Triple Creek Journal:  Renovating a novel endophyte tall fescue pasture

We planted our first novel endophyte tall fescue in the autumn of 2000.  It was a difficult time for us as my dad had suffered a major heart attack in late September and we were all at the hospital in Lynchburg when we should have been planting the fescue.  The planting, which had been planned for early October, was postponed for a month.

 The “Silo Field” is 10 acres that was used for tobacco and corn silage production with full tillage for decades.  When we stopped row crop farming in 1995 it was planted to annual hay crops before finally being put into MaxQ in 2000.  We limed and planted  on a prepared seedbed in early November after we had dad home from the hospital. 

Left: Close grazing followed by cross drilling of Novel Endophyte Tall Fescue in October, 2019. Right: The same spot as shown above on March 14, 2022, now with a renewed stand of novel endophyte tall fescue.

The fescue germinated but went into the winter pretty small, and we were not sure it would survive.  We sprayed with Weedmaster (1.5 pint/acre) to control henbit, deadnettle, and knawel in April once the fescue started to tiller.  In the end we had a very good stand even though it was planted so late. We used this field for hay production for 15 years at which time the stand was starting to thin. We frost-seeded red clover several times which helped fill in the empty spots and improved the hay quality.   We put a perimeter fence around the field in 2016 and started grazing after taking a first cutting of hay.  This field has been especially useful for grazing heifers with calves in the fall as the performance is excellent without supplemental feed.

In the fall of 2019 the stand was about 70% fescue.  Some areas still had a lot of tall fescue, but some areas were nearly entirely crabgrass.  Due to the difficulty of managing this diverse stand we decided to renovate the field to improve the fescue stand.  Renovating a novel endophyte field is much easier than converting a toxic fescue to novel endophyte tall fescue.  We have kept up with the fertility and pH on this field over the years so it required no lime, P or K.   We grazed the field hard in the late summer to take the crabgrass down short.  We then drilled 20 lbs of novel endophyte (several varieties of second generation products) in mid-October after the crabgrass was completely frozen out. In November we added 30 lbs of nitrogen to help the seedlings during development.

The weather since this pasture was renovated has not been the best.  The winters of 2019-20 and 2020-21 were among the wettest ever, and the fall of 2021 was the driest ever.  Through this we tried to take care of this pasture by preventing too much pugging during wet weather and by not overgrazing. 

This week things are starting to green up, and this field has a pure stand of tall fescue and looks better than any of our other fields.  The complete renovation cost us less than $100 per acre, and I expect excellent future production.  Maybe this renovated stand will last 19 years before needing renovation like the original MaxQ pasture!  Many farmers don’t plant novel endophyte tall fescue because of the fear that the stands will thin with time.  If animals really like to eat the forage you grow or if you continuously cut it for hay then it is not too surprising that at some point the stand might need to be renovated.  Given the stand life we normally observe and the ease of renovation if stand does start to thin, this new kind of tall fescue makes good sense in our system. 

~ Matt Poore, NCSU, Alliance for Grassland Renewal Chair, and owner of the Triple Creek Farm


The Alliance for Grassland Renewal is a national organization focused on enhancing the appropriate adoption of novel endophyte tall fescue technology through education, incentives, self-regulation and promotion.  For more resources or to learn more about the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, go to www.grasslandrenewal.org

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