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Working Ranch - March 2018

pasture management BY LORETTA SORENSEN JNIX / SHUTTERSTOCK Missouri’s State Forage Specialist, Craig Roberts, has seen fescue cut beef cattle gains, lower birth rates, reduce milk production, cause fescue foot, and more. “A true cure for Tall Fescue issues,” says Roberts, “is replacing it with a novel endophyte.” Bad Grass Why are you just coping? F However, what some ranchers have perceived as Tall Fescue management may actually have been what Missouri’s State Forage Specialist, Craig Roberts, calls “coping with bad grass.” In his work, Roberts has seen fescue cut beef cattle gains, lower birth rates, reduce milk production, cause fescue foot, and more. “All of these things can be dealt with,” says Roberts. “But a true cure for Tall Fescue issues is replacing it with a novel endophyte.” In short, a novel endophyte is a fescue that has all the desired fescue traits such as drought tolerance, productive growth, vigor, etc. and a non-toxic endophyte. Novel-endophyte cultivars won’t produce toxic ergo alkaloids. Novel endophyte products came to the marketplace in 2000 after researchers Dr. Joe Bouton (University of Georgia) and Dr. Gary Latch (Ag Research Limited of New Zealand) placed nontoxic fescue endophytes into fescue cultivars. The result? All the desired fescue traits minus the toxic ergot alkaloids, known as novel endophytes. WAIT… BACK UP Wasn’t this done before? And didn’t it turn out badly? Good questions. Researchers did develop endophyte free fescue cultivars in the 1980s and 90s, which meant they didn’t produce toxins. For several years, the endophyte-free fescue seemed a good solution. When endophyte-free fescue pastures and hay meadows inexplicably began declining and dying in as little as one year, researchers went back to the drawing board, fi nding that fescue’s endophytes played a key role in plant health. “Further research revealed that the endophytes protected plants against pests, disease, stress and aided in activities like phosphorus uptake,” Roberts says. Since 2000, seed companies have escue. It’s prized where extreme weather conditions persist, surviving cold and hot temperatures, waterlogged or dry soils and pressures from insects, diseases and overgrazing. Some 35 million acres of U.S. pasture and hay land are planted to fescue. 30 I WORKING RANCH I MARCH 2018


Working Ranch - March 2018
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