It is now more than two months since I had any useful rain. It was one of
the warmest (if not the warmest) winters on record. We have had hot days
(30C) already and it is not two weeks into spring. Out west on the plains
they are wondering if there will be any winter-planted crops. There were
bushfires in Sydney this week. The local fire burglars have been out, with
the dust kicked up by wind and the rising pollen count I have been almost
house bound. Not a good start. The BOM says ENSO indicators are neutral.
We can hope.
But (due to irrigation) the fruit trees are blooming and the asparagus is
good luck on the rains. we want all the
critters to be fat and happy in the pastures
down (or up :) ) there.
we have similar types around here, but
the fire hazard is much less most of the
at first i thought you were talking about
people who would set fires and then use that
as a distraction while they broke into houses.
Why do you say it doesn't improve pastures? From observation, I'd say it
probably did improve pastures even if just because it cleans out things like
tussocks and other weeds etc and doesn't add anything.
Yes it does reduce some obvious weeds and gives a nice green flush if you
get a shower of rain afterwards. It is cheap compared with slashing.
If not a hot fire it selectively reduces more tender grasses to the benefit
of tougher ones (eg blady grass), if a hot fire it also tends to destroy the
stolons of the grass along with the weeds so favouring seed-propagated
grasses over perennials. I think a mixed pasture with both is desireable.
It reduces organic matter which helps to hold soil moisture and nutrients, I
want to build organic content not burn it.
It reduces volatile nutrients, eg nitrogen compounds, which then have to be
replaced with chicken litter, urea etc.
It pollutes the air.
If heavy rain falls or strong wind blows after burning it can result in
To me it a practice of yesteryear along with set stocking in big paddocks,
random (in)breeding and 'when in doubt add more super(phosphate)'. I
*might* consider doing it once to begin the rehabilitation of a badly weed
infested paddock but as an annual ritual I think it is very misguided.
have a look at this:
I finally found time to read parts of that cite.
I noted the obligatory full page Aboriginal recognition (yawn!) and later a
whole 2 paragraphs devoted to regular burning (underline that) and one of
paras referring to north coast (underline that) blady grass impacts.
Not a lot of use nor ornament. No doubt that publication was designed to be
handed out like a free lollie at small farm field days. (And yes, I do
acknowledge that I am a cynic).
A number of points that occured as I read your post:
You're talking about regular burning whereas I wasn't thinking specificially
about regular burning. We don't burn our pasture regularly (or ever), don't
know anyone who does or ever has done, so I am more interested in the
impacts following a sometimes burn such as what happens after, say, a grass
Stolons aren't a feature of all pasture grasses, are somewhat rare aren't
round here and I've never even heard of blady grass. But if a fire can
manage to kill the stolons of white clover, then I might just set fire to my
rose bed where the sodding clover is growing like Topsy. It's where I grab
handfuls to feed the cows mouthfuls when they decide to hang over the gate
between the veg garden and the paddock.
Erosion following fire may or may not happen. It's never a given.
Palatability of regrowth is worth a consideration. I don't like tough old
lettuces and I've no doubt that pasture grazers prefer lush growth to dry
Nutrients in burned grasses can't all be lost. Some of it must return to
the soil in the form of ash.
Well find something that deals with your region, you can search DPI,
landcare etc sites as well as I can.
Regular burning is common here, I don't know why. That was the context I
that introduced the subject, the annual spring burning.
I wish I could name all the grasses I have and which have stolons but I
can't. I was under the impression that many (maybe all) do. I would still
rather not select in favour of some. But if don't burn regularly it isn't
Of course but there are other ways of getting fresh growth than burning.
True, metals (K and trace elements) and P are not volatile which is why I
mentioned volatility. OTOH I have been told that burning *increases*
nutrients because of the ash that remains, as ash contains nutrients (the
last is true). Those of this opinion have missed the point that that any
nutrients in the ash were already there in the plants or soil, nothing is
created. I am not putting you in that category.
it has a lot of references, some of which may
if you have any bare soil then it is
not a good thing to burn as bare soil is
a sign that you do not have full cover
to collect and hold the ashes.
one heavy rain or blow and the ashes
are washed away or blown away.
for a spring, where there is rain, it
is much better to cut and leave it lay
on the surface for the worms to have at
it. this way the nutrients are not lost
as much to rains and winds and the mulch
acts as a protection for the soil.
right, it just makes them more immediately
available. the same nutrients are available
longer term if slashed and left on top for
the worms and fungi to break down.
when i read Farm1 saying that she had a
burn it struck me as unusual and i took at
as a fire control requirement for the property
not as a normal or yearly event.
This is a discussion group. It was jsut a part of my discussion so it
possibly is irrelevant to you.
But not my context. I've noted improvements in pasture after the odd burn
so am interested in the issue.
My location is my context but does my context being different to your
context mean that you have nothing to say or evidence to support your claim?
And especially given that your context is
now said to include 'annual' burning which you haven't previously mentioned
till this post.
Yes I've done that. I've not found anything that either supports or denies
your claim that burning pasture improves or doesn't improve pasture as a one
off. Of course I hadn't looked with your previously unmentioned context of
'annual' burns. I just thought you'd know or have hard evidence given how
you usually make a point of making statements based on evidence.
'Annual spring burning' may have been in your mind but it wasn't mentioned
by you till this past post.
There have already been 40 fires across the State so it'd be impossible to
recognise that your 'context' related to an annual event rather than just
the fire trucks having been out, in your locale, at a one off event at this
time of year.
But it relates to your generalised claim and that is why I mentioned it.
It's about learning. Perhaps you had some specific knowledge to support
your general comment.
Yes indeed. Slashing being one but then that is another atmospherically
Photosynthesis uses atmospheric carbon to create biomass.
A lot of Photosynthetic action takes place in pastures that will not readily
Dry standing pasture which don't have lots of lush green active
photosynthesising plants burns very well, lush new growth doesn't.
yes, that's my point, your field gained carbon
via photosynthesis and some of that was in the dry
grasses and stalks. burning it releases that carbon
back to the atmosphere. slashing it and leaving it
as mulch will also release some of it back to the
atmosphere, but the rate is much reduced and spread
out and the slash has a much better chance of being
recycled by the worms/fungi than lost to the air.
sure, some of it is transported to the roots and
soil community. it depends upon how dry the pasture
is when burned and how deeply various fragments
all true. my point was aimed at those who
burn dry materials thinking that it improves
the soil. it may give a sudden flush of growth
from some of the released nutrients, but
whatever goes into the air is lost and has to
be regained by further photosynthesis. if
slashed and left that carbon is not lost but
largely retained and recycled or turned into
humus (over the long haul).
I'll have to throw in with bird. Organic material holds water. Just the
thing that drought affected areas need. It is probably simpler to just
set a match to it, instead of spreading it around. Burning will also
encourage erosion on sloping land. The problem begins with clearing the
trees, so it seems that trying to re-establish a few trees should also
Are you saying that your animals won't browse on tussocks? I am
unfamiliar with spinifex (tussock), but perhaps when they are young they
are more manageable. One of the stated goals in grazing, as is practiced
by Joel Salatin, is to not knock plants in a paddock back more than
2/3s, which will leave them the vigor to regrow quickly. He would move
them from paddock to paddock so as to not over graze the pastures.
Salatin says he's a big fan of using native plants for fodder.
We do a lot of burning locally in the spring. For vineyards it is mostly
burning pruned grape canes. Again, it is probably easier to burn the
canes than to chip them and return them to the vineyards. The assistant
wine-maker where I work is a "Bio" type, I'll ask him "why not?"
tomorrow. I haven't a clue as to what other agriculturalists are
burning, but it isn't complete fields, that's for sure.
i'll be interested in what he says, but i
would not be surprised if it isn't aimed at
reducing fungal diseases (if you don't have
organic material on the surface of the soil
then the spores have fewer places to hide
from the sun's uv rays).
my own recent experiences has told me that
this is a false approach. instead i had very
good results from using leaves and wood chips
to help greatly reduce a spotted disease that
has been getting at the lillies in the spring.
the past few years it was pretty bad on almost
every leave, and then this year it was just
one or two spots here or there for the entire
plant. if next spring is similar then i'll be
very happy with the result.
How is it that you are using them?
Surface mulch or something else?
I had my cucumbers largely taken out by mildew this year (among
other things, they were too close together), so I'm keeping an eye
out for things that tip the balance on fungus.
|Drew Lawson | If you're not part of the solution |
| | you're part of the precipitate. |
My understanding is that (how shocking!) it depends.
The usual logic for burning cuttings is to directly remove any disease
specific to the plant that's already in the cuttings, and indirectly
remove highly-compatible host material for diseases of the plant.
Contrariwise, covering the soil surface cuts down on (primarily viral,
so far as I recall) soil-borne diseases spread by foliage contact with
rain-splashed soil particles. Tomatoes are a classic in this line.
So, you'd probably be fine chipping (except they are a bear to chip,
actually - unclogging a chipper gets rather tedious) grape vine prunings
and putting them around your tomatoes, if those were far from your
grapes. Not so much putting them around your grapes. Since vinyards
mostly just grow grapes, burning makes sense for both disease control
and returning non-volatile nutrients, but probably more the former.
Cats, coffee, chocolate...vices to live by
Please don't feed the trolls. Killfile and ignore them so they will go away.
The assessment of the value of mulch in a vineyard is still a work in
progress. Canes, when burned, are removed from the vineyard first. The
ash isn't returned. In general, organic material holds water, and
encourages a diverse soil ecology. The diversity of the ecology in turn
will block pathogenic microbes. Vineyards do encourage wild mustard to
grow in the vineyard before bud break, but then the mustard is
controlled with Roundup, and the vineyards are basically bare dirt most
of the year. Whether this is just inertia, or whether it is considered
best practices, I don't know. Is the financial savings of using
gylphosate sufficient to over come its drawbacks as listed by Dr. Don
Huber, recently retired from Purdue University, i.e.
1) Glyphosate binds with and inactivates EPSPS, the critical enzyme in
the shikimate pathway required for the synthesis of aromatic plant
metabolites including essential amino acids phenylalanine, tryptophan
and tyrosine, as well as downstream products such as plant growth
promoter, indoylacetic acid and plant defence compounds, phytoalexins.
But glyphosate has multiple adverse effects that act synergistically on
crop health and productivity that extends well beyond the plant into the
soil ecosystem and the wider environment.
2) The Glyphosate Tolerant (GT) trait depends on incorporating an EPSPS
from the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens that is insensitive to
glyphosate, hence glyphosate is taken up by GT plants and translocated
to the growing parts of roots and shoots, and even exuded into the
rhizosphere (soil surrounding the roots) so it can affect the soil
community of microorganisms and also subsequent crops planted in the
3) Glyphosate stimulates the growth of fungi and enhances the virulence
of pathogens such as Fusarium, and can have serious consequences for
sustainable production of a wide range of susceptible crops. They warn
that Ignoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any
chemical, especially used as heavily as glyphosate, may have dire
consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops
non-productive, and plants less nutritious.
4) In an interview  with the Organic & Non-GMO Report, Huber said he
has been researching glyphosate for 20 years, and began noticing
problems when he saw a consistent increase in take-all, a fungal
disease of wheat, when glyphosate had been applied in a previous year to
control weeds. He found glyphosate reduced manganese in plants, which is
essential to many plant defence reactions against disease and
environmental stress. Glyphosate can immobilize plant nutrients such as
manganese, copper, potassium iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc, so they
are no longer nutritionally functional. Basically, glyphosate completely
weakens the plant, making it susceptible to soil-borne fungal pathogens.
That is one reason why we see an increase in plant diseases, he said.
5) There has been a general increase in the number of plant diseases in
the past 15 to 18 years. Four primary soil fungi, Fusarium, Phythium,
Rhizoccccctonia, and Phytophthora, have become more active with the use
of glyphosate; and concomitantly, diseases caused by these fungi have
increased, such as head scab in corn, or root rot in soybeans, crown rot
in sugar beets. Fusarium head blight, which affects cereal crops, is a
disease that produces a mycotoxin that could enter the food chain.
There are more than 40 diseases reported with the use of glyphosate, and
the number keeps growing as people recognize the association, Huber said.
In conversation, I have found that there is some concern about the
effects of Roundup on the soil ecology.
I realize that this is ranging far from the subject of drought, and I'll
try to bring it back home.
In the meantime I've been expecting Farm1 to take me to task for my last
comments about organic material in the ground, and trees to fight
drought. I'm sure she has considered them, and what efforts she has made
in this direction, or why not.
You out there Farm1?
i would not expect any results for powerdery
mildew as it spreads too easily.
the plants that get powdery mildew around here
are perennial ornamentals that i'm not that
concerned about (they come back each year no
matter what the mildew does). we don't grow
many other veggies/fruits that seem to be
affected by it or by the time they are we're
sick of them anyways so no big loss. it's
like nature's sign that variety is the spice
of life. :)
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