Tall fescue

Tall fescue, Lolium arundinaceum (syn.  Festuca arundinacea), is a cool-season perennial bunchgrass that obtained strong acceptance as a turfgrass from 1980 to 1990 as a result of breeding success by Dr. C. Reed Funk and Dr. William A. Meyer, in the creation of cultivar ‘Rebel’ and other so-called “turf-type” cultivars. Previously tall fescue occurred mostly as the pasture cultivar ‘Kentucky 31’ and was mostly a nuisance weed of Kentucky bluegrass lawns. After the revolutionary development of the turf-types, there was expansion in the Midwestern United States because of superior heat and drought avoidance and extensive use in the transition zone. By 2005 tall fescue became the most widely planted turfgrass in North Carolina, with over 1 million acres (Tredway et al., 2005). For more on this development, see Morris, 2015 and Cook, 2005.

There are drawbacks. The shorter, denser cultivars are more prone to brownpatch disease caused by Rhizoctonia solani, so there has been movement back to intermediate stature plants. Tall fescue has been considered invasive in natural areas and was designated the “Weed of the Week” on 10/24/2005 by the USDA Forest Service. Finally, multiple serious livestock disorders are associated with the endophytic fungus Neotyphoideum coenophialum (syn. Acremonium coenophialum) which occurs in some tall fescue cultivars and cultivars in some other Lolium species.

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