Why Do People Burn Fields?

Every spring, northeast Kansas is filled with smoke from area fields and grasslands being burned. While in most situations fire would be a cause for concern, these fires serve a helpful purpose both in agriculture and prairie safety. Why exactly is that?

“We burn our fields to clear all of the weeds and the remnants of last years’ crops so that we can plant the next round of seed,” said Harley Sauer, a northeast Kansas farmer, “it preps the soil to make it healthier, basically, for the new crop.”

In agriculture, this type of burning is called “prescribed burns,” or “controlled burns.” Even though the flames may be alarming to other people, farmers know how to keep things as controlled as possible.

“People need to remember that farmers have been doing this a long time, and have a lot of practice at controlled burns. We always have to pay attention to the wind, especially here in Kansas, and we’re always aware of how close we are to things. And obviously, the local fire departments know what’s going on and are ready if something happens and we need help,” said Sauer.

In addition to agricultural use, controlled burns are also implemented to help in wildlife areas, like the Kansas prairie. The Little Apple Post published an article recently about the Kansas Forest Service planning to conduct controlled burns in the Hutchinson area. The Kansas Forest Service’s use for controlled burns is to get rid of hazardous fuels; in this case, areas of dried brush. Controlled burns will not only help with the health of the soil overall, like in farmers’ fields, but will also prevent wildfires when the built up brush becomes dry and very flammable. Wildfires are a major threat to areas surrounding the brush-filled land, which can include residential neighborhoods, so preventative actions are a priority.