Fescue has traditionally been a forage for high-rainfall areas.
Noble Research Institute at Ardmore, Oklahoma, has developed and released a new tall fescue variety called Chisholm to provide a new forage option for agricultural producers in summer-drought locations, such as western Oklahoma and Texas.
One of the researcher goals was to find a perennial-grass replacement for wheat pasture
Chisholm is the first tall fescue variety released by Noble that is adapted to the hot, dry summers typical west of Interstate 35 in Oklahoma and Texas, where tall fescue has traditionally been unable to persist.
“A major goal of Noble’s plant breeding program has been to develop a cool-season perennial grass that could provide producers with an alternative to planting winter annuals, like wheat and cereal rye, each season,” said Mike Trammell, Noble Research Institute senior plant breeder. “Chisholm, a cool-season perennial, could complement or replace winter annual grazing systems, providing more grazing flexibility to livestock producers or reducing their need to feed hay when bermudagrass is dormant.”
After four years of grazing Chisholm pastures on Noble research farms, Trammell said cattle had similar average daily and total live-weight gains compared with cattle on graze-out wheat pasture. The net return per acre on Chisholm was also similar to the graze-out wheat system. Other potential benefits of this perennial forage include the reduction of soil erosion and the improvement of soil health.
Chisholm was developed from Mediterranean tall fescue, which persists in environmental conditions similar to the Southern Great Plains. In the past, many introduced cool-season perennial grasses were selected from cooler climates in northern Europe. As a result, these grasses were unable to persist in the hot and dry summers typical of western Oklahoma and Texas. Summer-dormant fescue types stop growth during summer in response to long days, high temperatures and dry conditions.
Tall fescue generally needs at least 37 inches or more of annual rainfall for suitable production and persistence. Historically, in Oklahoma and Texas, this type of rainfall occurs east of Interstate 35. This creates a transition zone for tall fescue, which is adapted east of this zone but not to the west due to summer heat and drought.
Chisholm is available for purchase through Warner Brothers Seed Company in Lawton, Oklahoma.
Source: Noble Research Institute