CropWatch March 5, 2010: New Fescue Varieties are Endophyte Free

CropWatch March 5, 2010: New Fescue Varieties are Endophyte Free

March 5, 2010

In the past growers often resisted planting tall fescue as a pasture grass because it contained compounds that could harm livestock. That’s changed with the introduction of some new varieties.

Tall fescue is a high yielding and persistent cool-season grass. Compared to other grasses, fescue grows especially well in the fall so it often is used for winter grazing.
Old fescue varieties often had an internal fungus, or endophyte, that produced chemicals that helped the plant resist insects and diseases. Some of these chemicals also affect body temperature regulation, blood flow, and feed intake in livestock, particularly horses who were very sensitive to the chemicals.

Many new fescue varieties, though, are “endophyte free” or contain a safe endophyte. These fescues
are safe to graze.

Research in Nebraska under both dryland and irrigated conditions has shown that many of these varieties are highly productive and have good survival. Many producers are using them very successfully in their grazing programs.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist