Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

AgriLife Research experts: Managing grazing lands with fire improves profitability

29.03.2011
Texas Agrilife Research fire and brush control studies in the Rolling Plains on a working ranch-scale showed the benefits and limitations of managed fires for reducing mesquite encroachment while sustaining livestock production.

The head fire is set in a paddock as a part of a managed fire during the Waggoner Ranch study. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Richard Teague)

Dr. Richard Teague, AgriLife Research rangeland ecology and management scientist, along with colleagues Dr. Jim Ansley, brush ecologist, and Dr. Bill Pinchak, animal nutritionist, spent more than 10 years trying to determine how effective prescribed fire could be in reducing mesquite and cactus on the Waggoner Ranch south of Vernon.

Three major conclusions of the study were: fire is effective only at low levels of mesquite encroachment; 12 percent of the unit must be burned each year; and stocking rates should be light — 12 percent lower than the "moderate" Natural Resources Conservation Service level for the range type and range condition, Teague said.

To determine the potential of fire to reduce brush and prickly pear and how to manage the fire for maximum effectiveness, they looked at: effect of brush abundance on forage production and composition; how quickly the brush and cactus increased; treatment longevity; effect of grazing management on grass production and animal performance; and economic returns.

A paddock the day after the burn on the Waggoner Ranch shows the impact on mesquite and prickly pear. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Richard Teague)

To ensure effective burns, it is necessary to have approximately 2,000 pounds of fuel per acre for each burn, Teague said. In an area where plant growth and rainfall vary each year, it's most important to choose a stocking rate that allows for sufficient buildup of fuel.

Rotational grazing systems provide sufficient grass fuel and continuity of fuel for the fire to be effective and for adequate post-fire grass recovery, he said.

With three experimental treatments and two replications covering an area of about 34,000 acres, the study was started in 1995 with Hereford cow-calf herds of the same age composition at moderate stocking rates. Treatment areas ranged from 3,000-5,000 acres and three rotational grazing systems were compared under continuous grazing.

The paddock after spring green up shows how the grass recovered. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Richard Teague)

"Fire is by far the least expensive means of reducing brush, and it should be used whenever possible to minimize the use of more expensive treatments," Teague said. "But our study suggests that fire can be used only for maintenance of low mesquite cover."

The mesquite cover studied doubled to 40 percent coverage in seven years – more than expected – and resulted in a significant decrease in forage production, Teague said.

"At that rate of increase of mesquite, if a manager starts using fire at greater than 15 percent brush cover in the first area to be treated, by the time four to five years have elapsed the brush cover would have increased to 30 to 40 percent in the areas still to be burned," he said. "This is far too high for fire to be effective."

Teague said for lowest-cost brush reduction, burning must be done regularly at six to seven year intervals.

"At levels of mesquite above 15 to 20 percent, something more expensive like root-killing herbicides is needed to restore the productivity of the rangeland," he said. "Where mesquite cover is low enough to use fire effectively, the use of fire as a follow-up to herbicide treatment would be economically superior to using herbicide with no follow-up burn."

If the mesquite cover is 30 percent or higher, forage and fuel levels are reduced so fire is less effective in reducing mesquite, Teague said. Also, with this amount of mesquite, winter grass becomes more abundant than summer grass. And because winter grasses are usually green at that time, the winter fire effectiveness is further reduced.

"This can be offset partially by burning in late summer, since summer fires are more effective in reducing both mesquite and prickly pear, and in summer, the winter grasses are dry and provide excellent fuels," Teague said.

Using a rotational grazing strategy to rest areas for an entire growing season allowed the best fuel load for the precipitation received and improved the litter and grass cover, he said. This reduced soil temperature, runoff and erosion, and increased soil carbon. Post-fire deferment also is needed to ensure adequate recovery of palatable grasses and litter cover.

Ranchers know that failure to maintain low levels of mesquite populations in pastures results in decreased livestock carrying capacity and increases the dependence on more expensive restoration practices, as well as increases the ecological impact, Teague said.

"With fire being so much less expensive than alternative treatments, our economic assessments indicate that stocking rates can be lowered by 25 percent and still be economically competitive with alternative brush treatments as long as fire is used regularly," he said.

Dr. Richard Teague | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Faba fix for corn's nitrogen need
11.04.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht Wheat research discovery yields genetic secrets that could shape future crops
09.04.2018 | John Innes Centre

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

Im Focus: The Future of Ultrafast Solid-State Physics

In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.

Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...

Im Focus: Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning

The Atlantic overturning – one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards – is weaker today than any time before in more than 1000 years. Sea surface temperature data analysis provides new evidence that this major ocean circulation has slowed down by roughly 15 percent since the middle of the 20th century, according to a study published in the highly renowned journal Nature by an international team of scientists. Human-made climate change is a prime suspect for these worrying observations.

“We detected a specific pattern of ocean cooling south of Greenland and unusual warming off the US coast – which is highly characteristic for a slowdown of the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Improved stability of plastic light-emitting diodes

19.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Enduring cold temperatures alters fat cell epigenetics

19.04.2018 | Life Sciences

New capabilities at NSLS-II set to advance materials science

18.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>