Tall Fescue

Credit: 
Percy Folkard, (BC FLNR)
Credit: 
JRJ
Scientific name: 

Festuca arundinacea Schreb.

Type: 
Agronomic Grass
Annual precip. min (mm): 
400
Annual precip. max (mm): 
600
Seed size: 
Medium
Seeds per kg: 
501,000
Typical seeding objectives: 
PR Suitability note: 
Tall fescue is suited to the Peace Region, but is dependent on variety and snow cover.
Key considerations: 
Tall fescue is a high-yielding quality forage, especially suited to intensively managed pasture grazing. Check that the variety is endophyte free for livestock use.
General Description: 
Tall fescue is a deep-rooted, medium- to long-lived, perennial bunchgrass. Although it is considered a cool season grass, tall fescue can tolerate more heat than other cool season grasses, and is considered a transition between the two types. Longevity in northern regions is extremely variable and dependent on variety. It is similar to meadow fescue but is distinguished by having wider, less glossy leaves.
 
It has an extensive coarse, dense root system and short rhizomes.
 
Tall fescue has stems that grow to a height of over 100 cm (39 in.). They are smooth, semi-erect, and fairly thick. Leaves are mostly basal, with blades that are flat, dark green and hairless. They are often 12 mm wide with shiny undersides.
 
Seed heads develop with 3 to 10 flowers per spikelet. Tall fescue is cross-pollinated and the seed shatters easily.
Origin: 
Native to central Europe and North Africa. First seed in Canada originated from England and Germany.
Distribution: 
Infrequent distribution in southwest British Columbia and rare in the southern interior. Grown in the Peace River Region for seed production.
Habitat and climate: 
Adapted to cool and humid climates, northern Great Plains, and irrigated areas of the Pacific Northwest states. Dry to wet seepages, pastures, roadsides, and disturbed areas in lowland, steppe to montane zones.
Uses: 
Used originally as pasture forage, especially in sub-humid irrigated areas. Also used for erosion control and more recently being grown as turf seed.
Optimal time of grazing use: 
Tall fescue is a high-yielding and quality forage that maintains quality well after fall frosts. Good for summer grazing or stockpiling for fall and early winter grazing.
Recovery after use (rating): 
H
Recovery after use: 
Tolerates frequent, close grazing by producing more basal leaf growth. Sod is resistant to animal hoof traffic. Rest from grazing over the last 4 to 6 weeks of the growing season improves winter hardiness.
Forage yield (rating): 
H
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Good palatability in vegetative stages. Endophytes can be a problem for livestock, especially with turf varieties.
Persistence (rating): 
L
Persistence: 
Dependent on variety, persistence is low at the northern extent of its range because of limited winter hardiness.
Invasiveness (rating): 
M
Invasiveness: 
Potentially invasive depending on location and variety. In some habitats, tall fescue, especially those varieties with endophytes, are considered invasive and persistent.
Competitiveness (rating): 
M
Competitiveness: 
Once established, tall fescue is competitive.
Weed resistance (rating): 
M
Erosion control (rating): 
M
Drought tolerance (rating): 
M
Drought tolerance: 
It has moderate tolerance to drought and recovers quickly.
Winter hardiness (rating): 
M
Winter hardiness: 
Winter hardiness is limited and highly dependent on variety, snow cover conditions, drought, and breaks in dormancy. Some varieties may recover partially from winter damage to produce forage growth but not set seed.
Soil texture preference (rating): 
FM
Soil texture preference: 
Prefers deep, moist, silty to clayey soils, or organic soils.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
M
Flooding tolerance: 
Has moderate tolerance to flooding during the growing season, and has good tolerance to internal excess moisture.
Salinity tolerance (rating): 
H
Salinity tolerance: 
Good tolerance to salinity makes it a good choice for irrigated saline pasture land.
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
H
Acidity tolerance : 
Tolerates soil pHs as low as 4.7 but yields better on slightly acidic to neutral soils.
Pests and/or disease threats: 
Diseases of concern include leaf rust, ergot, and snow molds. Insect pests include grasshoppers, cutworms, sod webworms, beetle larvae, and silvertop.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
M
Ease of establishment: 
Strong seedling vigour helps tall fescue establish relatively easily, especially if competition and soil fertility are managed.
Application requirements: 
Tall fescue responds well to nutrient additions, especially nitrogen.
Suggested mixtures: 
Alfalfa, red clover, and alsike clover.
Management considerations: 
Test for endophytes if using for feeding or grazing.