Drought conditions in 2012 have greatly increased the incidence of wildfires affecting range and pasturelands. Drought has resulted in many grasses and plants drying out as they are going into dormancy. Additionally, some pastures have higher amounts of residual or carryover growth and litter from last year. The potential for grass fires will continue through next spring, and lightning, which has been the primary cause of most recent fires, will be a concern for the remainder of the summer and into fall.
With wildfire, the immediate loss of valuable forage and soil-protecting residual cover is often a great concern. The longer-term effects of wildfire on range and pastures can be variable with factors such as timing of the fire, fuel load, and subsequent precipitation all playing an important role. Most rangeland plants are quite resilient and proper management after a wildfire will hasten recovery.
The NebGuide publication "Management after Wildfire in Central and Western Nebraska" (PDF 882KB) provides additional wildfire information and recommendations.
You may also find these resources helpful.
- Grassland Management with Prescribed Fire, UNL Extension Circular (PDF 798KB)
Pages 1 and 2 provide background information on fire on the Great Plains grasslands - The History of Fire, Wildfire vs. Prescribed Fire, and Plant Adaptations to Fire.
- Protecting Farms & Ranches from Wildfires, Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Source: Dr. Jerry Volesky, Associate Professor of Agronomy, West Central Research & Extension Center