The Impact of Fuel Load, Burn Season, and Fire Frequency on the Control of an Invasive Legume, Sericea Lespedeza

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2015: $199,717.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2019
Grant Recipient: Emporia State University
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Brenda Koerner
Emporia State University
Pamela Fillmore
Emporia State University

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: weed ecology

    Proposal abstract:

    Sericea lespedeza is an invasive, non-native legume threatening native and restored tallgrass prairie by reducing grassland productivity and biodiversity through prolific seed production and competition with native species. Current control methods strive to reduce seed production and are only marginally successful. We propose to evaluate if altering fuel load, burn season and fire frequency can effectively reduce sericea lespedeza densitiesboth independently and in conjunction with other commonly used management strategies (i.e. herbicide use and mowing). We hypothesize that by changing timing of fire and amount of fuel in areas where sericea lespedeza is problematic, the beneficial impacts of fire are maintained while at the same time reducing the success of sericea lespedeza. The first part of this project is designed to evaluate the impact of fuel load, fire season, and fire frequency on sericea lespedeza productivity, plant density, and seed production. The second part of this study is designed to evaluate grazing influences on fire temperature and duration in pasture-scale prescribed burns. We will measure fire temperature and duration with pyrometers and airborne infrared cameras during both parts of the study. Through this project, we hope to provide land managers with additional management tools to control sericea lespedeza while at the same time increasing the quality of life of producers through reduced herbicide exposure and improved profitability because of reduced herbicide expenditures and increased rangeland productivity. This method may also be adapted to target other invasive species in fire-adapted systems by targeting vulnerable life-stages.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Through altering fuel load and burn season, we hope reduce abundance of sericea lespedeza for ranchers and land managers without harming grassland productivity and biodiversity. We will disseminate findings through workshops, field days, publications and presentations. The project will lead to the development of a simple field measurements that can be used to estimate potential fire temperatures which producers can use to determine the potential to reach lethal temperatures for sericea lespedeza. These methods are more sustainable and economically viable for producers to combat invasive plants, and producer attitudes towards alternative timing of fire will likely change with positive results.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.