and perennial system.

Burning promotes fire dependent and fire tolerant species, but eliminates fire sensitive and fire intolerant species. This can severely limit your diversity (thus insect and bird species that co-exist within that diversity). I would suggest searching for and reading Allan Savory's Holistic Management, before doing anything of scale on your land. He details what fire does to land and to species. The natives in your area, from what I understand, likely did burn the area to promote more nuts and berries, and large areas of the whole continent were subject to periodic burning by native peoples... BUT you have to consider also that they had decades and centuries and millennia of managed areas to observe and fall back on over a vast terrain. Also, while they were likely to have been extremely observant cultures, over such extensive periods of time the extremely gradual loss of species due to habitat loss was likely not noticed as it took generations for a species to completely disappear, and for these fire tolerant systems to be firmly established as the dominant ones that they we know today; AND the Native peoples were use to having species rotate in and out of and through long term cycles, thus their acceptance of nature unfolding in slightly different variations of a theme over time.

Your area was likely also burned by the miners to expose the minerals.

40,000 years ago this continent, with predominantly naturally occurring fires and rain suppression, looked very different than it did 7000 years ago, and again very different than it did 700 years ago, under intensive rotational long term fire management by Native Americans, but you have to consider the still greater difference again that is present now under virtually no fires but with fire tolerant and dependent species (like the great pine forests where I live) still dominating. It's really a different and difficult judgment call on whether to burn anything or not, or how to manage or transition timbered lands.

There are definitely going to be people who promote burning, and who will justify it with science that seems sound, and perhaps is in certain circumstances. I would say that you should way the pros and cons, and consider my first paragraph as a better option to burning (and perhaps invest in some electric fence to cell graze it with neighbor's cattle). You can certainly tilt the ecosystem in your favor with permaculture methods that do not include fire. When you want to change the land organic matter, critters, and water are your best friends.

The burning permit may not be required to burn trash, say in a barrel, or to have a small campfire with a garden hose, or bucket nearby, but in most jurisdictions a fire of any size beyond this is needing a permit, particularly if you have forest and dry grasses nearby. If your friend has a pump and some good hoses, then he is useful. If not, he may just be watching with you as things get out of control. As a former forest fire fighter who has seen fires blow up suddenly and rage out of a control that we had established, I would caution doing any large burn without the right resources. Lives and homes could be at stake.
 
David Livingston
steward
Pie
Posts: 2595
Location: Anjou ,France
102
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It seems this is not that new an idea
http://m.bbc.com/news/magazine-26174177

David
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic