USDA ARS has developed a new variety of meadow fescue, and its seed is being grown for future release.
An unusual forage grass reported by a farmer 10 years ago led to its identification as meadow fescue (Schedonorus pratensis), a long-forgotten grass that seems just right for today’s intensive rotational grazing.
Nontoxic fungi called “endophytes” live inside meadow fescue, helping it survive heat, drought and pests. Unlike the toxic endophytes that inhabit many commercial varieties of tall fescue and ryegrass, meadow fescue’s endophytes do not poison.
Meadow fescue is also highly adaptable, very winter hardy, and persistent, having survived decades of farming. It has gradually emerged from oak-savanna refuges to dominate many pastures in the Midwest’s Driftless Region, named for its lack of glacial drift, material left behind by retreating continental glaciers.
Charles Opitz found the grass growing in the deep shade of a remnant oak savanna on his dairy farm near Mineral Point, WI. “The cows love it and produce more milk when they eat it,” Opitz says.
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For additional reading, check out Burt Rutherford's article, Forage Wheat A Cowboy Can Love.