Researchers at the Samuel Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla., recently demonstrated how important seedbed preparation is in successfully establishing tall fescue.

Noble Foundation agricultural consultants James Rogers, PhD, and James Locke collaborated with the organization’s plant breeder Andy Hopkins, PhD, and agronomist Twain Butler, PhD, in demonstrating the establishment of tall fescue in seedbeds that had been prepared to prevent ryegrass and those planted without treatment.

“Often times ryegrass crowds out plants like tall fescue because ryegrass is an annual and grows much quicker,” Rogers says. “Being a perennial, tall fescue spends more time establishing its root system and is vulnerable to being choked out by ryegrass. This causes a crop loss for the agricultural producer.”

The Noble Foundation staff established a demonstration using various seeding techniques. In half the demonstration plots, the Noble group eradicated the ryegrass during spring and then again just prior to planting in the fall. The other plots were left untreated.

The results were staggering. The treated plots showed almost 100 percent success rate with 6 inches of healthy tall fescue by May. Conversely, the other series of plots showed a complete reversal, with a full plot of ryegrass overwhelming the tall fescue.

“There was essentially no tall fescue in the untreated plots. It was completely overtaken by the ryegrass,” Hopkins says. “It is overwhelming evidence that proper establishment procedures can lead to a healthier crop and a healthier bottom line.”

Butler emphasizes that annual grasses like ryegrass must be prevented from going to seed in the spring to be effective. “Farmers and ranchers hoping to keep grassy weeds at bay must control them during the spring months in addition to applying more glyphosate to handle emerged grassy weeds at the time of planting tall fescue in the fall and waiting for autumn rainfall.”

For a farmer and rancher, seed cost alone for a novel endophyte-infected tall fescue can be $80 per acre or more. For an agricultural producer that plants several hundred acres of tall fescue, his cost will be in the thousands of dollars. Rogers says many times without the proper seedbed preparation producers will lose their entire crop of tall fescue and then move away from using the grass because of the bad experience.

“The message here is simple: Do a good job of establishing the crop and you will benefit from the persistence and productivity of the stand,” Rogers says. “It’s like that old saying, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’”

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