Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kansas: Burning CRP Land Can Provide Benefits as Maintenance Practice

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Requirements for prescribed burning of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts have changed since last year, said Walt Fick, K-State Research and Extension rangeland management specialist.

“The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has removed prescribed burning as a required CRP maintenance practice in some contracts. Prescribed burning is still a recommended practice and may be the most economical maintenance practice,” Fick said.

CRP participants should work with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and FSA to plan appropriate maintenance practices such as mowing, spraying, or prescribed burning, he said. Participants should check with their local FSA office for actual requirements.

Maintenance practices are different than management practices, Fick explained.

“All CRP participants are required to perform a management practice that can include prescribed burning, interseeding, or light disking. Management practices are eligible for cost-share,” he said.

The time to burn CRP ground varies across Kansas depending on region and soil type.

“In the eastern half of the state, prescribed burning is allowed from Feb. 1 to April 15 and July 16 to August 31. These dates occur outside of the prime bird nesting season in Kansas. In western Kansas, prescribed burning is allowed from Feb. 1 to April 30, and July 16 to August 31. Certain sandy soils are to be burned during the month of April. Lack of cover resulting from early burning on sandy soils may lead to significant soil erosion and/or water loss,” Fick explained.

Burning CRP land early or during the summer is a good way to spread out the burning season in Kansas and help prevent the concentration of smoke in April, when most pasture burning occurs, he said.

A prescribed burn on CRP ground will help reduce the thatch layer that can build up, promote grass tillering, and reduce the potential for wildfire, Fick said.

“Burning can also help control cedars, and woody seedlings such as cottonwood or Russian olive. Once established, older trees will generally re-sprout after a fire,” he added.

Producers who burn CRP ground should follow the same general safety guidelines and go through the same permit procedures as those who conduct prescribed burns on rangeland, the K-State agronomist said. For detailed information, see K-State Research and Extension publication L664, Prescribed Burning: Planning and Conducting at local county and district Research and Extension offices, or here.

Other resources include K-State Research and Extension publication L565, Prescribed Burning Safety, at local Research and Extension offices, or here, and Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan and other information related to conducting a prescribed burn here.


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