Prescribed burning can control invasive annual grasses that threaten the biological and economic value of California grasslands. Susceptibility of grass seed to burning can depend on burn timing, exposure time, and type of exposure (direct flame heat or convective heat); thus, these factors can influence the success of a prescribed burning program. To further investigate these factors, laboratory simulations were conducted on barb goatgrass, medusahead, and ripgut brome at several stages of seed maturity, as determined by percent moisture of the inflorescences. Seeds were exposed either to direct flame using a Bunsen burner or to heated air in a muffle furnace. Flame treatments were conducted at one temperature (∼400 C) and several exposure times (0 to 14 s), depending on the species. Furnace treatments included four temperatures (150, 200, 250, and 300 C) and seven exposure times (0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 60, or 80 s). Seed germination was analyzed for each temperature series to determine the LD50 and LD90 in seconds of exposure time. Susceptibility to furnace treatments, which simulated heat exposure of seeds on the soil surface, was not statistically different within a range of seed moisture levels for all three species. The LD50 values at 250 C (typical soil temperature with grassland fire) ranged from 28 to 49 s, which far exceeds the time of exposure during a typical grassland fire. Susceptibility to flame showed a similar lack of change over maturation of medusahead and barb goatgrass seeds, with LD90 values ranging between 4.8 and 7.4 s for all seed moisture levels. In contrast, ripgut brome seeds exposed to flame showed increasing susceptibility with reduced seed moisture content. The LD90 values for exposure were less than one second for seed moisture levels at or below 10%, compared to 3.7 s for seeds at 55 to 60%. Although flame susceptibility increased for ripgut brome, seeds at all maturation stages were more sensitive than medusahead and barb goatgrass. Additionally, the LD90 values for all three species are attainable under field conditions. Thus, burn prescriptions for these three species are not constrained by maturation stage, but should occur prior to seed drop and when fuel loading is high. This will maximize exposure time of seeds to direct flame.
Nomenclature: Medusahead, Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski ELYCA; barb goatgrass, Aegilops triuncialis L. AEGTR; ripgut brome, Bromus diandrus Roth BRODI.