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Sericea Lespedeza Control from Growing-Season Prescribed Burning Causes No Collateral Damage to Non-Target Species

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of 4 consecutive years of prescribed fire applied to native tallgrass range in either April, August, or September on forage biomass production, soil cover, and basal plant cover.

Study Description: Nine fire-management units (14 ± 6 acres) were burned at 1 of 3 prescribed times: early spring (April 1), mid-summer (August 1), or late summer (September 1). Plant species composition and soil cover were assessed annually each July using a modified step-point technique.

Effects of the timing of prescribed burning on graminoid basal cover, forb basal cover, occurrence of bare soil, and litter cover during mid-summer on native tallgrass rangeland

Item April August September P-value1
Bare soil, % total area 44.4 35.7 34.6   0.52
Litter cover, % total area 45.5 55.5 54.3   0.52
Basal vegetation cover, % total area 10.2   8.8 11.1   0.21
Total grass cover, % total basal cover 82.9 85.9 87.0   0.24
Major C4 tall grasses,2 % total basal cover 54.8 52.3 56.9   0.62
Total forb cover, % total basal cover 15.7 12.8   11.9   0.38
Sericea lespedeza, % total basal cover 6.56a 3.22ab 1.52b    0.02
Western ragweed + Baldwin’s ironweed, % total basal cover 4.19a 1.24b 1.39b < 0.01
Major wildflowers, % of total basal cover 0.51d 0.91de   1.27e   0.09

1Treatment main effect.

2Combined basal cover of big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass, and sideoats grama.

The Bottom Line: Burning during the summer for 4 consecutive years resulted in excellent control of sericea lespedeza, Baldwin’s ironweed, western ragweed, and invasive woody-stemmed plants, compared to traditional spring, dormant-season prescribed burning. In addition, major wildflower species prevalence increased in areas treated with prescribed fires during the summer compared with adjacent areas treated with prescribed fire during the spring.

View full research report by authors J.A. Alexander, W.H. Fick, J. Lemmon, G.A. Gatson, and KC Olson at

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