Tall fescue is valued as a high-yielding, robust forage grass. For ley farming, fine-leaved, nutritious varieties which are well-liked by livestock are in demand. Agroscope’s most recent variety test has yielded two new top varieties.
Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreber) is a versatile, robust forage grass with a high yield potential; it is very tolerant of both damp and dry as well as both warm and cool conditions. Owing to the coarse leaves of its wild forms, which are spurned by livestock, tall fescue is in practice wrongly classified as an average-quality forage grass. Thanks to major efforts on the part of forage-plant breeders in recent years, today there are modern cultivars with significantly finer leaves than the wild form and which livestock will happily graze. For the successful use of tall fescue in mixtures, such varieties which are also robust, persistent and high-yielding are in demand.
Varieties tested in three-year field trials
From 2017 to 2019, Agroscope tested 13 new varieties of tall fescue, two varieties of ‘Festulolium’hybrids (cross of tall fescue and Italian ryegrass) and six already recommended varieties. The trials were conducted on small plots at four locations on the Swiss Central Plateau. The following traits were examined: vigour, yield, juvenile development, competitive ability, persistence, resistance to leaf diseases, winter hardiness, fineness of leaves and digestibility.
Top Spots for ‘RGT Nouga’ and ‘RGT Philona’ Varieties
The two new cultivars ‘RGT Nouga’ and ‘RGT Philona’ are now recommended. Out of all the varieties tested, these two candidates topped the list. ‘RGT Nouga’ performed best for vigour, juvenile development, persistence, disease resistance, digestibility and fineness of leaves, and took second place for competitive ability. ‘RGT Philona’, the second-best of all tested varieties, also achieved very good results, and scored higher for nearly all traits than the average of the recommended varieties. Only for vigour and persistence did it not beat the standard.
Another promising new cultivar, the variety ‘Paolo’, cannot be placed on the List of Recommended Varieties, although it would have met the requirements based on the results it achieved. Owing to the limit on the number of recommended varieties it is listed as a replacement variety, and in the event of another variety losing its ‘recommended’ status would automatically move up to the ‘recommended’ list.
Dauphine no longer recommended as of 2023
Owing to unsatisfactory results in terms of digestibility, resistance to leaf diseases and juvenile development, the previously recommended variety ‘Dauphine’ will be losing its recommendation.
- Tall fescue is an important component in the mixtures of Agroscope’s Standard Mixture Programme, particularly for pasture mixtures with intensive use in damp to dry conditions.
- Breeding successes have yielded fine-leaved varieties of tall fescue, which are well-liked by livestock.
- From 2017 to 2019, Agroscope tested a total of 21 varieties of tall fescue.
- The two new cultivars ‘RGT Nouga’ and ‘RGT Philona’ impressed with their excellent results, and have now been added to the List of Recommended Forage Plant Varieties.
- The new cultivar ‘Paolo’ represents a further worthwhile variety which will serve as a replacement should one of the recommended varieties be withdrawn in the next few years.
- The standard variety ‘Dauphine’ will be deleted from the List of Recommended Varieties of Forage Plants. It can still be traded as a recommended variety until the end of 2022.