Whether or not burning of pastures and range lands will be harmful or beneficial depends on the kind of vegetation, the time of year, and soil and weather conditions at the time of burning. Studies that have been conducted in many places show that burning of pasture and range lands may provide the following significant advantages; (a) dead forage produced during the previous season and which might interface with the grazing of the new growth is destroyed, (b) weeds and brush that might otherwise replace desirable forages are controlled with careful burning, (c) new growth starts sooner, (d) the palatability and nutritive value of the forages are increased, (e) nutrients which stimulate new growth of forage are released, (f) seed production of some grass species is improved, (9) better seedbeds for the establishment of new seeding are provided in certain western range areas, and (h) chinch bugs, ticks, and certain other harmful insects are destroyed.
Likewise studies show that there re a number of important disadvantages that may result when pasture and range lands are burned. The most important of these are as follows: (a) the vigor of the plants and the yields of forage may be reduced, (d) accumulations of organic matter are decreased, and (e) weeds and other undesirable plants may come in as a result of careless burning.
If forages are to be burned, the time of year when burning is to be done is of great importance. Usually the least damage is caused in late winter or early spring when there is sufficient moisture in the soil to keep the damp humus on the surface from burning and to prevent the temperature of the soil from getting high enough to damage the below-ground parts of plants. When fire is used to burn pastures, much care should be taken to prevent its spread to wooded areas and farmsteads where heavy damage to timber or valuable property might result.
It is well to bear in mind that indiscriminate, uncontrolled burning is almost always harmful and that results of burning in one region can’t always be safely applied to another. In general, the introduced forages grown in the humid, eastern portion of the United States are usually injured by burning. Likewise the native grasses are probably not so susceptible to injury by fire as the introduced types.