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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: REDESIGNING FORAGE GERMPLASM AND PRODUCTION SYSTEMS FOR EFFICIENCY, PROFIT, AND SUSTAINABILITY OF DAIRY FARMS Title: Back to the future: the “discovery” and potential value of meadow fescue

Authors
item Casler, Michael
item Brink, Geoffrey

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 14, 2012
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: The landscape for temperate grass selection for management-intensive rotational grazing systems in North America is changing, partly due to the rediscovery of meadow fescue [Schedonorus pratensis (Huds.) P. Beauv.]. This grass was introduced from Europe to North America during European migrations of the 18th and 19th centuries, but largely forgotten after the discovery of tall fescue [S. phoenix (Scop.) Holub.]. We discovered meadow fescue on the Paleozoic Plateau of the Upper Mississippi Watershed of the USA. We have identified meadow fescue on over 300 farms, theorizing that it survived decades of intensive row cropping in remnants of oak savanna, recently emerging with the grazing renaissance of the late 20th century. Multiple introduction events from European settlers, followed by numerous secondary seed dispersal events within the region, are responsible for the high level of diversity observed within the naturalized meadow fescue of this region. Agronomic performance of meadow fescue compares favorably with other perennial grasses utilized in pasture-based systems. When rotationally grazed at a vegetative stage (30- to 35-cm sward height) to an 8-cm residual sward height, meadow fescue produced approximately 15% less total dry matter year-1 than orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), but had 40 to 70 g kg-1 greater neutral detergent fiber digestibility at every grazing event. Under appropriate management, meadow fescue has exhibited excellent persistence across a range of climate and soil environments. The advantages of meadow fescue over other temperate grasses in pasture-based systems is supported by increasing demand for seed and rapidly growing adoption rates.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014