A report out by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows over 2.2 million acres of grassland were burned in Kansas and Oklahoma between March 15 and April 14.
Controlled burns are up substantially in the Manhattan area as 43,908 acres were burned in Riley County (up 36 percent) and 69,870 acres were burned in Pottawatomie County (up 78 percent). KDHE Air Monitoring and Planning Chief Doug Watson says that was expected as conditions this spring were more favorable to burning.
Just a half dozen air quality exceedances have been noted this month, occurring on April 8 and 9. No air quality exceedances were reported due to burns last year. Watson noted more agricultural producers embracing the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan which has now been in effect for the better part of a decade.
K-State Research Assistant Professor Dr. Carol Baldwin echoed those sentiments, noting farmers and ranchers now burn earlier and more often when possible.
Watson says KDHE and Kansas State University are partnering on research to improve the collection of data regarding emissions from burns. This comes through the use of unmanned aerial systems (drones).
Baldwin says two UAS devices are flying at the same time during burn season. One of the devices is carrying miniature sensors that send a continuous amount of data to computers on the ground.
More information on the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan and tips on air quality management can be found at ksfire.org.