Performance of Fineleaf Fescue Cultivars and Selections in Michigan 2004-2006 (E3041)

Five species of fescue, chewings fescue, strong creeping red fescue, slender creeping red fescue, hard fescue and sheep fescue, are all commonly identified by their fine leaf texture.

Five species of fescue — chewings fescue, strong creeping red fescue, slender creeping red fescue, hard fescue and sheep fescue — are all commonly identified by their fine leaf texture. Their leaves are medium to dark green, almost blue, and narrow and needle-like. They are primarily bunch-type grasses except for creeping red fescue, which can produce rhizomes. Fineleaf fescues are considered low-maintenance grasses because of their very slow growth habit and minimal fertilizer requirements. They are less wear-tolerant than other cool-season grasses and therefore have limited use on golf courses and athletic fields. Fineleaf fescues should be mowed at 2 to 3 inches or higher, particularly in the summer. They will become dormant in dry, full-sun conditions.

These grasses are well-adapted to infertile, acidic soils and tolerate shade better than other cool-season grasses. Thatch can become a significant problem if fine fescue is not managed properly — fineleaf fescues are the most aggressive thatch producers of the cool-season grasses. Fineleaf fescues are commonly used in mixtures with Kentucky bluegrass and/or perennial ryegrass whenever a low-maintenance lawn is desired. Fineleaf fescues have few major pest problems. Under wet conditions,however, red thread and leaf spot can attack these species. Like the ryegrasses and tall fescue, certain fine fescue cultivars have endophytes, beneficial fungi that reside within fine fescue seed and grow in the stem and leaf sheath but not in the root or leaf blade. They are not harmful to the host plant, people or pets that occasionally eat the grass. Endophyte-containing fineleaf fescue may be detrimental to animals that consume large quantities of the grass as a significant part of their nutritional requirements, however, such as cows, horses and/or sheep. Endophytes produce chemicals called alkaloids that protect the plants from leaf- and stemfeeding insects and nematodes. They also make the plants more tolerant of marginal soil environments and harsh management conditions. Fineleaf fescues containing endophytes have shown increased resistance to sod webworms, fall armyworms and chinch bugs.

 

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