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Serving: United States
grass fire Kansas State University
ON FIRE: Native grasses such as these in the Flint Hills of Kansas are set ablaze to rejuvenate the stand.

To burn or not to burn native pasture

Prescribed burn revitalizes native grass stands.

Native grasses like fire. “It invigorates them,” Pat Keyser says.

The University of Tennessee professor and director for the Center for Native Grasslands Management says cattle producers often ask about doing a prescribed burn on native pastures. Keyser likes the idea. “It improves the quality of the stand and suppresses weeds,” he says.

Burning at least once every three years will help maintain a quality native grass stand. “If you burn it, they will come back,” Keyser says. But don’t burn back-to-back years. “There needs to be a time of regrowth,” he says.

If burning a stand, aim for when warm-season grasses such as big blue stem break dormancy and have buds or leaves. In Missouri, that time is about the last part of March or first of April. “That is when you will provide the maximum benefit to the grass,” Keyser says.

Cattle can graze the year pastures burn. However, he notes, before returning cattle to the pasture, make sure the natives reach heights of 12 inches or more.

Not a fan of fire? Keyser says that is OK as well. “You could manage a stand of native grass for 20 years without dropping a match,” he says. “If you are afraid of fire, don’t feel like you have to burn.”

TAGS: Livestock
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