How to Enhance Fescue Fields Through Burning

Overview

Fescue grass grows naturally in many areas of the United States, most commonly in prairies and open fields. In combination with other native grasses and plants, this perennial grass provides a food source for wildlife and livestock. Unfortunately, left untreated, fescue can overtake entire fields, choking out other plants and creating a bulky layer of thatch that makes feeding difficult. Burning the vegetation helps to encourage well-balanced fescue fields that support wildlife habitation and create a proper blend of plants.

Step 1

Burn your fescue field in the early spring or during summer dormancy to help remove litter and help stimulate fescue dominance. Plan your prescribed burn just before the grass reaches 1 inch tall or wait until it stops growing in the heat of the summer. This timing helps reduce thatch while improving the blend of new fescue and native legumes.

Step 2

Sketch a map of your intended burn area. Consider any nearby structures, including homes, outbuildings, roadways and nearby trees and windbreaks. Incorporate your boundaries and control lines. Control lines include natural breaks, such as waterways and rocky cliffs, as well as fabricated trenches and areas of scraped soil. Measure the distance from the edges of your fescue field to the nearby structures. Mark these measurements on your map.

Step 3

Contact your local fire department to notify them of your planned burn to determine if your field meets its requirements for prescribed burning. Your local or state government may require a copy of your proposed burn plan, including your map and measurements, before authorizing the procedure.

Step 4

Remove any large, flammable debris from your fescue field, such as dead trees and accumulated trash. Transport nearby livestock to a distant area away from smoke and danger.

Step 5

Employ the assistance of your neighbors and family, selecting mature individuals with experience burning fields. Never attempt to perform a prescribed burn by yourself. Using three to five drip torches, light the border on the downwind side of your field. This will cause the wind to blow your fire against your control line, rather than send it racing across your fescue field. Watch your fire line as it burns into the wind until it reaches the opposite control line.

Step 6

Examine your burnt fescue field for signs of smoldering debris. Stand watch until no embers or hot spots remain. Watch for new fescue grass and other native species to begin growing in the treated field within a few weeks of your burn.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid lighting a prescribed burn during strong winds. Forceful winds can cause your fire to gather speed and jump across your control lines, endangering nearby fields and homes.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Drip torches
  • Lighter

References

  • USDA: Prescribed Burning for Landowners
  • Missouri Department of Conservation: Tall Fescue and Missouri Wildlife
  • Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources: Prescribed Burning
Keywords: burn fescue field, prescribed burn, burn pastures

About this Author

Piper Li, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear in Modern Mom, Biz Mojo, Walden University and GardenGuides. She is the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." With a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Mesa State, Li enjoys writing about health, horticulture and business management.