Farmers should take caution before burning crop residue

The wet, cool spring caused delayed harvest of winter wheat and other grains, and now farmers may be looking to burn off crop residue to be able to switch crops more quickly. However, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says that farmers should review open burning rules before burning off crop residue to ensure they stay in compliance with state air quality rules.

“As we get into warmer, more humid days, farmers will especially need to be aware of air quality forecasts and refrain from burning on Code Orange, Red or Purple days,” Troxler said. “Also, open burning without an air quality permit can only be done for disease control, pest control or to burn crop residue if necessary to ensure seed and soil contact.”

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Air Quality created standards for acceptable agricultural burning without a permit in 2009.

North Carolina law prohibits most open burning because the smoke from outdoor fires can cause serious health problems and contribute to air pollution. It is always illegal to burn paper, trash and other manmade materials under North Carolina’s open burning rule and DAQ can issue civil penalties to violators.

Although farmers do not need a permit from DAQ, farmers may still need to obtain a burn permit from the N.C. Forest Service if burning will take place within 500 feet of any woodlands. Burn permits are free and good for 30 days from date of issuance. The online application is at

Troxler encourages farmers to contact their local N.C. Forest Service office or local fire department before burning to ensure that conditions are appropriate for the task. Questions about air quality should be directed to regional DAQ offices, which can be found at is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.