Got Nature? Blog

Prescribed fire is a great tool to improve the food and cover for a variety of wildlife species on your property. One of the most important aspects of using prescribed fire is making sure the fire is conducted safely. This point cannot be overstated, safe use of prescribed fire is paramount. Beyond taking the appropriate training courses or seeking help from a professional, one the most important aspects of safely conducting a prescribed fire is ensuring you have adequate firebreaks.

Firebreaks can serve multiple purposes related to the safe use of prescribed fire, and can provide additional food and cover for wildlife. The main purpose of firebreaks is to stop the fire from escaping the burn unit, but they also can provide quick and easy movement around the burn unit, help reduce the amount of people required for the burn, and can make igniting the fire safer. Here are a few examples of different types of firebreaks.

Logging Road

This logging road is a good example of an exisitng road that can be used as a firebreak.

Existing roads
Existing roads, whether they are paved, gravel, dirt, or logging roads, can serve as outstanding firebreaks, plus they require very little work to prepare prior to a burn. These are also one of the cheapest options for firebreaks. If you are using gravel, dirt, or logging roads as firebreaks, you need to make sure there is not excessive vegetation or leaf litter in the road. Too much vegetation
on the firebreak could lead to an escape.

Streams, creeks, or other bodies of water
Another cheap and easy option for firebreaks is to use existing streams, river, or bodies of water. If you are using water features as a firebreak, here are some things to consider: is the stream or river wide enough to stop the fire from escaping and can people helping with the fire move easily around, across, or through the stream or river to access various part of the burn unit or to stop an escaped fire?

Crop fields
Crop fields with cool-season grains (wheat, oats, rye) or cover crops can serve as a great firebreak. Crop fields with only soybean or corn stubble should be used with caution, as fire may creep through a field with excessive stubble. For fields with crop stubble, planting the edge of the field in a cool-season crop (wheat, clover, oats, etc.), disking the edge of the field, or wetting the crop stubble are all steps that can used to improve the field as a firebreak

Leaf-Blown Firebreak

This leaf-blown firebreak was only 3-4 feet wide, but it easily stopped the fire in this situation.

Leaf-blown firebreaks
If you are burning in the woods, using a leaf blower to remove leaf litter and expose bare mineral soil is a quick and easy way to create a firebreak. These firebreaks do not need to be as wide as those in an old field or native grass stand because the flame length when burning in the woods is typically much shorter than burning in a field.

Disked firebreaks for multiple purposes
Disking or tilling to expose bare mineral soil is an extremely effective method of creating a firebreak. These breaks can also provide food and/or cover for various wildlife species if managed correctly. Disking the firebreak and then letting the firebreak remain fallow during the growing season creates outstanding cover for brooding turkeys, pheasants, and quail.

You can also plant the firebreaks after disking to create a food plot for various wildlife species. If you disk the firebreaks in the fall and plan to burn in the spring, you can plant the firebreaks with a mix of wheat and crimson clover or a mix of perennial clovers to create a great food plot for deer and turkey. You can also plant the firebreaks with millet, grain sorghum, or sunflowers after you have burned the field in the spring.

Fire creeping

If you use mowed firebreaks you run the risk of fire creeping across the firebreak and escaping, especially if there is too much thatch in the firebreak.

My absolute favorite multiple purpose firebreak is one that is disked in Aug-Sep, planted to winter wheat (40-60 lbs/ac), and then left to remain fallow after the wheat has produced seed. This firebreak effectively stops fire, provide green browse from the fall through the spring, provides seed during the early summer, and provides excellent brood cover throughout the summer and early fall. This is truly an all-in-one firebreak.

Mowed grass firebreak
Mowed grass firebreaks are not ideal, but they can be used in certain situations. If mowed firebreaks are used, you must be sure that there is not excessive thatch built up in the break. Too much thatch will allow the fire to creep across the break and potentially escape. Even on firebreaks without excessive thatch, using water to create a “wet” firebreak is recommended.

No matter which type of firebreak you choose to use, taking the time to make sure the firebreak is adequately installed and is sufficient to stop the fire from escaping will help make the burn safer and will create less headaches for you when conducting the burn.

Additional Resources:
Firebreaks for Prescribed Burning, Oklahoma State University Extension
Prescribed fire: 6 things to consider before you ignite, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR,
On-line Basic Prescribed Fire Training, Extension, USDA and NIFA
Publications Focus on Plan, Safety of Prescribed Burns, Iowa State Extension,
eFIRE, North Carolina State Extension
Renovating native warm-season grass stands for wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Planting at the proper seeding rate is an important step to ensure a successful native warm-season grass and forb planting or a wildlife food plot. This video will discuss how to properly calibrate the seeding rate for a Truax No-Till Seed Drill. The video will also discuss a calibration method that can be used with multiple different types of seed drills.

Check out these detailed resources that are referenced in the video:
Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs
Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots

Renovating Native Warm-Season Grass Stands for Wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Food Plots, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Food Plots for White-Tailed Deer, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

2017 Annual ReportPurdue Extension has posted its 2017 Annual Report online, highlighting the ways in which Extension educates empowers people throughout Indiana and promotes statewide economic vitality. The annual report includes stories regarding agricultural research in unmanned aerial vehicle use, key partnerships that return disabled farmers to their fields, enhanced economic futures in Indiana’s small towns, programs to increase health and wellness statewide, and much more.

Look to the future with Enhancing Public Spaces as this program grows and adds a health and wellness component. The Purdue University Extension program addresses public spaces and their role in enhancing the quality of place by helping regions, communities, and neighborhoods plan and prepare for a sustainable future.

Purdue Extension Annual Report – 2016
What is Purdue Extension? – Purdue Extension Video

Purdue Extension


Posted on February 16th, 2018 in Natural Resource Planning, Plants, Wildlife | No Comments »

FNR-548-WA new extension publication co-authored by Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist, Jarred Brooke, and University of Tennessee Extension Wildlife Specialist, Dr. Craig Harper, provides landowners and land managers with practical recommendations to assist in the management and renovation of existing native-warm season grass stands for wildlife. The publication provides information on how to use various habitat management tools to fix common issues in planted native grass stands. The publication was produced in partnership with University of Tennessee Extension, Indiana DNR Fish & Wildlife Division, and the Indiana State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The electronic copy of the publication is available to download for free from the Purdue Education Store. Printed copies are also available from the Education Store for $10.

Sericea Lespedeza, Plague on the Prairie, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Prescribed fire: 6 things to consider before you ignite, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
If Your Native Grasses Look Like This, It’s Time for Management, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on December 13th, 2017 in Forestry, How To, Natural Resource Planning, Wildlife | No Comments »

FNR-551-w CoverOutbreaks of bovine tuberculosis have occurred sporadically around the world since the 1900s. In Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, Bovine tuberculosis transmission, hosts, current status in Indiana, clinical signs, effects on deer populations, effect on white-tailed deer meat, management, and monitoring is extensively covered. If you’re a hunter or cattle producer, the information provided within this free publication would greatly benefit you!

Bovine Tuberculosis in wild white-tailed deer, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Indiana DNR Needs More Submissions from Deer Hunters for Disease Testing, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on November 13th, 2017 in Forestry, Gardening, Natural Resource Planning | No Comments »

A recent study in Costa Rica by scientists at Princeton University-Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the University of Pennsylvania-Ecology & Biodiversity showed how agricultural waste could help successfully remediate barren tropical forest sites.

Orange Close Ups

A deal between an orange juice manufacturer and advisors for the Área de Conservación Guanacaste was struck that allowed 1,000 truckloads (12 metric tons) of orange peels and pulp to be unloaded on nutrient-poor soils dominated by invasive grass within one of Costa Rica’s national parks in the mid-1990s. The land was left to rest for sixteen years. Now, the forest has begun the lengthy process of regeneration and some secondary forest regeneration has been observed. The peels were spread over 3 ha (7 acres) and scientists measured an increase of 176% in aboveground biomass. The distinction between the orange-fertilized land and the unfertilized areas was pronounced. Orange-fertilized areas demonstrated more tree biomass and species diversity and richer soils than their counterparts.

Orange field change

To enlarge photo click on image. Photo credits: Tim Treuer, Daniel Janzen, Winnie Hallwachs, & Leland Werden.

This research shows what could happen when the environmental community and industry find a medium where they can work together to come up with problem solutions. Perhaps, in future, similar uses can be found for agricultural excess here in the United States.

Treuer TLH, Choi JJ, Janzen DH, Hallwachs W, Peréz-Aviles D, Dobson AP, Powers JS, Shanks LC, Werden LK, Wilcove DS. (2017) Low-cost agricultural waste accelerates tropical forest regeneration. Restoration Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/rec.12565

Indiana Forestry & Woodland Owners Association
Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources workshops
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Woodland Steward PublicationTake a look at the recent Indiana Woodland Steward Newsletter, a resource that’s full of a variety of valuable information to foresters, woodland owners, timber marketing specialists and any woodland enthusiasts. This issue includes topics such as a forest management, what private woodland owners are doing about invasive plants, the threat of callery pears, as well as much more.

Check out this IWS Newsletter  to stay current in the world of forestry, and feel free to browse archived articles dating back to 1992 for more information.

Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment, Purdue University FNR
Fertilizing, Pruning, and Thinning Hardwood Plantations, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
TCD-Black Walnut Trees, Thousand Cankers Disease
Environmental and Management Injury in Hardwood Tree Plantations, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

The Indiana Woodland Steward Institute is an entity made from 11 organizations within the state including Purdue University, Indiana DNR, and Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association that works to promote best usage practices of Indiana’s woodland resources through their Woodland Steward publication.

Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University

Dan Shaver, Project Director and Forester
The Nature Conservancy

Posted on March 13th, 2017 in Natural Resource Planning | Comments Off on No Adverse Impact Approach Workshop

Program Impacts identity


The No Adverse Impact approach to floodplain management was developed by the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) in 2001. This managing principal was the product of a realization; that despite the progress made nation-wide as a result of the National Flood Insurance Program’s minimum standards and billions of dollars spent on structural flood control projects, flood damages have continued to increase. Since 1990 flood damage losses have increased fivefold, costing the nation $10 billion annually on average. The No Adverse Impact (NAI) approach to floodplain management was designed to help reverse this trend by providing communities with the tools to reduce the frequency and severity of flood events, and to protect their citizens now and in the future. In general, these tools prevent the actions of one property owner or even a community from adversely impacting other property owners or neighboring communities. When applied at the watershed or regional level, this approach creates a network of resilient communities.No Adverse Impact logo

What Has Been Done

Planning for the Coastal No Adverse Impact Workshop began in the winter of 2015 when staff from Wisconsin and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant expressed interest in coordinating two additional workshops modeled on the “Great Lakes Community Resilience: A No Adverse Impact Approach” workshop delivered in Milwaukee Wisconsin in August 2014. With $2,500 workshop funding allocated to Purdue University from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Storms Program (NOAA CSP), ASFPM and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant partnered with representatives from the Lake Michigan Coastal Program, Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, and the Porter County Survey to develop a target audience, objectives and agenda for this day-long event. Specifically this workshop was designed to provide participants with an opportunity to:

  1. Learn from regionally-renowned experts and boots-on-the ground managers about the legal constructs that are central to floodplain management, planning, and hazard mitigation,
  2. Build relationships with practitioners who represent a variety of different professions: floodplain, stormwater, and coastal resource managers, land use and hazard mitigation planners, attorneys, health department staff, and local decision makers, and
  3. Discover how flooding has impacted Indiana’s municipalities and novel solutions individuals and organizations across the state are implementing to increase their resilience.

The Indiana Coastal No Adverse Impact Workshop was held on June 25th at the Hammond Marina in Hammond, Indiana. Over the course of the day, seven 30-45 minute presentations were given. The 41 workshop participants included certified floodplain managers, planners, attorneys, coastal resource managers, health department staff, stormwater managers, and local officials. In an effort to draw this target audience to the workshop , the planning committee offered continuing education credits for the following organizations and certification programs: Indiana Commission for Continuing Legal Education, Continuing Legal Education Credits; ASFPM, Certified Floodplain Manager credits; and Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, Professional Engineers and Professional Surveyor credits. The beginning of the day focused heavily on No Adverse Impact, while the second half of the day highlighted flooding case studies and other special topics. The workshop was organized in this way to ensure that all participants had a strong understanding of No Adverse Impact and common legal concerns associated with floodplain management, prior to exploring specific applicable examples and topics in further detail.


The Indiana Coastal No Adverse Impact Workshop provided participants with the opportunity to learn about the core tenants of ASFPM’s No Adverse Impact approach to floodplain management, common legal issues faced by floodplain managers and planners in the region, specific actions that have been taken in Indiana to enhance flood resilience, the value of green infrastructure, and benefit of wetlands and how they are regulated in the United States. All of the evaluation respondents felt that they could apply the information presented at this workshop to their work and that presenters had given them the tools to implement the knowledge that was shared. In addition, all respondents noted that they would recommend this workshop to others. These results are reinforced by comments that were collected in response to an open ended question regarding how participants planned to use what they learned at the workshop. Respondents noted that they would use/incorporate the information presented at the workshop into various on-going projects and initiatives, and that they planned to pass it along to others who were not able to attend through technical assistance programs or interpersonal communications.

What comes to mind when you think of Purdue Extension? Agriculture and natural resources? Maybe Indiana 4-H? Right on both counts, but perhaps you don’t know how #PurdueExtension helps build health coalitions statewide. Or how we’re revitalizing economic opportunity in Indiana’s rural regions, helping immigrants acclimate to life in our state, or offering parents programs that build confidence and strengthen families. Learn about all of this and more in the 2016 Purdue Extension Annual Report!

Purdue Extension Annual Report – 2016
Purdue Extension Home Page
What is Purdue Extension? – Purdue Extension Video



Jason Henderson, Director Cooperative Extension Service & Associate Dean
Purdue Extension

Posted on February 24th, 2017 in Natural Resource Planning | Comments Off on Tipping Points

Program Impacts identity


Throughout the Great Lakes Basin, community leaders are challenged with long-term management decisions that result in substantial impacts to ecological integrity and community quality of life. To protect natural resources and enhance community resilience in the region, it is crucial to understand human-induced ecological stress, identify indicators of natural resource condition, and determine the tipping points at which systems enter undesirable states. Watershed managers, land use planning professionals, and community leaders require data, tools, and decision making processes to identify land use limits, evaluate the environmental impacts of proposed land use scenarios, and identify critical areas requiring protection or restoration to improve ecosystem health in a watershed.

What Has Been Done

The Tipping Points and Indicators program was created to assist local decision makers in Great Lakes states with identifying impacts of land-based activities that threaten the sustainability of ecosystems in their watershed. The program includes a web-based decision support system ( and facilitated community forum to explore policy and management interventions necessary to keep aquatic ecosystems from reaching critical tipping poinTipping Points and Indicatorsts and moving to unstable conditions.

Based on 2015 user advisory board feedback and pilot evaluations, the technology team integrated new and expanded data into the system. User interface upgrades, a website homepage redesign, and templates for easy integration of future data were completed in 2016. Th
e program is continuing to expand and develop through funding received in 2016 from NOAA, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program, and the US EPA Great Lakes Program Office and the National Science Foundation. The funding provides the opportunity for collaborative work between scientists and Extension professionals at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Purdue University departments (Forestry and Natural Resources, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Civil Engineering, Agronomy, and Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences), NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, and the EPA Great Lakes Program Office. The effort is primarily focused on developing and delivering a comprehensive community based approach to integrate watershed and runoff science with community action strategy tools to identify nutrient sources and mitigate consequences. As a result, the tool will include additional modules for informing nutrient loss decision-making at multiple watershed scales and developing adaptive management capabilities to track progress toward implementation. Additional work is being done to further identify new areas for growth and collaboration. New grants received by the research teams are helping to support considerable expansion of the tool to include invasive species, natural soundscapes/noise, ecological food webs and urban green infrastructure planning.

Extension efforts are focusing on program design and community action plan delivery through curriculum writing, forming and convening advisory boards, and identifying appropriate communities for deployment. User advisory boards have been formed with regional partners from the program target areas including: Northwest Indiana coastal communities and the Lake Michigan Coastal Program; Northeast Indiana Western Lake Erie’s Maumee watershed; Fox River/Green Bay and the Wisconsin DNR; Saginaw Bay watershed and the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge; and the University of Illinois Resilient Watershed Initiative. The user advisory boards will provide feedback on new modeling tools, community engagement techniques, and will help to identify projects to support local implementation efforts. Furthermore, the new Purdue Extension program, Conservation through Community Leadership (CCL), is providing the framework for facilitation and action planning for the new community projects. The state-wide CCL advisory board has also provided input on program format and potential community projects. Advisory boards formed in 2016. Advisory meetings and initial community programs piloting new curriculum materials will occur in 2017.

Evidence of Program Outputs

  • Workshops and Follow on Planning Meetings = 5 events; 132 participants
    1. Research Retreat, Ann Arbor, MI, 11/10-11/11/2016 = 15 participants
    2. City of Kokomo, IN Comprehensive Plan Update, Land use and environment working group; 07/13/2016 = 20 participants
    3. City of Peoria IL Watershed Planning Meetings, 01/23/2016 = 47 participants; 02/17/2016 = 25 participants; 03/02/2016 = 25 participants
  • Extension Presentations = 2 presentations; 35 participants
    1. Tipping Points and Indicators Advisory Board Meeting, Maumee Watershed, Fort Wayne, IN, 08/05/2016 = 15 participants
    2. Indiana Land Resources Council Meeting, Extension Community Planning Overview, West Lafayette, IN, 11/02/2016 = 20 participants


Two communities completed action-planning processes using and Purdue Extension and IL IN Sea Grant facilitation expertise in 2016. The city of Kokomo, IN (pop. 57, 995) convened a steering committee and partnered Purdue Extension and IL IN Sea Grant and a private consulting firm to complete their updated city comprehensive plan in 2016. The Purdue Tipping Points team designed and led the facilitation and public input efforts for their land use and environmental quality working group. The daylong meeting attended by conservation professionals, city administrators, and nonprofit organizations resulted in prioritized action strategies for three HUC 12 watersheds that have been incorporated into their final plan.

The city of Peoria, IL (pop 115,070) collaborated with IL IN Sea Grant, Purdue Extension and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering for a year and a half to design and implemented a research based public engagement program to support watershed planning efforts. Peoria’s Innovation Team is leading efforts for comprehensive watershed planning to inform strategies and placement of green infrastructure to meet US EPA’s long-term control plan requirements for combined sewer overflows to maintain and restore healthy water conditions. Peoria is the first city in the nation to meet long-term control plan requirements using 100% green infrastructure techniques. The Tipping Points team led diverse stakeholder groups comprised of conservation organizations, city officials, artists, and government agencies through a series of four meetings to identify community values and assets, provide education on stormwater and green infrastructure best practices, and identify the most appropriate strategies for their community. Researchers additionally provided advanced modeling techniques to inform cost effective and appropriate landscape placement of the green infrastructure practices such as rain gardens and bioswales. As a result of their planning efforts, Peoria has successfully started installation of rain gardens and bioswales, passed a stormwater utility fee, and is now embarking on additional education initiatives to raise community awareness about the new green infrastructure practices.

Feedback surveys and interviews with user advisory groups continue to provide valuable insight on the tool’s impact and guidance for community implementation and improvement. Participants consistently indicate a greater awareness of issues impacting their water quality and watershed management approaches such as education initiatives, nutrient reduction and green infrastructure practices. Furthermore, all participants indicate a willingness to recommend the program to others and intend to integrate what they have learned within the year into local planning efforts. Participant comments below reflect on the value the tool and facilitation program bring to their community planning processes: “It presented a disciplined approach to leading a group through contentious environmental issues and arriving at consensus and developing an action plan.”

Got Nature?