Ask Mehmet: Field fires, smoke

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Mehmet, what is the burning smell in the air? I heard it was the time of the year when locals were burn trash? Is that true?

Last week, we had a dust storm come in from the Syrian Desert. The dust clouds created a greenhouse effect making the temperature exceed the normal values.

The dust storm is now over and we get to see blue skies again. But as you say, we still get the burning smell.

You might have noticed smoke, similar to the dust, in the air for several weeks. It is not the smoke of burning trash or a fire in Adana. It is the smoke from farming fields.

Farmers burn their corn fields after harvest which occurs two times a year. Farmers generally burn wheat stems in June and corn stems in fall months. Burning wheat and corn fields after harvest has been a habit in Turkey for centuries. The farmers believe that burning the fields will destroy all harmful insects and their larvae. They use ash as a fertilizer for their fields.

On the other hand, agricultural authorities say that burning the fields causes more harm than benefit. The useful insects are also destroyed while burning the fields and the stems of wheat and corn are the real fertilizers for the fields, not the ashes.

An important point to note is that every year many field fires get out of control and burn unharvested fields and sometimes nearby forests. For those reasons, the government has banned the act of burning fields, but the habit of centuries continues. Therefore, you will continue to smell the smoke in the air and see ash in your yards and on your cars for about two more weeks when the harvesting season ends.