Are prescribed burns an option to control wildings?

December 18, 2019

On 21 November, a group of about 25 people all gathered in 4WDs at Hamish Roxburgh’s station for a tour and discussion about prescribed burns of wilding pines. Hamish’s station is in North Canterbury in the Amuri Range, and he has been using burning as a way to control wildings for almost 25 years.

BurningFieldTrip2We started the field trip by going to see a hillside which Hamish had burned in 2012. I was amazed to see both pasture and some natives thriving. Exotic grasses intermingled with tussocks and even some flaxes and cabbage trees. And best of all, no wildings to be seen.

Hamish described his methods to us: first he sprays a low dosage of metsulfuron over the wilding trees in autumn, then he burns in early spring when it is wet. He said he has never had a fire escape and additionally is very successful at controlling wildings. The areas where he has burned were mostly Pinus nigra (Corsican pine) invasions at sparse densities.


We stopped for lunch overlooking a series of sites which Hamish had burned earlier this year, back in 2016, in 2017, and in 2018. It was so neat to see the progression (and how quickly!) everything grew. This progress demonstrated both successful pasture management and wilding control after the fires. Again, no wilding seedlings have come up.

Feeling energised after lunch, we carried up the road to see areas which Hamish has not burned yet. Wildings were doing well, although with Hamish’s successful burning methods, hopefully not for long! 

 All in all, it was a great day to see the success of prescribed burns, discuss where fire could be a suitable tool, and foster future collaborations. Fire could be a potential control option for us when used in the right way and in the right place, although we will proceed with caution with this method.