Crop stubble burning

BBC posted an article Wednesday on Delhi Air Quality, noting Indian farmers and crop burning. And obv resulting pollution.

Think BBC got their views from this nasa article. The data they uses comes from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Props to the team(s) doing this work!


I'm just posting to gain some views from various people with advanced soil knowledge. I think we all know what the general consensus amongst us about this practise would be!!! Other than speed/cost benefits for the human - could there be any environmental benefits to the soil???

In my experience; It is a growing trend that farmers have adopted over the last 10 years. I previously never witnessed any stubble burning prior to 2000-2005/but that said... I wasn't out in India every post harvest, so I can't really comment with accuracy. I think more needs to be done with education on this practise,....

Anyway, can I get some views please?

Pros & Cons pulled from vic agriculture.
Advantages; cheap, fast, weed control, insect control(?), disease control, reduced nitrogen tie-up
Disadvantages; loss of nutrients/carbon, impact on soil microbes ad fauna, soil structure changes, increase in erosion (wind and water), can increase acidity over time.

 
It's probably a tool of last resort.
Yeah, especially for low yielding farms.
I am super curious about the short term benefits/if any... and if there is any silver lining whatsoever.

My gut feeling makes me think, this is driven as cost saving process by owners/ and time saving by labourers/.... Weak legislation/subsidiaries and time constraints/pressure in preparing for the next season probably don't help the matter either.

Say a farm only has 90 seasons left...which is something I heard somewhere...... what's the burn on 90 years given annual repetitive stubble burning???
 
The biggest issue is that it starves the worms

baleing leaves enough straw to sustain some worms

but with notill and return of straw there are many more worms
on my heavy land the deepest burrowing worms go down 2 m deeper than any cultivation
and after a few years of notill the worm casts are 4 inches or so apart compared to several feet on maxi tilled straw removed

imho the biggest contribution to the failure of direct drilling in the 1980s was straw burning reducing the organic matter and worm starvation
 
Fires are not uncommon in nature. Many species actually rely upon them.

During a forest fire, low lying scrub is destroyed and bare soil is left. Taller trees may be charred but can remain alive. All the leaf litter and organic residues are gone, meaning the system has a lot of nutrient suddenly made into very available forms. The next result is a near orgy of growth and regeneration as seeds in the soil get a chance to grab some sky that they would otherwise be denied.

It is true that stubble fires eliminate trash and weed seeds and partially sterilise a layer of soil. But this is soon recolonised by the organisms that survived.
There are several very problematic insect pests that are combatted by burning. In areas of the world where pesticides are not available or cannot be applied, this is no small consideration.

On a small scale, crop residue burning is probably ok (the carbon was taken from the atmosphere anyway) but on a larger scale, it will cause a big drop in air quality and air pollution has a seriously harmful effect on human health.

It does however, need to be weighed against the pollution caused by burning diesel/wearing metal and the need for artificial fertilisers and agrochemicals.
 

CORK

Member
The biggest issue is that it starves the worms

baleing leaves enough straw to sustain some worms

but with notill and return of straw there are many more worms
on my heavy land the deepest burrowing worms go down 2 m deeper than any cultivation
and after a few years of notill the worm casts are 4 inches or so apart compared to several feet on maxi tilled straw removed

imho the biggest contribution to the failure of direct drilling in the 1980s was straw burning reducing the organic matter and worm starvation
I used to be impressed when I saw very frequent worm casts on some areas of fields until someone much more knowledgeable told me that lots of casts are a sign of compaction - the worms have to remove the soil from their tunnel instead of just pushing it to one side.

I was walking one field that was ploughed out of grass last year (soil in very nice condition). The worm casts were only visible in the sprayer wheelings……maybe he was on to something….
 

Fish

Member
Location
North yorkshire
Never been to India, so can’t comment, but I have traveled in other areas of SE Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc and seen fires in the paddy fields many times.
Remember travelling by train to Sisaket (Thailand), and as we approached the town in the early evening, where ever you looked there seemed to be a fire in every paddy.
Why they do it I’ve no idea, but it was early December, which is just after harvest in that area and no replanting will take place until the end of the dry season, which in sisaket is July.
 
Never been to India, so can’t comment, but I have traveled in other areas of SE Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc and seen fires in the paddy fields many times.
Remember travelling by train to Sisaket (Thailand), and as we approached the town in the early evening, where ever you looked there seemed to be a fire in every paddy.
Why they do it I’ve no idea, but it was early December, which is just after harvest in that area and no replanting will take place until the end of the dry season, which in sisaket is July.

I went to Northern Thailand on my Honeymoon. We went into the higher terrain where you could get a good view into the neighbouring countries at times. It was alarming that despite the fact we were high up, the visibility at distance was not that great because of the presence of fires being used to clear forestry in the distance. It was very common in Burma and you could see it clearly.
 
On a small scale, crop residue burning is probably ok (the carbon was taken from the atmosphere anyway) but on a larger scale, it will cause a big drop in air quality and air pollution has a seriously harmful effect on human health.

It does however, need to be weighed against the pollution caused by burning diesel/wearing metal and the need for artificial fertilisers and agrochemicals.
Thanks really informative, This is great, soo im learning that stubble pyro* has its place - I wonder a few things about the differences in benefits/cons from using a small blow torch, laser(s) and burning at different temperatures whilst compared to a natural burning process. (*my new fav term in farming tbh).

Then I guess we could think about the use of pesticide on a monocrop farm and what chemicals are left over on the soil/stubble after harvest and what is the result of setting these chemicals on fire (plus impact to pollution).

From the video below I've learn that natural fires caused by lightening can be great and help create rainfall.... but in that case a much wider variety of plants/trees are charring... during the process.

The other interesting element would be how fires are started/controlled/maintained. And what if any plastics/litter are burnt in the process also. I'll try to document some of the process for next harvest. I'll ask some questions out there prior to that. Thanks for the info, really appreciate the insight guys.



Never been to India, so can’t comment, but I have traveled in other areas of SE Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc and seen fires in the paddy fields many times.
Remember travelling by train to Sisaket (Thailand), and as we approached the town in the early evening, where ever you looked there seemed to be a fire in every paddy.
Why they do it I’ve no idea, but it was early December, which is just after harvest in that area and no replanting will take place until the end of the dry season, which in sisaket is July.

I went to Northern Thailand on my Honeymoon. We went into the higher terrain where you could get a good view into the neighbouring countries at times. It was alarming that despite the fact we were high up, the visibility at distance was not that great because of the presence of fires being used to clear forestry in the distance. It was very common in Burma and you could see it clearly.
Can I ask when you guys when you were over there? prior to 1990 by any chance?????

Im planning to spend some time in SE Asia (as well as India) working on my Kickboxing/Muay Thai... I'll try to visit some old school farmers and ask the same nosey questions in SE Asia!!! Just curious, I know for a fact that this didn't use to happen on my peoples indigenous farms, before the use of tractors. The first tractor we purchased was in the 1990s. The method of harvesting using a tractor left stubble, everything else prior to this was done by hand and animals feed.

On one trip I recall my parents being surprised about why soo much burning was taking place - and they grew up on the farms. I can't remember exactly when or what year tho. I imagine the more people that have been able to purchase tractors and farm less by hand... is triggering this cycle. Anyway, I look forward to investigating further....

Pink panther out.
Have a good weekend all.
 
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Bogweevil

Member
No soil benefit but perhaps some effect on blackgrass dormancy:

By applying 'smokewater' to weed seeds, a research group at Royal Holloway University, London, working in collaboration with Syngenta, recently found that dormancy in blackgrass seeds is disrupted, effectively 'flushing' them out of hiding. Professor Gerhard Leubner, who leads the research group, explains: "Forcing dormant blackgrass seeds to germinate using smokewater may allow us to hit them with conventional herbicides or non-chemical methods for a more effective weed control."

 

Flatlander

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lorette Manitoba
I went to Northern Thailand on my Honeymoon. We went into the higher terrain where you could get a good view into the neighbouring countries at times. It was alarming that despite the fact we were high up, the visibility at distance was not that great because of the presence of fires being used to clear forestry in the distance. It was very common in Burma and you could see it clearly.
Been to Cuba numerous times and flying in you can see sugar cane fields burning, in third world countries the swan vesta approach save a lot of time and money in the short term.
 

Flatlander

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lorette Manitoba
Many posters on here done stubble burning ?
I have burnt maize stalks about fifteen years ago. Field was frozen in fall and wet in spring so burnt the stalks on a dry windy day. 75 acres took no time at all. was kinda frightening the speed which it travels. It dried up very quick once the cover was removed and was the best soybeans that year. Following couple of years the soil was stiffer to work. Since bought a decent shredder and make sure to work the residue in in fall. Neighbour burnt his that year and seeded canola. Had rain shortly after being planted and had emergence issues from crusting. It looks nice to see black flowing soil but it comes at a price.
 

Lowland1

Member
Mixed Farmer
In Australia we did fire harrowing. The straw wasn’t chopped just spread and you just used a set of seed harrows. Drove into the field until they filled with straw got off the tractor set the straw alight then drove off around the field at high speed setting light to everything as you went. It actually was a bit frightening but obviously you didn’t want the Aussies to know that.
 

Drillman

Member
Mixed Farmer
In Australia we did fire harrowing. The straw wasn’t chopped just spread and you just used a set of seed harrows. Drove into the field until they filled with straw got off the tractor set the straw alight then drove off around the field at high speed setting light to everything as you went. It actually was a bit frightening but obviously you didn’t want the Aussies to know that.
Yes I done that it was great fun

we had a couple of lads on fire truck duty though to put anything that shouldn’t be burning out
 

Drillman

Member
Mixed Farmer
Fire truck ? That’s just gay. It was just me and my Chamberlain 4080. If there was no smoke the farmer came back to see whether I was working or not.
😂😂😂

we had a case 970 and a chamberlain 4480B with 100ft of harrows between them going. Could soon cause mayhem and chaos with that lot. And inland from Geraldton it was borderline farming ground
 

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Five nature-recovery projects spanning 100,000ha launched

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Written by Michelle Martin from Agriland

Image-source-Savills-field-640x360.jpg
Five nature-recovery projects spanning nearly 100,000ha across the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk and Somerset have been announced by the government and Natural England today (Thursday, May 26).

This is the equivalent in size to all 219 current National Reserves.

The aim of the projects is to deliver nature recovery at a landscape scale, helping to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change and improve public health and well-being.

All five projects will make a significant contribution towards the national delivery of the international commitment to protect at least 30% of land and...
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