In this second of a four-part series, you will learn the importance of the fuel component in prescribed fire.
A common science experiment in grade school is to light a candle, place a glass jar over the candle, and watch the flame go out as the oxygen is consumed. This demonstrates the fire triangle of heat, oxygen, and fuel (Figure 1). A prescribed fire is a working example of the principles of the fire triangle.
In conducting a prescribed fire, you are either working to move a fire across the land or working to extinguish a fire. In either case, good fire lines are critical for containing the fire within a specific area (Figure 2). Fire lines remove the fuel side of the triangle. Without the fuel, there is no heat and the fire goes out.
A number of factors play a role in the ignition of a prescribed fire and how well it may carry. This makes the fuels component of a prescribed fire the most difficult issue to deal with. It is critical to know your fuels, the number of days since a rain event, the duration and amount of rain of the event, and the relative humidity and wind. Anyone conducting a prescribed fire should be aware of these factors prior to conducting a prescribed burn.
The way a fire burns depends on a number of characteristics of the fuel. An often forgotten component is the predominant species of the fuel. Not all grasses burn the same; neither do all hardwood leaves or even pine needles. For example, leaves in an upland hardwood stand tend to curl on the ground and retain moisture. This can make it difficult to sustain a fire. Most fires of this fuel type are low intensity and slow to spread. In a mature pine plantation, the pine needle layer is matted and mostly flat, with the exception of the top layer. Due to rosin in pine needles, the needles will ignite with little heat and carry fires of greater intensity.
Along with species of the fuel, fuel type, fuel volume, fuel arrangement, fuel shape, fuel size, and fuel moisture content make up the major components of fuel and how it burns. For detailed explanations of each of these components and how they relate to fire behavior, visit the link below to access the second article of this prescribed fire series.
Wild turkeys are just one of many species of wildlife that benefit from prescribed burning.
(Photo credit: Don Chance, Graduate Student, Mississippi State University).
Prescribed fire is an important management tool throughout Southern forests. It provides multiple benefits for both timber and wildlife.
We are about to embark on a series of articles discussing the importance of prescribed fire for forest and wildlife management. There are several topics to be covered and all of equal importance. Descriptions of each article in the series are listed below. This series starts with an introduction to prescribed fire and its benefits, followed by 3 separate articles that discuss the following:
Below is the link to the first article in series. Updates will be provided as each of the articles become available.
Golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea), planted as an ornamental and historically for use as fishing poles, is a familiar sight spreading around old homesteads. Sometimes confused with native river canes (Arundinaria spp.), golden bamboo is one of over a 1000 species of large woody grasses generally referred to as bamboos. With the exception of our native river cane, most species of bamboo are native to Asia, Africa and South America. Bamboos can range in size from short ground covers to timber bamboos such as moso bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) which can reach heights of over 75 feet and over 5 inches in diameter.
There are two major types of bamboo – clump forming and running. Bamboo stems emerge from a dense rhizomes (underground stems) system which is generally located within the upper 12 inches of soil. The rhizomes of clumping bamboos have very little horizontal growth before they turn upwards and produce a culm (stem). As a result, they spread fairly slowly. Most clumping bamboos are tropical, not very cold tolerant and generally do not grow well in temperate climates. In contrast, the rhizomes of running bamboos have significantly more horizontal growth, and can send up multiple culms along the rhizome. Running bamboos tend to be more cold tolerant.
Bamboo has an interesting growth pattern. When culms emerge they elongate very rapidly. Technically this is redistribution of stored carbohydrates from the previous growing season and not new growth from current photosynthesis. Stems do not increase in diameter over time, but remain the same size as when they emerge. Likewise, stems do not increase in height after the first season. Stems do put on additional branches over time, thereby increasing the amount of leaves available for photosynthesis and growth of the grove. Self-shading will eventually limit this potential increase in photosynthesis.
Is bamboo invasive? Bamboos flower irregularly, sometimes decades apart. Therefore spread by seed is of minor concern, but can't be completely ruled out. However, running bamboos will run (up to 15 feet or so a year) and once established are very difficult to control. Golden bamboo and/or several other species of running bamboos are therefore considered invasive by many state invasive plant councils and the University of Florida IFAS assessments (http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/).
Once established, bamboo is difficult to control. In open areas, plants can be dug up with heavy equipment as the rhizomes tend to be fairly shallow. Frequent cutting of the entire grove can reduce underground reserves and eventually control the stand. This could take some time depending on the species and on the health and size of the grove. Cut stems can also be treated with herbicides such as glyphosate or imazpyr, but multiple applications are typically required. Foliar sprays may suppress growth but are difficult to apply to mature stands and rarely result in complete control. Granular formulations of imazapyr have been effective but must be used very carefully due to potential non‐target injury of other plants. In all cases, control is labor intensive.
Several methods are available for containing bamboo rhizome growth: physical barriers, trenching and removal of new shoots. Physical barriers involve burying a strong, non-biodegradable barrier around the perimeter of the grove. Rhizomes will turn and go back the other way when they hit the barrier, although in some cases may grow up and over the barrier. In that case, the rhizome must be cut to prevent spread. Physical barriers typically cost several dollars a linear foot.
Trenching involves digging an open trench to the depth of the rhizomes around the perimeter of the grove. Rhizomes growing into the trench must be cut with clippers or a sharp spade. Trenches should be checked several times a year, especially during the spring and summer expansion period.
The third approach for containing bamboo growth is removal of new stems which are fragile when first emerging. Once a particular stem is removed, it will not grow back. Newly emerged stems can be kicked over, mowed or cut with a weed eater. Multiple removals may be needed depending on how uniformly the new stems emerge, which can vary with species, vigor of the grove and environmental conditions.
There are a few additional concerns with bamboo. Due to the dense shade and dense leaf little produced by bamboo, little can grow in the understory. Minimal wildlife habitat is provided by bamboo groves. However, birds are known to roost in bamboo and the fungal lung disease histoplasmosis has been associated with roosting of birds in bamboo. As a result, it is a good idea to wear a mask when working in bamboo stands.
In summary, bamboo is an intriguing plant but if not contained will grow beyond the area where it is initially planted. Once established, bamboo is very difficult to control. Caution is required when growing bamboo and consideration of the fate and maintenance of groves into the future must be a consideration.
Note: This article was previously published in an Alabama Treasure Forest Association Newsletter (2015)
The Alabama Invasive Plant Council, working with ACES personnel, recently received a small grant from the US Forest Service to help with invasive plant control and outreach at Lagoon Park in Montgomery. Lagoon Park was created several decades ago from a 176 acre disturbed riparian site that was donated to the city of Montgomery. Invasive species were present on the site and have become much more extensive over the years. Lagoon Park Trail volunteers have valiantly cleared invasive plants to establish 6 miles of trails over the years, but invasive plants still abound. Chinese privet and nandina are found throughout the understory of much of the park, while extensive groves of Chinese tallowtree (popcorn tree) lines many of the water ways. Also found are Bradford pear, Japanese and glossy privets, Chinaberry, mimosa (silktree) and thorny olive.
The objectives of the grant are to provide funds and expertise to take the control efforts at the park to the next level and to educate park visitors through demonstrations, interpretive signs and workdays.
The first workday was held Saturday morning, Jan 20. Luckily most of the snow from earlier in the week had melted! Using cut stump treatments, volunteers cleared a lot of privet and nandina from alongside one of the upper trails. A dozen people can get a lot done in half a day!
For more information on Chinese privet control and cut stump treatments, see:
A recent news article brings to light a growing trend coyote management. Once creatures associated with rural areas and agriculture, the adaptable coyote now seems to not only occur, but thrive, in urban and suburban environments. As these animals become more plentiful in and adjacent to neighborhoods, it is inevitable that conflicts will occur. Such activities as a leaving pet food outdoors or garbage cans open and accessible will serve to attract coyotes to the area. Humans should never intentionally feed or try to bring coyotes closer to human dwellings but, rather, take managers to discourage coyotes from being comfortable around human activity.
Photo Source: Dr. Jim Armstrong
The commercial interest in and use of UAV’s (drones) in forestry and wildlife management is growing. Like any new technology the workplace safety implications of these devices include some unknowns. The publication on the link outlines some of the operational and safety issues in commercial use in construction. The points in the article may help UAV users develop safety program components for controlling UAV safety hazards.
When it comes to natural resource management in Alabama, we have A LOT of great people doing A LOT of great things. And I'm not talking about all the skilled professionals in our natural resource agencies and non-governmental organizations who are indeed doing a fabulous job in protecting, managing, and conserving our state's valuable resources. What I'm really talking about are all those average ordinary private citizens who have volunteered a substantial amount of their time, energy, and in some cases personal financial resources, to help make sure current and future generations of Alabamians are able to enjoy productive forests, abundant wildlife, clean water, and fresh air. From participation on county natural resource committees to hosting field days on their property to educate others, some volunteers go far above and beyond what could ever be expected of them. It becomes a passion for them. One such volunteer is Dr. Max Walker who recently was the recipient of a W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Award recognizing his voluntary contributions to the promotion of the wise use of Alabama natural resources.
As an owner of a certified Tree Farm and TREASURE forest, Dr. Walker has always been an active promoter of wise use management of Alabama natural resources. Through his leadership and support roles in the Crenshaw County TREASURE Forest Chapter, Soil and Water Conservation District, and Forestry Planning Committees, Dr. Walker has made significant contributions to educate forest landowners of the value of proper forest and natural resource management. Dr. Walker also has a passion for youth activities that not only educate youth about our natural resources but also develop leadership skills. He has been an active supporter of youth programs including Classroom in the Forest, Farm Safety Day, and Farm City Week. The above represents only a few of the activities Dr. Walker has been involved with. We don't have enough space in this blog to cover all his contributions!
So if you know of someone like Dr. Walker who has really made a difference, please consider nominating them for a W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Award. Yes, it takes time to develop a good nomination, but it's the right thing to do for people who are doing the right thing!
For over 30 years the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Award for Achievement in Forestry, Wildlife and Related Resources recognizes has recognized those "unsung heroes" who have voluntarily contributed significantly to the wise stewardship of Alabama's natural resources. These volunteer efforts may be in, for example, forestry, wildlife, fisheries, soil, water, air, wildflowers, non-game wildlife, environmental education, conservation, or urban forestry. Almost anyone may be eligible - youths, adults, practitioners, professionals, technicians, individual citizens, and groups - if their voluntary contributions have resulted in the wiser use of our natural resources and the betterment of our communities. To learn more about the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Awards Program or to submit a nomination, please visit our website at http://www.aces.edu/natural-resources/mosley/.
Caption for the photo: Dr. Max Walker (center) receives a W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Award from Dr. Mark Smith (left), executive secretary of the Mosley Awards Program and Crenshaw County Extension Coordinator Derek Bryan who nominated Dr. Walker for the award.
It began again this past weekend. Like clockwork, in the middle of the night, before the rays of sunlight early Saturday morning, I heard a plunk on our roof. This is a sound I know well. My wife and I have been living in our little mountain cabin for over ten years now. I've heard this sound before. For the months of October and November, I will be hearing the plinking of oak acorns and hickory nuts on our metal roof.
Here at our Talladega cabin we have a host of oak trees. We have black, blackjack, cherrybark, chestnut (mountain), northern red, post, southern red, water, white, and willow oaks. We also have mockernut, pignut, and shagbark hickories along with a whole host of additional hardwoods. According to one of Extension's publications; "Management of Hardwood Forests for Timber in Alabama", we have around 200 different hardwood species in Alabama, including 25 oaks and 8 hickories. Because Southern Pines so dominate our timber industries, many people tend to overlook hardwoods. However, based on US Forest Service inventory research, hardwoods comprise the majority of Alabama's standing timber volume.
Most of our forest wildlife friends value these hardwoods for food and shelter. Most of the food value is found in the leaves and seeds. Leaves are eaten mainly by insects that in turn are eaten by other creatures. The seeds are eaten by both small and large alike. How many times have we walked through the woods, picked up seemingly good acorns, only to later find a caterpillar in them? Yes, insects feed on the seeds too! Most often when we in Alabama think of acorns and nuts, we think of deer, turkey, and squirrels. Squirrels need large trees to survive. Squirrels live off seed sources from hickories, oaks, and pines. Deer and turkey are different. They require a variety of habitats. They like both field and forest. During the fall, acorns and nuts provide the needed fat in their diets to help see them through the lean days of winter. Humans can also consume acorns, but they are not as tasty as your cultivated pecans. The meat inside the shell contains higher levels of tannic acid than what we are accustomed. Indians used to collect acorns from white and chestnut oaks along with American chestnuts, black walnut, and wild pecan as a food source for the long winter months. As a side note; within the white oak family (oaks that produce white lumber) the acorns mature in one year, while those in the red oak family (pink lumber) take two years to produce mature acorns. Also, white oak family acorns tend to be larger than the red oak acorns.
Fall is my favorite season of the year. Cool Canadian air, leaves a changing on the hillsides, and college football, for me, it all began this weekend with a single plink on my roof.
Garden Talk is written by Andrew J. Baril of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, C. Beaty Hanna Horticulture & Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research-based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 205 879-6964. Learn more about what is going on in Jefferson County by visiting the ACES website, www.aces.edu/Jefferson or checking us on Facebook and Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!
If you would like to improve the overall health of your wildlife, along with your chances to see and harvest deer and turkey, you should plan now to establish cool-season food plots.
Outside of sound habitat management (timber harvest, prescribed fire, native plantings, etc.), there is arguably no better way to improve your viewing/hunting success for many species than by providing high-quality winter food. Often times, these plots can benefit both game and non-game species for several months at their greatest times of need.
Location, Location, Location
First things first, you will need to decide where your plot(s) will be located. Ideally, choose sites that are already cleared and will allow you access without being detected by wildlife. Areas like logging roads/decks, wind damaged areas, secluded corners of crop fields, firebreaks, old fields, and even utility rights-of-way are all great places for a plot. Areas with the most level topography and moderate soil moisture conditions (not too dry like on high ridges, or too wet in soaked bottoms) are your best bet. Plan to keep them away from boundary lines and roadways to allow game safer and more secluded areas to browse. In conjunction, all of these considerations will decrease the cost and effort to establish the plot and increase the odds of your hunting/viewing success.
By far, soil testing is one of the most important (and often ignored) components of a successful food plot. No different from your lawn, garden, hayfield, or row crops, your food plot requires proper pH and nutrients in order to achieve maximum production and wildlife attraction. For a fee of only $7 per sample, the Auburn University Soil Testing Laboratory will test and provide recommendations specific to the crop(s) you are looking to plant. Soil test boxes and instructions can be found at your local Extension office.
Results will indicate what lime and nutrients the site needs to be as productive as possible. It is
very important to apply lime if tests indicate it is necessary. This is because if soils are acidic, the majority of nutrients and fertilizer that is applied will be bound in the soil and not available to plants. Those who only rely on fertilizing acidic soils are wasting their resources and not seeing the full potential of their plots. Even more, some plants like clover may not grow at all in highly acidic soils. Although more expensive and short lived, applying pelleted lime now will help this year's plots while spreading agricultural limestone is cheaper and longer lasting but it takes several months to affect pH.
Size and Shape
The ideal size of plots ranges from 0.5 to 3 acres. In forestland, it is a general rule to provide 1%-5% of the area to food plots. This helps to reduce the chances of over browsing and keeps costs to a minimum. Of course, more plots or other types of wildlife openings can be established if desired.
It is better to have several well-distributed smaller plots than just a few large ones. Remember that there is no need for highly irregular shapes, narrow plots, or trees in the plot; all of these factors increase shade and decrease production while reducing your opportunity for clear viewing of wildlife. However, do not be afraid to allow a grassy/shrubby border grow on the perimeter of a plot, this creates a 'soft' edge. Soft edges provide escape cover that many species of wildlife, both young and old, find security with, this often helps to increase use of the plot.
What to Plant?
It is important to understand that the preferences of wildlife will vary by location and the season. Food plots are simply a supplement to the natural food sources. Planting a variety of crops can help to increase the duration use by wildlife and give more bang for your buck. As conditions change and natural food resources are reduced (particularly in the late winter/early spring), the feeding habits of wildlife will steer them towards your cool-season plots.
By far, the most common cool season plantings (particularly for deer and turkey) are a combination of clovers and cereal grains. Because these combinations grow fast, stay green throughout the winter and early spring, and provide both a source of protein and carbohydrates, they are attractive to a wide variety of wildlife. Annual plantings (Mix 1 & 2) are a great choice for many areas prone to weed issues. This is because the entire plot may be prepared with applications of 2, 4-D and glyphosate in the late spring and again in the late summer to provide grass and broadleaf control prior to planting. Over time, this practice exhausts the seed bank and reduces weed competition.
Clover can be a money saver when it comes to food plots as some clovers can last for 2-5 years (Mix 3 &4), and all clover fixes its own nitrogen (as long as the seed is inoculated), essentially lowering your seed and fertilizer bill. Some clovers come pre-inoculated while others require you to purchase and add the inoculum yourself.
Mixes - Cereal Grains and Clovers
Mix rates are per 1-acre
Mixes 1 and 2 perform well on a wide variety of soils and conditions but must be replanted each year, while Mix 3 does best on soils that retain moisture or are more shaded. Mix 4 will produce on sites that become too dry for ladino clovers. Clover Mix 3 can subside for 3-5 years depending on care and clover Mix 4 may produce for two years before requiring replanting.
If you decide to plant a pre-mixed plot mix be sure to read the label so that you can know exactly what you are buying and planting.
In North Alabama, late August to early November is the best time to plant most cool-season plots, with many traditionally planting around Labor Day weekend. Planting much earlier than this can lead to heat/drought stressed conditions and planting later can risk a killing frost before plants become established. Also, be sure to watch the weather and try to plant with rain in the near forecast to assure the best germination possible.
It is best to prepare your plot sites weeks prior to planting. This includes herbicide applications to reduce competition, applying lime and fertilizer as soil tests indicate, and disking or dragging to prepare a seedbed. This prep work prior to planting helps to assure that undesirable plants and cover will be dead which will reduce competition and allow you to more easily work the soil, soil amendments have had time to incorporate and fertilizers won't burn new plantings, and rains and settling will create a firm seed bed that aids in germination.
Small areas may be broadcast with a hand operated broadcast spreader while larger areas can be broadcast using PTO driven or motorized spreader.
It is important to factor in planting depth when planting any crop, particularly a mix of seeds. Planting cereal grains (large seed) and clovers (small seed) at the same time will ultimately lead to some seeds that are planted too deep while others will be too shallow. It is best to plant the larger cereal grains first as they will be covered deeper, then follow up with top-sewn clovers last.
Ensuring good soil to seed contact is important for good germination and conserving moisture. Ideally, a roller or cultipacker is best to run over the plot, but a homemade drag of chain or fence can also work well, or just simply driving over the plot with an ATV can also help.
Broadcast small grain mixtures evenly over the seedbed. Lightly disk to cover seeds about 0.5-1 inch deep.
Clovers are broadcast over the seedbed after the small grains have been covered. Again, clover seeds are very small so they should not be covered more than ¼".
With a little preplanning and careful site selection, preparation, and planting you can provide a great wildlife plot that can impact both game and non-game species all the while helping to improve your hunting or wildlife viewing success.
Information like this and so much more is available at your counties Alabama Cooperative Extension System office. Please give us a call or make a visit!
Regional Extension Agent – Forestry, Wildlife, & Natural Resources
Norm may be reached by contacting the DeKalb County Extension office at (256)-845-8595 or by e-mail at
There are two groups of landowners in Alabama….those who have wild pigs, and those who are about to have wild pigs. If you're in the first group, landowners currently dealing with wild pigs, you know already know just how destructive they can be and how difficult it is to get rid of them. Luckily we have several "How to" seminars throughout the state to help landowner learn how to get rid of wild pigs to reduce the damage they cause. So if you're having problems and need some help, consider attending one of these information packed seminars with in-field equipment demonstrations.
Landowners Guide for Wild Pig Management Publication
Workshop Registration Website
Mark D. Smith, Ph.D.
Mosley Environmental Associate Professor/Extension Specialist
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
3301 Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Building
602 Duncan Drive
Auburn University, AL 36849-5418
Phone: (334) 844-8099
Fax: (334) 844-1084
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