Tall fescue

NOTE: The information in this Agnote must be read in conjunction with Introduction to selecting and using pastures in NSW, which covers information on areas of adaptation, sources of variability, species mixtures, and important issues related to animal health and the conservation of native vegetation.
Pasture type and usePerennial grass. Main growth in spring/summer/autumn. Dryland and irrigated primarily for grazing. Can also be used for hay and silage.
Area of adaptationNorthern and Central Tablelands and limited use in Southern Tablelands, South Coast, South West Slopes, Hunter and irrigated areas. Winter-active types have potential for use in these southern areas in particular.
Min. average annual rainfall750 mm for the summer-active types.
500 mm for summer-dormant (winter-active) varieties.
  • Deep-rooted perennial.
  • Adapted to a wide range of soil types.
  • Tolerant of low soil fertility, wet / poorly drained areas, moderate   salinity.
  • Provides good year-round production of quality feed, not frosting off in   winter as readily as phalaris and cocksfoot.
  • Relatively slow to establish.
  • Heavy grazing, particularly during late spring/summer, may reduce   persistence, notably in drier marginal areas.
  • Needs significant summer rainfall or irrigation for good production and   persistence of temperate types.
  • Animal health problem known as ‘fescue foot’ has been reported in cattle   grazing fescue-dominant pastures, but it is not common.
Soil requirementsGrows across a wide range of soil types from sandy to heavy clay soils, tolerating soil acidity, and relatively high soil aluminium (<15%) and salinity (<8 dS/m(ECe)).
VarietiesSelect varieties initially on the basis of plant type. Select also for seedling vigour, rust resistance and local performance (where data is available).
  • Temperate type, very early flowering:
    AU   Triumph
    Quantum Max P
  • Temperate type, mid–late flowering:
    Advance *
    Advance Max P *
    Jesup   Max P
  • Temperate type, late flowering:
    Vulcan II
  • Mediterranean type, mid season flowering
    (= ‘winter-active,   summer-dormant’ types):
    Flecha *
    Flecha Max P *
    Fraydo *
    Prosper *
    Resolute *
    Resolute Max P *

* Denotes that this   variety is protected by Plant Breeder’s Rights.

Sowing rates: 
- as only species6–15 kg/ha
- in mixtures3–10 kg/ha
Sowing timeAutumn/early winter (March to June). In high-altitude high-rainfall Tableland districts, especially in the northern part of the state, spring sowings (August to September) can also be successful.
Companion speciesLegumes (white, red and subterranean clovers, lucerne, lotus), and other temperate grasses (phalaris, cocksfoot, ryegrass).
Major nutrient deficienciesNitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur.
Main insect pestsPasture scarabs (but is more tolerant than most other temperate grasses), redlegged earth mites, blue oat mites, field crickets, slugs and snails.
Main diseasesLeaf diseases (e.g. rust, blights) occasionally occur, particularly in humid summer conditions.
ManagementMost tall fescue cultivars exhibit poor seedling vigour, resulting in slow establishment. Consequently it is important to minimise competition from weeds or accompanying pasture species, especially ryegrass and cover crops.

Once established, keep pasture within the ‘active growth’ phase to maximise   pasture growth rates and feed quality, allow rapid post-grazing recovery, and   encourage companion legumes.

Suggested yield limits for grazing are 800–2500 kg DM/ha, therefore   necessitating some form of rotational grazing, at least during spring and   summer.

Livestock disorders of particular   noteSummer ill thrift, or winter lameness, associated with ergot alkaloids within the grass.
Further informationAgnote DPI-234 New pasture grass and legume varieties.

Technical Bulletin 47, Grazing management of temperate pastures:   Literature reviews and grazing guidelines for major species.

Agfact P2.3.9 Endophytes of perennial ryegrass and   tall fescue


Advice on livestock health disorders was provided by Dr Chris   Bourke, Principal Research Scientist, NSW Agriculture, Orange. His contribution   is gratefully acknowledged.

Photo: Robert Freebairn, NSW Agriculture, Gunnedah

Further information