The production cycle of cereal crops and grasses in many areas of the United States includes burning fields of post-harvest residue such as wheat stubble. Like smoke from forest fires, smoke produced by agricultural burning can have harmful effects on public health.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Washington State Department of Ecology conducted a study to determine the effects different ignition tactics had on the smoke produced by agricultural burning of wheat residue.
They found that smoke plumes produced from burning wheat residue using head fires contained more soot than plumes produced using backing fires.
Soot particles are black aerosols composed primarily of elemental carbon. The World Health Organization reports that soot particles may have significantly greater negative health impacts than other particle types found in smoke and air pollution since these particles can act as a carrier for toxic combustion-derived chemicals.
The National Weather Service has posted Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota for today.
The Red Flag map was current as of 9:45 a.m. MDT on Saturday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site. However, that site has not been properly displaying warning areas in recent days. This one may work better.