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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Effect of fire on southern mixed prairie grasses on the High and Rolling Plains of west Texas, USA

Published source details

Wright H.A. (1974) Effect of fire on southern mixed prairie grasses. Journal of Range Management, 27, 417-419


Up to the time of this study, most information on vegetation response to fire on mixed prairie is either short-term or gathered following wildfires in drought years. Here, longer-term (2-4 years) effects of late-winter/early spring burningon dominant grass species of the High and Rolling Plains of west Texas (southwest USA) were evaluated when winter-spring precipitation was 0 to 40% above average.

At various locations near Lubbock, Post, Guthrie, Colorado City and Baird, during years with average to above-average winter precipitation, plots (from 1 to 90 acres; 0.4 to 36.4 ha) were burned in early spring (15 March 15 to 7 April 1968, 1970 or 1972).

Yields of stands of the dominant grasses were measured on burned and unburned (control) paired plots for 2 to 4 years after a burn. Vegetation in 10 quadrats (2.4 ft²; 0.22 m²) per plot was clipped (late July) to sample live material and litter. Samples were dried and weighed.

This study indicates that when winter/spring precipitation is above normal, early spring burning is detrimental to sideoats grama Bouteloua curtipendula and Texas wintergrass Nassella leucotricha, and that they will take at least 2 years to recover to pre-burn yields.

Three species, buffalograssBuchloe dactyloides, blue grama Bouteloua gracilis and sand dropseed Sporobolus cryptandrus appeared neither harmed nor benefited by burning.
Species that seem to thrive (increased yield) for one to three growing seasons subsequent to burning were vine-mesquite Panicum obtusum, Arizona cottontop Digitaria californica, little bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium, plains bristlegrass Setaria leucopila, tobosa grass Hilaria muticaand Texas cupgrass Eriochloa sericea.
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