Smoke and plants

Smoke and plants

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
University of Oregon Studying Smoke Management

University of Oregon researchers are studying community smoke management plans and how local governments can better prepare the public for fire season.

Student researcher Stuart Warren says management plans can allow communities to get exemptions from current prescribed fire rules.

“Hopefully allows prescribed fire burners to do more burning, in an effort to undo some of our past histories in forest management; particularly, our years of preventing wildfire and stopping wildfire from doing what it’s done for thousands of years. And also, to help us reduce the amount of fuel loads that we’ve seen build up over time.”

The team’s work focused on Southern Oregon, but they also looked at plans already in place around the state.

Dr. Richard Ferrieri never thought a simple bottle of liquid smoke would change the trajectory of his team’s research. Originally, Ferrieri and a team of researchers at the University of Missouri focused on studying how soil, saturated by the intense smoke caused by wildfires, alters plant growth. But after they began their research, they made a surprising discovery with the popular food additive — and they believe the finding could one day be used to improve the health of food crops.

In a related story, Dr. Richard Ferrieri, a research professor in the Department of Chemistry and investigator at the University of Missouri, said when his research team added liquid smoke to the soil where a plant is growing, they found it could enhance the plant’s natural defenses and increase its ability to resist pests and diseases. Liquid smoke, created by condensing smoke from burning wood, was used to provide a simulation — in a laboratory setting — of the smoky conditions a wildfire could create.

“Plants can’t run away when they are trying to defend themselves from an active threat,” said Ferrieri, who is also a member of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group at MU. “Therefore, it takes a lot of energy for a plant to dedicate precious resources it would normally dedicate to its growth to now defend itself. Much like the human body, a key to plant health lies in how well its vascular system can function under stress and move precious resources to the different growing parts.”

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