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Summer Fescue Management

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Date:  July 16, 2021
Agent:  Damon Pollard

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service-Burke Center. Today’s topic is Summer Fescue Management.

Fescue is a cool season grass, upright growing, and perennial grass. No matter if we are growing it for hay, pasture or in a lawn, those three situations determine our management regime during the summer months.

Because it is a perennial, it stores nutrients in the stem, or tiller, for regrowth after cutting or grazing. Because of its upright growth habit, the leaf sticks up above the stem. We can remove a great deal of leaf without seriously damaging the plant as long as we don’t remove the nutrient reserves in the tiller.

Being a cool season grass, it goes dormant, or semi-dormant, during the hot dry months of summer. We can’t use fertilizer to force it to grow during this time without incurring the risk of disease damage, and there is a real danger of overgrazing during this time.

So, how do we manage it? Remove the ends of the leaves through mowing or grazing to allow sunlight and air movement to reach down into the crown. This helps to prevent disease problems and encourages the buds at the base of the crown to produce more tillers. Do not cut, or graze into the tillers, as leaving the nutrient reserves and some leaf allow for rapid regrowth. Always remember, what you have above the ground is what is below the ground as the plant is in balance. The more top growth you remove, the fewer roots you have to fuel leaf production.

So raise that disc mower and rotate your livestock frequently for a healthier, faster growing stand of fescue.

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service-Burke Center. If you would like more information, call us at 439-4460.