EverGraze Action – Growing and using summer active tall fescue
Tall fescue is a tufted, coarse-leaved perennial grass. There are two distinct agronomic types of tall fescue: summer-active and winter-active. It is essential to specify which type when requesting information or purchasing tall fescue seed. Summer-active cultivars are best suited to regions where there is soil moisture available through summer rainfall or access to water stored in the soil profile. Winter-active cultivars are quite dormant in summer and best suited to regions where perennial ryegrass has marginal persistence.
The tall fescue types are very hard to distinguish in the field. Both types are more deep rooted than ryegrass. They have dark green leaf blades that typically grow up to 30 cm long but with the potential to become longer in ungrazed conditions. The upper surface of the leaf is dull with distinct veins that run the length of the leaf blade. The purple/green seeds are held in a loosely bunched head.
Benefits of summer-active tall fescue in southern Australia
Summer-active tall fescue grows very strongly in spring and summer (when moisture is available) and has reasonable autumn and winter growth provided conditions are not too cold and wet.
Summer-active tall fescue is palatable and of high nutritive value provided it is kept short with frequent grazing in spring. It is very compatible with subterranean clover and allows a high legume content.
Its tufted growth habit reduces pugging of the soil by stock in winter and allows paddocks to be grazed when wet. Summer-active tall fescue is tolerant of waterlogging for short periods.
With some summer rainfall or where soils have a high water holding capacity, summer-active tall fescue can provide a high quality pasture over summer and will continue to grow at higher temperatures, when perennial ryegrass shuts down.
The summer-active cultivars commonly used in NSW and the high rainfall areas of southern Victoria include Quantum and Advance.