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Tall fescue

Tall fescue is native to Europe. Many new tall fescue cultivars are available and adapted to much of the northern USA. Just as the endophyte stigma of tall fescue has started to fade, a new type of endophyte has been introduced. Because endophyte-free tall fescue cultivars suffer from reduced persistence compared to the older fescue types in the central United States and in some countries overseas, breeders developed a “novel-endophyte.” Several new cultivars contain this less toxic endophytic fungus that will improve plant health and persistence. These cultivars do not exhibit the strongly negative effects on palatability and performance that older endophyte-infected cultivars do. There have not been persistence problems with adapted endophyte-free tall fescue in the Northeast, however, so the addition of a novel-endophyte may be of limited value in this region. Several years of trials indicated that there was no difference in yield or persistence between four pairs of novel endophyte/endophyte-free cultivars at three locations in NY. [GIS-7]

Tall fescue, which is relatively easy to establish, is well suited to either hay/silage production or pasture systems. Tall fescue has survived northern New York winters over the past two decades and does not appear to have persistence problems in New York or Pennsylvania. Tall fescue is related to meadow fescue as well as annual and perennial ryegrass, permitting crossing between these species (e.g. some festulolium cultivars). From a forage quality standpoint, tall fescue is similar in fiber concentration and digestibility to other grasses when compared at similar growth stages. Tall fescue is typically lower in crude protein than other grasses, except for timothy. Intensive management is required for high silage yields in the 50% NDF range. Tall fescue often ranks highest for yield among cool-season grass species in the Northeast and the Midwest. Tall fescue has yielded up to 20% higher than the most popular perennial grasses grown in New York.