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Working Ranch - March 2018

pasture management JNIX / SHUTTERSTOCK endophyte-free tall fescue. “It’s true endophyte-free tall fescue can survive in non-stressed environments with deep soils and short summers,” Roberts explains. “However, in the fescue belt, endophyte-free varieties don’t survive consistently. Frequently, they die out due to drought, insects and pathogens.” Roberts also encourages selection of seed that includes the Alliance for Grassland Renewal seal. The Alliance, including partners from the Universities of Kentucky and Missouri, government, industry (producers, seed A list of reputable seed companies can be found on the Alliance for Grassland Renewal website (www.grasslandrenewal.org). companies, testing labs) and nonprofi t groups, was formed in 2012. Details about the organization are available at www.grasslandrenewal.org. The goal of the Alliance is “to work together in replacing toxic tall fescue grass with a tall fescue that hosts a nontoxic endophyte, sometimes call a ‘novel’ endophyte.” “The Alliance seal protects farmers from fraudulent and inferior seed,” Roberts cautions. “When seed contains the seal, buyers can know the seed endophyte is nontoxic to cattle and is alive.” The seal, which doesn’t add to seed costs, is accompanied by a statement that the bag’s seed lot was tested and “found to contain no more than 5 percent off-type endophyte.” In other words, 95% of the endophyte in the labeled bag is nontoxic. The statement also indicates that at least 70% of the seed’s endophyte is alive. “That’s important, because if the endophyte is dead, planting the seed will produce a fi eld of endophyte-free tall fescue,” Roberts says. HELP WITH THE COST IS AVAILABLE The Alliance also works to assist farmers in fi nding and qualifying for novel-endophyte establishment incentives, since the cost of replacing toxic fescue can range from $185 to $240 per acre. Currently, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is the only available cost-share option. Seed company representatives can assist in selection of a novel-endophyte suited to an individual farm operation. Cultivar variations include soft leaf types, second-generation endophytes, early maturing and some types developed over a wide region. A list of reputable seed companies can be found on the Alliance website (www.grasslandrenewal.org). “All yield and animal performance data suggest there is little difference between different varieties under good growing conditions,” Roberts shares. Due to differences in growth habits, palatability and planting timing, it’s not recommended to add other grasses or legumes when planting novel-endophyte cultivars. They can be added after the novel-endophyte is established. “One or two legumes can be frostseeded once a novel fescue pasture is established,” Roberts says. “The legumes will furnish high-quality forage and serve as a nitrogen source while the fescue becomes established.” Fall seedings (August/September) tend to have less weed competition and more favorable moisture conditions than late spring seedings. Soil testing prior to seeding is recommended. Details about optimum fertility plans is available at https:// extension2.missouri.edu/g4646. “In planting new tall fescue, don’t drill too deep,” Roberts suggests. “The no-till drill should cut through stubble and place seed ¼ inch in the soil. And don’t plant a companion crop with the new tall fescue. Birdsfoot trefoil is the only exception, because of its poor seedling vigor. Other species can compete with emerging new fescue seedlings.” Roberts emphasizes that no single article can address all the details related to establishing and managing a new novel-endophyte. The Alliance for Grassland Renewal offers annual oneday events designed to guide producers through all the do’s and don’ts related to transitioning to a novel-endophyte. Five different one-day schools, running from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. will be held at The University of Missouri (March 6), University of Kentucky (March 8), Clemson University (March 13), North Carolina State University (March 14) and Virginia Tech University (March 15). Details about each event can be found at www.grasslandrenewal. org under the “Education” link. “I’ve made the last few years of my career a vendetta against toxic fescue because novel-endophyte fescue is a true cure for all the toxicity issues,” concludes Roberts. 32 I WORKING RANCH I MARCH 2018


Working Ranch - March 2018
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