|“The New Choice” in Tall Fescue|
There is a new choice in tall fescue varieties when deciding on what to plant to provide persistent stands of high-quality forage for your livestock and horses. For decades, a Kentucky variety grown in Missouri had been the only tall fescue seed available in the South and the transition zone that would survive the hot, humid summers with little rainfall. Now, an exciting new variety is available from your local Quality Co-op. Kentucky 32 brings the best of the old Kentucky variety, being persistent and high yielding, with excellent disease resistance.
Kentucky 32 was developed using genetics from the old Kentucky variety crossed with some of the most-palatable, highest-yielding, endophyte-free material. Grown in Oregon under the most meticulous production methods, you can be assured of the genetic and mechanical purity of the seed you find in the bag. Tested by the best seed laboratories in Oregon, weed and other crop contamination is minimal, unlike seed from Missouri that may have several broadleaf and grassy weeds. Kentucky 32 also comes with an Oregon "Green Tag" specifying it has passed an Oregon Department of Agriculture endophyte test.
That old Kentucky variety has a problem with containing high levels of harmful endophyte fungus. The alkaloids given off by the endophytes are responsible for fescue foot, bovine fat necrosis, fescue toxicity and summer decline in cattle. Endophytes raise body temperature, so the cattle will spend more time in the pond cooling off than on the pasture gaining weight. In horses, endophytes affect birth weights, milk production, abortion rates and may cause more retained placentas. It makes economic sense to use endophyte-free varieties of tall fescue for your forage needs. Kentucky 32 is endophyte free.
Stand longevity has been a major factor in deciding which variety to use in overseeding or establishing pastures and hayfields. Popular opinion was that the presence of endophytes was the most important factor. A recent trial in Kentucky may have dispelled that belief. Planted in the fall of 2008 at Princeton, KY, by the University of Kentucky, the table tells the story:
It is highly recommended when establishing a new Kentucky 32 pasture or hayfield that care is given to completely eradicate the old stand of grass as this may contain fescue varieties infected with endophytes. Consult your local Co-op for recommendations on taking out the old stands. This may include a non-selective herbicide like glyphosate, a summer fallow program or some combination of methods. All grass must be killed, and remnant seed in the soil should be sprouted and killed to ensure a clean seedbed.
A seeding rate of 25-30 pounds per acre will be adequate. A clean, fine, firm seedbed will be optimum for success in establishing a new stand. Seed should be drilled no deeper than one-half inch. Seed can also be broadcasted, then harrowed in. Always roll to compact and guarantee a good seed/soil contact. A complete starter fertilizer, and possibly lime to correct acidity, should be applied before planting. Consult your Extension agent or local Co-op for specific recommendations and soil testing.
Kentucky 32 can be either fall or spring planted when weather is mild and moist. If available, irrigation will help guarantee success. Livestock and horses should not graze pastures until they are well established. Avoid grazing in very wet or frozen conditions as this will reduce stand life. Rotational grazing will keep fresh, palatable forage in front of your animals and maximize forage production. Cutting hay when the grass is just beginning to show seedheads will give the highest-quality forage. A good fertilizer program after each cutting will maximize yield.
With proper management of fertilizer, grazing and hay production, you can enjoy years of successful forage production from your fields. Profits will increase with increased weight gains and healthier livestock and horses. So make "the new choice" in tall fescue varieties with Kentucky 32 tall fescue, available from your local Co-op. For more information on this exciting variety, go to www.kentucky32.com.
Matt Herb is the Research Director for Oregro Seeds, Inc. in Albany, OR, and is the originating breeder of Kentucky 32 tall fescue.