Plumes of smoke dotting the horizon have been a regular sight for Marion County residents through March and April, but with the timeline for state regulated Crop Reduction Plan burning ending Monday, landowners, like Greg Washmon of rural Hillsboro, are glad to have had the option to burn.
“If I didn’t burn, I would have had to lightly disk all those CRP acres and that takes a lot of time and fuel,” Washmon said. “I’ve never managed my acreage that way.”
In the past few weeks, Washmon burned over 200 acres of his own land and a neighbor’s, in order to comply with state regulations for land not in crop production.
“We have to do it to manage the trees and that sort of thing,” he said. “Small trees will take over and suck all the moisture if they aren’t knocked down, and that kills the grass. Burning allows the grass to come back and green up in just a few days.”
Washmon said pasture burning used to be spring ritual along with CRP land management but drought conditions in the past two years have made that unnecessary.
“With the low rainfall we’ve had there just isn’t any extra grass in the pastures to burn off,” he said.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal and Kansas Interagency Wildfire Council issued a joint burn advisory last week in response to persistent drought conditions across Kansas.
“If possible, we encourage delaying pasture burning for another year so that the conditions for safely burning fields or brush will not be as likely to produce fires that burn out of control and put lives and property at risk,” said Doug Jorgenson, State Fire Marshal.
Washmon said he practiced safe burning practices on CRP ground, like back burning and keeping a water tank sprayer handy.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 to 30 years and have never had to call the fire department,” Washmon said. “There might have been a few times I’ve held my breath, but I pretty much feel like I know what I’m doing.”
The State Fire Marshal released a statement that said the increased moisture received over the state in the past few weeks has not been enough to create safe outdoor burning conditions.
“Continued drought conditions combined with high wind speeds, low relative humidity, and other weather factors will produce unsafe conditions for any more burns this season,” Jorgensen said.
That is OK with Washmon. He is done burning his land. He would rather spend his time at the sale barn checking cattle prices this time of year anyway.