As grassfarmers you have probably heard me say that what we do is grow grass, right?We then use cattle to harvest our crop.Why would we want to burn pasture?
September and time to renovate some of our finishing pastures for winter grazing.We use a no-till drill to plant grass seed into the ground.This allows you to plant without having to disturb the soil by tillage.In our steep to rolling hills the potential for soil erosion is significant. A great advantage to this no-till planting is to conserve soil and decrease any erosion.
Another advantage is that we try to time the planting shortly after a rain.Conventional methods of tilling would require for the pasture to dry out before disking.Since you don’t remove the top layer and the soil is not directly exposed to the sun the soil retains moisture longer. This promotes the germination of the grass seed.
One unconventional method we employ in our no-till strategy is to try to utilize burning to kill the cover crop. Most no-till methods involve using herbicides to get rid of the cover.We prefer to burn the old pasture.
Burning is a natural occurrence usually ignited by lightning strikes causing a burn of from up to a couple of acres to hundreds of acres. Native Americans used fire to drive game, encourage growth and improve pasture.
Prescribed grassland burning can improve stands of native grass, control weeds and trees, enhance wildlife habitat and improve animal gains. Without burning pasture the new growth each season has to compete with a mantle of dead and decaying vegetation.This stifles new growth by depriving the newly emerging seed of space and light. Burning encourages this new growth and plant diversity.
Burning also releases the nutrients in the dead vegetation so it can be used by the new growth. Our pastures require continual control measure for shrubs and tree sprouts; otherwise the pastures will turn into forests.This control can be done by mowing, dozing or chemicals.
We believe that the natural, prescribed burning each year is a better choice. It is healthier for the soil, healthier for the environment where we live and doesn’t rely on heavy fossil fuel input.