Burning in the Growing Season
Growing-season prescribed fire is defined as prescribed burns conducted when warm-season herbaceous plants are actively growing, which is summer to early fall in the Southern Great Plains. While prescribed fire is a common management practice on many private and public lands, it is primarily used during the dormant season, particularly just before spring green-up, because it is often used to promote livestock production,1 and growing season burns are often viewed as consuming forage that could be grazed by livestock.2 However, growing-season fire can be used in livestock operations to extend highly palatable forage later into the year. Additionally, there is a misconception that growing-season burns are not possible due to green vegetation or insufficient fuel. Yet, with sufficient litter, fires can carry even during the summer months. Another reason land managers do not consider growing-season burns is due to the belief that burning during this period will damage key plants and negatively alter vegetation composition. However, this is been dispelled by research.
Historically, fires have occurred throughout the year and even today they continue to ignite at varying times of the year throughout Oklahoma and North America. Historical fire accounts show that lightning-set fires in many regions of the U.S. occurred during the growing season, and Native Americans ignited fires in nearly all months with a majority in the late summer.4,5,6,7,8 This extension circular will address reasons for conducting growing season fire, effects of these fires, when they might be appropriate, and how to conduct them.