|Agricultural Burning Test
Les Fife,Fife Environmental, Fair Oaks, California
The objectives of the Agricultural Burning Test Program were to improve Sacramento Valley air quality and increase the number of fall burn days and the efficiency of the Agricultural Burning Program.
The Agricultural Burning Research Program was conducted in the Sacramento Valley from 1981 through 1983 and has achieved its goals every year. The program was formally adopted into state law on May 26, 1983, by the California Air Resources Board.
Basic elements of the Agricultural Burning Program were: to vary the amount of acreage burned each day according to the meteorological dispersion capacity; distribute burning throughout the entire valley to reduce smoke concentrations; conduct burning during the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; utilize current air quality and meteorological data in making decisions; and update information during the day to monitor burning, meteorology, and air quality.
More responsibility was placed. at the county level for administering the burning program. Forecasts were made closer to burning times to improve reliability. Computers were used to handle the large volume of data necessary to implement the program. All of these factors were essential to ensure program success.
The 1983 fall Agricultural Burning Program began on October 1 and ended on November 10. Of this 41 day burning period, 40 days were burn days in the Sacramento Valley. The 1983 fall period was meteorologically different from the previous two years. In the month of October near record temperatures, low wind speeds, minimal rainfall, and increased atmospheric stability and stagnation characterized conditions in the valley. However, even with such unfavorable meteorological conditions the Agricultural Burning Program proved successful.
The air quality indicators monitored during the fall burning period were coefficient of haze, airport visibilities, and smoke complaints. During the 41 day fall burning period of 1983, there were 213,000 acres burned in the Sacramento Valley. The average coefficient of haze was 3.2. There were 79 hours of smoke reported at valley airports and 35 complaints were received at the Air Resources Board. These air quality levels were comparable to the air quality improvements achieved in the past two years of the Agricultural Burning Research Program.
During the three-year research program, Sacramento Valley air quality improved significantly over the previous Agricultural Burning Program of 1980. The coefficient of haze was reduced by 30 percent, airport smoke observations declined 65 percent, and there were 75 percent fewer complaints.