Smoke in many forms

Plants often flower vigorously after a fire, but what aspect of fire causes these increases in flowering? Today, we are one step closer to finding out if smoke is the culprit. In the fall, we applied liquid smoke to 110 plants, and today, we applied the remaining 110 treatments for the smoke experiment!

Last summer, we flagged all of the Echinacea plants for the experiment and assigned a number to each plant. However, we weren’t sure if any of our flags survived after the profusion of snow this winter. With help from El and Jan, we revisited all of the smoke plants using the GPS units. Surprisingly, most of the flags were still present, but we relabeled any illegible, faded, or ripped flags.

Next, Lindsey and I measured and mixed our 11 concentrations of liquid smoke. Thanks to Allen for supplying us with more empty jugs! Back in the field, we applied half of the smoke treatments in the morning and half in the afternoon, following the same protocol as in the fall. The ground was very dry after recent windy days, so the liquid rapidly soaked into the soil in most places.

Our experiment was not the only source of smoke today. There wasn’t enough wind to burn at prairie remnants near roads, so instead, we burned an area that Stuart is restoring nearing P1, called Center Field. There wasn’t a lot of fuel, but the grass and oak leaves were very dry and crispy, so the burn went much better than expected. We all got a chance to practice using the drip torch, and the plants will enjoy the fire, too!

2022 Update: Smoke experiment

Prescribed burns increase the flowering rates of Echinacea angustifolia, but what aspect of fire induces flowering? Researchers have proposed many factors, including light, heat, nutrients, decreased competition, and smoke. Applications of liquid smoke increase germination rates in many plant species, but very few studies have tested the impacts of smoke on flowering. Our smoke experiment investigates whether liquid smoke will increase flowering rates of E. angustifolia. Many members of Team Echinacea have proposed this experiment in previous years, most recently Amy and Scott in 2019. However, this is the first year of installing the experiment in the field.

Applying the smoke treatments to a flowering Echinacea!

On July 29th, Alex and I visited the Hutchings property and recorded demographic data on 100 Echinacea plants that Scott and Amy had mapped in 2019. After further discussing methods and sample size with Jared and Stuart, we revisited the Hutching’s property to find additional plants. On September 20th and 22nd, Alex, Manogya, and I mapped and recorded demographic data for 205 more plants using the GPS.

We applied the first half of the smoke treatments on October 27th and 28th, and you can read more about that trip here. We applied liquid smoke to 110 plants, exactly half basal plants and half flowering plants for a balanced experiment. We used 11 different concentrations of smoke in our applications. We plan on conducting the second half of the experiment with an additional 110 plants in the spring.

  • Start year: 2022
  • Location: Hutchings’ property north of Landfill
  • Overlaps with: Fire and seedling fitness in remnants
  • Data collected: Methods, datasheets, and treatment groups can be found in Dropbox at ~/dropbox/burnRems/smokeExPt1. All smoke demographic data collected in summer of 2022 can be found in the aiisummer2022 repo at ~/aiisummer2022/smokeExpt/smokeExpt2022DemoData.csv. This includes coordinates, flowering status, rosette count, and head count for 305 plants. Demographic data will be collected on the plants once they flower in the summer of 2023. The stake file for smoke plants can be found in Dropbox at ~Dropbox\geospatialDataBackup2022\stakeFiles2022\stakeSmokePlants.csv
  • Samples or specimens collected: None at the moment
  • Products: None…yet!

Click here to read more about the smoke experiment!

Smoke Experiment Updates

Last Thursday, a group of us returned to Kensington with the hopes of a successful prescribed burn. While we were up there, Alex and I also implemented the beginning of the smoke experiment. I believe this is the first flog entry solely about the smoke experiment this year, so I will give you a little rundown of what it entails!

We know that Echinacea flowering rates increase after fire, and we also know that smoke can stimulate plant germination. Smoke has been found to increase flowering rates in a few select species (Cyrtanthus ventricosus and Watsonia fourcadei). But, we don’t know if smoke increases flowering rates for Echinacea! We also are unsure what mechanism of fire (increased light, added nutrients, chemicals in smoke) increases flowering in Echinacea. Therefore, we are applying liquid smoke treatments to both basal and flowering Echinacea plants during the fall of 2022 and measuring their reproductive output during the summer of 2023.

Our smoke operation began this summer, by mapping out ~ 300 plants on the Hutchings’ property just north of the landfill. We recorded if the plant was flowering, number of heads and number of rosettes and marked the plant with a flag and a unique three-digit identifier. Throughout the summer, there were many deliberations about the methods and for this pilot study. Before leaving for Minnesota, Alex and I cleared the shelves of distilled water containers from the local Woodman’s, gathered measuring equipment from two other fellow CBG labs (thank you!) and packed up the back of the Silverado. Finally, we were ready to smoke.

We had two roles during our smoke implementation, one being a “mixer”. This person would measure an accurate ratio of smoke to water to reach our desired concentrations. We have 11 smoke concentrations in our experiment: 40%, 20%, 10%, 5%, 2.5%, 1.25%, 0.625%, 0.31%, 0.16%, 0.078% and no smoke. For each plant, we are applying approximately 1 liter of liquid. This became tricky in the field, as the back of our truck was not always level surface and the wind kept trying to steal our graduated cylinders!

The second role was being the “pourer.” Gretel and Jared came out to help us pour, which was greatly appreciated! The pourer would locate the plant that received the desired treatment and pour the liter of liquid on and around the plant within a half meter diameter.

During our trip, we were able to apply smoke treatments to 110 Echinacea plants! We hope to return to Minnesota once more this year to apply another 110 treatments, this time with improved methods and efficiency. On our first day back in Illinois, Alex and I pre-filled ~60 jugs with our desired concentrations, so we are ready to pour once we return. The next question is, how long will our hands smell like Wright’s Hickory?

Stay tuned for more smoke-related updates in the future!

Smoke and flowering 2019

In 2019 100 plants were selected for a flowering induction experiment using liquid smoke at site ALF. They were shot with GPS Darwin. Many of these plants lie beyond boundary fence and are not included in demo/surv. However, records containing a “loc” (numbered 1-100) and the number of heads per plant were taken on visors with the demo form and added to the 2019 demo data. The shot points were not added to surv. The experiment was not executed in 2019.

The demo records were added to aiisummer2019 in file ~aiisummer2019\demo\20190726demo.txt.

Job SMOKE_PLANTS_20190726_DARW contains 100 points shot of plants for the experiment. The job is backed up in three locations:

~Dropbox\geospatialDataBackup2019\convertedASVandCSV2019\ SMOKE_PLANTS_20190726_DARW.asv

~Dropbox\geospatialDataBackup2019\convertedXML2019\ SMOKE_PLANTS_20190726_DARW.xml

~Dropbox\geospatialDataBackup2019\temporaryDarwBackups2019\ SMOKE_PLANTS_20190726_DARW.mjf