Dairy farmer finds unusual forage grass

Mar 15, 2011

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grass breeder has rediscovered a forage grass that seems just right for today's intensive rotational grazing.

A farmer's report of an unusual forage grass led Michael Casler, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist at the agency's U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis., to identify the grass as meadow fescue. Meadow fescue has been long forgotten, although it was popular after being introduced about 50 to 60 years before tall fescue.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Casler has developed a new variety of meadow fescue called Hidden Valley, and its seed is being grown for future release.

Non-toxic fungi called endophytes live inside meadow fescue, helping it survive heat, drought and pests. Unlike the toxic endophytes that inhabit many commercial varieties of tall fescue and ryegrass, meadow fescue does not poison livestock.

Charles Opitz found the grass growing in the deep shade of a remnant oak savannah on his dairy farm near Mineral Point, Wis. He reported that the cows love it and produce more milk when they eat it. Casler used to identify Opitz's find.

Meadow fescue is very winter-hardy and persistent, having survived decades of farming. It emerged from oak savannah refuges to dominate many pastures in the Midwest's driftless region, named for its lack of glacial drift, the material left behind by retreating continental glaciers.

Casler and his colleagues have since found the plant on more than 300 farms in the driftless region of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. Geoffrey Brink, an ARS agronomist working with Casler, discovered that meadow fescue is 4 to 7 percent more digestible than other cool-season grasses dominant in the United States.

In another study, meadow fescue had a nutritional forage quality advantage over tall fescue and orchardgrass that may compensate for its slightly lower annual yield further north, as reported in the . Also, the yield gap begins to close with the frequent harvesting involved in intensive grazing.

Explore further: From dandruff to deep sea vents, an ecologically hyper-diverse fungus

More information: Read more about the research in the March 2011issue of Agricultural Research magazine. www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/2011/mar11/grass0311.htm

Provided by United States Department of Agriculture

4.5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Grass germplasm collection also includes fungal endophytes

Jan 28, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the world's largest collections of cool-season forage and turf grasses is located at the Western Regional Plant Introduction Station (WRPIS), operated in Pullman, Wash., by the U.S. Department of Agriculture ...

Study: Grass, fungus combination affects ecology

Mar 15, 2010

The popular forage and turf grass called tall fescue covers a vast amount of land in the U.S. -- an area that's estimated to be larger than Virginia and Maryland combined -- and a new study by ecologists at Rice University ...

Recommended for you

Of bees, mites, and viruses

15 minutes ago

Honeybee colonies are dying at alarming rates worldwide. A variety of factors have been proposed to explain their decline, but the exact cause—and how bees can be saved—remains unclear. An article published on August ...

Genetically tracking farmed fish escaping into the wild

Aug 20, 2014

European sea product consumption is on the rise. With overfishing being a threat to the natural balance of the ocean, the alternative is to turn to aquaculture, the industrial production of fish and seafood. ...

France fights back Asian hornet invader

Aug 20, 2014

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

User comments : 0