Tall fescue, examined here by
an ARS scientist in Idaho, will be a key subject of study at a new ARS forage
lab in Kentucky. Click the image for more information about
A Forage Laboratory for America's Mid-South
Flores November 19, 2004
A new, federally funded laboratory at the University of Kentucky (UK) is beginning to focus its research on
meeting the needs of forage-based enterprises in the Mid-South. Established and
managed by the Agricultural Research
Service, the Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU)
in Lexington is now acquiring staff members and defining its research goals.
Ultimately, the projects at the new laboratory will aim to improve the
productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of forage-based animal
production by gaining insight into basic biological and environmental processes
related to livestock grazing.
The FAPRU houses a dozen employees in its 5,000-square-foot space at
UK's College of Agriculture. These include
research scientists Glen Aiken, Randy Dinkins and Isabelle Kagan and laboratory
support staffers Lori Smith and Tracy Hamilton. There are plans to hire three
more lab technicians and two research scientists.
Under the direction of research leader
Strickland, the FAPRU recently held a two-day workshop attended by
researchers, managers and stakeholders. They discussed current issues facing
producers in the region. One of the more pressing issues involves tall fescue,
one of the major cool-season grasses grown in Kentucky and across the United
Despite tall fescue's superior agronomic characteristics, it can cause
a condition called toxicosis in cows, sheep and other ruminant animals that eat
the grass. Fescue toxicosis symptoms include decreased growth rate, feed intake
and milk production, as well as rough hair coat and poor reproductive
performance. Consequently, ruminant livestock and horses don't usually perform
as well on tall fescue as they do on other cool-season forages.
In addition to tall fescue, FAPRU scientists are studying clovers,
Bermuda grass and other types of ruminant forages. They are also researching
grazing system management.
Lexington is in the heart of Kentucky, one of the top calf-producing
states east of the Mississippi. The horse breeding and racing industry--which
holds its biggest event, the Kentucky Derby, near Lexington--also relies
heavily on production of quality forage and is especially important to the
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's principal scientific research agency.