Seeing smoke? Why are farmers burning fields?

By Justin Logan - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Plumes of smoke could be seen for miles on Wednesday through parts of Region 8 as farmers continued to burn their fields in preparation for next years' crops. But some are asking if this is their only option, especially considering how dry it is.

Branon Thiesse with the University of Arkansas Extension Service said the smoke could be seen as a nuisance.

Thiesse said, "It doesn't smell very good and some of the ash that falls out is kind of worrisome."

At times it is even hard for some to breathe.

"To some of the people with respiratory problems, it could cause problems too. But I wouldn't think it would cause any more than the dust that's being generated by the machinery," said Thiesse.

But many people disagree saying the smoke causes more than just a headache. So why do farmers burn their fields after harvest?

"To get rid of all that mass of crop residue that they do have, this is the quickest and easiest way," said Thiesse.

The burn method is a benefit to the farmers because it uses less diesel and less man hours.

"Money savings, especially in this economy, they try to do everything they can to cut their costs," said Thiesse.

There is another option, but Thiesse said the current weather conditions have made it less favorable.

"It's been so dry lately that the stubble rolling would not be very beneficial," said Thiesse.

When burning, the chance for that fire to spread becomes a concern.

Thiesse said, "When it's extremely dry these fires move very quickly. There's been pickup trucks lost while burning these fields. So it's not a perfectly safe practice either."

However Thiesse said that farmers are very aware of their surroundings and use caution while burning.

"Every farmer that I know always errs on the side of caution and will not burn if there's any way the wind could cause a problem."

David Moore, Craighead County Office of Emergency Management Director said now that a burn ban is in place, all outdoor burning including controlled burning, is supposed to stop.

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