Planted Firebreaks and Fallow Field Followup

Lessons learned from planting firebreaks are fairly small but important to prevent wasted effort and money. Firstly the seeding failed on both Wet and dry sites, but for different reasons. On the dry sites it was too exposed to the sun causing the soil to be too dry. Soil fertility was also in question. With more effort and a drought tolerant seed mix, this could likely be overcome. Our solution is to let natural warm season grasses establish themselves and keep the firebreaks mowed.

Xeric Site Growth
Xeric Site Growth

In the wet sites, in our bottom lands, the clover and small grains were successful. Unfortunately they succumbed to competition from fescue grass. With more regular
Mowing this could have been delayed but we failed to give it the attention needed.

Mesic Site Growth
Mesic Site Growth

As far as firebreak widths, two tractor widths is too much for our properties. I’n flat untried agricultural land this is possible but in the upper piedmont of the Appalachians we have trees and small pastures that make a wide firebreak unrealistic. Our firebreaks range in width from one to one and a half tractor widths and seems plenty sufficient.

Disking in a Firebreak
Disking in a Firebreak

In summary, allow warm season grasses to grow on drier sites. On moist sites a mix of rye, wheat, red clover, and a white clover (Dutch or ladino) should work well. Finally keep firebreaks mowed to reduce competition and to keep them clearly marked. Plus, disking the same area is a lot easier and you’ll run into fewer rocks as well!

Here are the results of the fallow field as it grew in:

Fallow Field A
Fallow Field A
Fallow Field B
Fallow Field B

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