Farmers discuss practices for burning crops

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 9:16 PM CDT
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LUXORA, Ark. (KAIT) - Fields are up in smoke across northeast Arkansas.

On Wednesday, Sept. 14, Region 8 News looked at the negative side of burning crops this time of the year.

Since then, we’ve heard from you, the farmers in Northeast Arkansas, about your concerns regarding this topic, and we wanted to look deeper into the practices farmers use to make sure they have a good season.

The goal for farmers in this area around this time of the year is to burn a field quickly and safely.

“We want that field to go up as fast as possible and as safe as possible,” said crop consultant Tyler Hydrick.

He works with farmers on when they should plant, what they should plant, and what that process should look like.

As soon as crops are harvested, it’s time to prepare for the next planting season.

For many farmers in Northeast Arkansas, burning is a part of this process.

Burning fields becomes a topic of discussion during this time, as some people disagree with that process.

That’s why reporter Imani Williams went to the source and asked someone who works with this daily.

After speaking with farmers at Hart Farms and Hydrick, they explained how burning decreases input costs, allowing for earlier plant windows and less tillage.

“We’re losing money on the yield, we’re losing money on diesel, everything that goes into tillage,” Hydrick said. “We’re losing money from that, and obviously, the planning date is the big one.”

He said burning gets rid of what is left over from the previous harvest and prepares them to plant for the next season.

“We have a job with this land to prep it for next year, so next year it is ready. So we have to burn now right after the crop is out to get this crop prepared and get it into a situation that is best for the farm,” Hydrick said.

When the average person passes a large cloud of smoke while burning is happening, it may look scary.

The farmers explained there is a process to it all, and that’s to keep it safe.

“You have a combine that goes through the field, it thrashes everything and throws the waste out the back. Knock the straw down and have it fluffy at the same time,” Hydrick said. “That allows for airflow throughout the canopy or the mat.”

Making sure the process is safe and fast is many farmers’ biggest priority because not burning could impact the upcoming crop.

“If we are making less, food costs are going to go up,” Hydrick said. “By burning, we can make more [money] because we can plant earlier, and the earlier plant will always make a better crop.”

He also mentioned as more people move into areas where farmers have been burning for years, education is key to help them understand the practices that keep farms going.

“The simple answer is education and trying to educate people on why we do what we do, how we do it, and how we are trying to take care of everybody when we burn,” Hydrick said.

The farmers stressed they would not be using this process if it was not a practice they believe is safe.