Tom's Blog

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Great fall burn at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie

Although we often have trouble getting satisfactory prairie burns done in the fall of the year, this year has been an exception. The prairie grasses have all cured early and the weather has been cooperating.

On Monday Dane County Parks burned the prairie remnants at Walking Iron.

Today Amanda and the folks at Integrated Restorations LLC did the burn at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie that we generally only do in early spring. What a joy to have that burn already out of the way!

We have three burn units at BE Prairie, and burn two of the three each year. The schedule is arranged so that each unit is burned in two consecutive years, followed by an unburned year. This was the year to burn the South Unit and the Saddle. See the burn history and projected burn schedule through 2023 at the end of this post.

Fire line moving across the Saddle.
The fuel here is predominantly warm-season grasses (Indian grass,
and big and little bluestem), but lots of the forbs burned well also.

Sean doing some interior lighting in a patch of cool-season grasses.
One reason we wanted to burn in the fall is so that we could spray this patch of cool-season grass early next spring.
This patch developed during the major drought we had in the summer of 2012.

After the burn. Burn coverage was greater than 90%.
The lane here separates the prairie from the neighbor's alfalfa field.
This lane is our fire break and means of transportation to the South Unit.

One difference between this fall burn and our usual spring burns is smoke. Although the warm-season grasses are fully cured, there are still lots of small green patches, either uncured cool-season grasses, or fall regrowth of spring perennials such as wood betony and prairie violet. These green plants always burn with lots of smoke. Fortunately, the prairie is far enough away from the highway so we did not have to worry about traffic control.


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