R&D Project:

Evaluating the Use of Prescribed Fire to Rejuvenate Forage Pastures and its Impact on Soil Health

Overview

Status: In Progress

Project Timeline: January 2024 – March 2027

Objectives

Prescribed fire is a management tool that has the potential to improve the health and functioning of degraded pastures, and to remove hazardous fuel build-up and reduce wildfire risk. Prescribed fire is also part of Indigenous practices, often described as cultural burning, in support of food forests and food sovereignty. However, there are also concerns around fire use and potential changes to soil carbon stocks.

This Project will implement a prescribed fire plan on pastures in the Peace Region of British Columbia, an agriculturally diverse and important region in Canada.

WHAT will this project do: Evaluate how forage production and nutrition responds to prescribed fire and grazing practices, along with soil chemical and microbial properties (in particular carbon storage and cycling).

WHERE will it take place:  This research will occur at four locations on private and Crown land (such as the Bear Mountain Community Pasture) in both north and south Peace Regions. Each project site will implement a pre-approved prescribed fire plan to follow all steps for safe and lawful burning.

HOW will it be done: Treatments will include burning and grazing, resulting in four comparisons: (1) unburned/ungrazed, (2) unburned/grazed, (3) burned/ungrazed, and (4) burned/grazed.  Data will be collected pre-fire, immediately post-fire, and over subsequent years.

WHY is it needed: This research will (a) provide important information to producers seeking pasture rejuvenation through prescribed fire, and (b) generate data to understand the impact of prescribed fire on soil carbon.  This information will be essential for ranchers to make informed decisions and potentially improve the adoption and approval process for prescribed fire.

 

SITE DESCRIPTIONS:

  1. Bear Mountain Community Pasture, near Arras BC: This site was chosen as it was logged over 20 years ago and now is experiencing aspen suckering and re-growth which is reducing available forage for grazing animals.
  2. Renee Ardill, near Hudson’s Hope BC: This site was chosen as a pasture with moderate fire history and some brush encroachment. Land steward has longer term experience of using prescribed fire as a pasture management tool.
  3. Jack Thiessen, near Buick BC: This site was chosen as a field with some regular fire history. Land steward has longer term experience of using prescribed fire as a pasture management tool. This site is also of interest to the Blueberry River First Nations.
  4. Neil Ward, near Halfway River BC: This site is silvopasture site with brush encroachment and accumulation of woody debris build up. The land steward has experience with prescribed fire in management of silvopasture. The site is also adjacent to the Halfway River First Nations.

 

Progress

2024:

  • Prescribed fire plans approved for all 4 pastures (3 in spring and 1 in fall).
  • Grazing exclosures to be set up in April 2024 prior to spring prescribed burns on 3 of the pastures.
  • Soil and forage measurements to be collected pre-fire and post-fire.

See This Project on the Project Map

Project Cooperators

  • Bear Mountain Community Pasture
    Arras, BC, Canada
  • Renee Ardill
    Hudson's Hope, BC, Canada
  • Jack Thiessen
    Aitken Creek Road, Buick, BC, Canada
  • Neil Ward
    Halfway Ranch, BC, Canada

Project Contacts

Funding & Industry Partners

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), 2024
  • BC Hydro Peace Agriculture Compensation Fund, Hydro 2024
  • BC Hydro Peace Agriculture Compensation Fund, NDIT 2024
  • Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), 2024
  • Northern Fire WoRx
  • Shifting Mosaics