Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Managing grazing lands with fire improves profitability, agricultural experts say

Date:
March 28, 2011
Source:
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Summary:
Recent fire and brush control studies in the Rolling Plains of Texas 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.
Credit: Texas AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Richard Teague

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.

Related Articles


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.

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.

"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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. The original article was written by Kay Ledbetter. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. "Managing grazing lands with fire improves profitability, agricultural experts say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328115430.htm>.
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. (2011, March 28). Managing grazing lands with fire improves profitability, agricultural experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328115430.htm
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. "Managing grazing lands with fire improves profitability, agricultural experts say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328115430.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — Hundreds of Amazon River turtles released into the wild in Peru. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins