I received a question from a client about planting spring food plots into a recently burned field. If you’re considering the same question or making plans to do a prescribed fire, here are a few points to make this a successful food plot:
Planting soybeans (or any crop) into a burned field is fine. The black surface will result in the soil temperature warming faster there compared to fields covered with forage or that have light-colored soil. This can be an advantage during the spring. The added heat would be an issue if the planting date is when the soil and air temps are high. However, the beans should make a canopy before the temperatures are warm enough to damage forage. A 90 degree outside air temperature can mean surface temperatures are well over 100 degrees on a black surface. Burning will reduce much of the above ground organic matter and therefore some of the moisture retention and weed suppression advantages of having the terminated vegetation (mulch) in the field will be lost. However, the past crop’s roots are still providing lots of organic matter as well as holding the soil in place.
Before initiating a burn on your property, please get the proper training. Use a backing fire when burning through hardwood timber. Backing fires are less intense and won’t cause as much damage to mature trees. Rotating areas to burn will create a mosaic pattern of habitat which is very productive! In your fire training you will have learned that it is of paramount importance to consider where the smoke will go! The best practice is to burn during a day with a great ventilation rate (the National Weather Service has a website with fire data). A good ventilation rate means the smoke will rise and move on quickly. This is much safer than burning when the smoke hangs in one area which can, in the worst-case scenarios, cause traffic accidents for which you can then be held accountable.
This link is to the National Weather Service’s forecast including fire weather. You should be able to refine the location by typing in your zip code or city name for an update to get current fire weather for your area.
Another website I frequently use this time of year shows the daily soil temperature. You can review it at this link, updating for your location. This is useful as I like to plant soybeans when the soil temperature is 60 degrees at 9am – the coldest time of the day for soil.