Fescue Forage Grass
- 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.