Over 35 million acres of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) are grown in the United States, with about 1 million acres in Indiana (Figure 1). Although primarily grown in the southern third of the state, almost every county has some fescue production. Tall fescue is used mainly as a forage for livestock, but is also used as turf and for erosion control.
Strictly speaking, tall fescue is a bunch-type grass, but will spread slowly to form a dense sod. Tall fescue is a deep-rooted, cool-season, perennial grass which works well for gully-healing and erosion control.
Tall fescue prefers the cool temperatures of spring and fall, and grows poorly in mid-summer, which gives rise to the term "summer slump." It tolerates excessive moisture and drought as well as acidic (pH 5.4 - 6.2), low fertility soils. It does best on heavier soils, and is able to survive on fragipans.
Fescue begins spring growth when average daily temperatures remain above 40 F for several days. It is not completely dormant at lower temperatures; thus, there may be fescue growth in Indiana from early March to December.
Tall fescue is generally considered too low in quality to be used extensively by dairy farmers. It is more appropriate for beef and sheep operations, and is a good species to use in areas that receive heavy livestock traffic.
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