The burning of crop residue is one of the oldest recorded methods of pest management (Winston 1997). The Romans were burning stubble as a form of pest control as early as 200 BC (Komarek 1971). Throughout the 19th and early 20th century the burning of crop residue was used as a pest management tactic on crops as diverse as alfalfa, wheat and cotton as well as on range and pasture land. This practice was largely discontinued in the early 20th century because of concerns that burning residue adversely affected soil fertility and ground water. While these detrimental effects have been refuted (Komarek 1971), there is still concern over the potential air pollution caused by burning crop residue. New methods may allow burning residue while minimizing the risk of air pollution.
Komarek, E.V. 1971. Insect control - Fire for habitat management. Proc. Tall Timbers Conf. on Ecol. Animal Control by Habitat Management. 2:157-171.
Winston, M.L. 1997. Nature Wars: People vs Pests. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.