Benefits of a Controlled Burn
As a stand of switchgrass or NWSG matures to 3 years old and beyond, controlled burns are essential for healthy vigorous growth. Controlled burns are a great NWSG management practice and should occur every 3-5 years. Benefits of controlled burns include weed control and stand vigour. Prescribed fire reduces buildup up of dead vegetation and increases nutrient availability. Without occasional fire grasslands and wooded areas become overgrown. Many times the extra growth is non-native plants and shrubs that choke out the native vegetation. The burn may kill the non-native plants which are intolerant to the fire. The deep-rooted native plants are capable of withstanding the heat and are not affected. The benefits of a natural fire far outweigh the temporary loss of wildlife cover. The black only lasts for a week or two but the benefits of the controlled burn last much longer. Plan your burns in early April to promote the growth of other forbs and keep the stand from getting to thick for wildlife to use it. Plan your burn for late April to early May if you prefer a thicker pure stand of switchgrass. Planting a strip of legumes such as clover, around the perimeter of your switchgrass stand, will provide a firebreak and add diversity to your wildlife habitat. Burning is an important tool, but requires that you have help, tools, and knowledge of how to conduct a safe burn before doing so.