Permits vital for crop burnoffs

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 12:00 19/02/2013
Tractor
DAVID UNWIN/ Fairfax NZ
DO IT RIGHT: Bulls farmer Hew Dalrymple says burning off gets rid of many pests and diseases.

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Farmers about to start burning off crop residue will have to meet stringent conditions or wait for rain, the rural fire service says.

With the recent hot conditions and the burnoff season approaching, farmers looking to get rid of crop leftovers are being urged to make sure they are permitted to do so.

Principal rural fire officer Brent Fanning, who looks after Horowhenua, Manawatu, Rangitikei and Ruapehu areas, said first port of call was the council for any farmer who wanted to light a fire.

It took about four days to process a fire permit for rural areas, he said.

"A fire officer goes out and inspects all burnoff areas and can issue a warrant if all requirements are met."

Mr Fanning said there needed to be a 3-metre fire break around the burn area. Farmers should mitigate against risks, including smoke across a main highway.

"The farmer might need to have vehicles with flashing lights on the highway, or alert police."

He said paddocks to be burnt could be up to 10 hectares in size.

Mr Fanning said all burnoffs needed a permit, and without one, a farmer could have no insurance.

Bulls grower Hew Dalrymple said burnoffs, used as a tool to prepare the paddock for the next crop rotation, were not as widely used as in the past.

All farmers used to burn crop leftovers after wheat or barley was harvested, but now about half used the technique, he said.

Others ploughed residue under the soil.

"Burning is a useful tool which gets rids of lots of diseases and pests."

Most farmers take off the grain, then bale the straw, and crop residue is the stubble left behind.

Mr Dalrymple said crops were about to be harvested so burning off would begin in earnest in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Dalrymple said there were different conditions for burning crop residue, depending on the weather.

"At the moment, farmers have to plough around the paddock, to have a buffer zone. If it's dry enough, sometimes farmers have to have fire-fighting equipment there [usually a fire engine]."

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- Manawatu Standard

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