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Tall Fescue

Festuca arundinacea Sch.

Tall Fescue is a persistent grass deep-rooted perennial, with erect, unbranched tillers, and deep underground rhizomes. It can grow 2m tall at flowering. Tall Fescue is sown in permanent pastures for cattle and sheep grazing or conservation.

  • Tolerates wet and dry once established

  • drought tolerant species 

  • Tolerates high temperatures

  • Stays green in a dry summer maintaining production when other species have ceased growing

  • Its extensive, deep-rooted system enables it to take up water during arid periods 

  • Modern varieties have softer leaves and improved digestibility

  • Good winter growth in mild winters 

  • New Zealand fescue seed does not contain any toxic endophyte

  • Grow in a wide range of soil types

  • Tolerant of wet/poorly drained soils

  • Productive best soil pH is 5.0 to 6.5 but can tolerate as low as pH 4.8, 

  • Good year-round production of palatable feed

  • Does not frost as easily as phalaris and cocksfoot

  • Good winter growth in mild winters 

  • The best time to sow is in autumn to early winter (March - June) when soil moisture is adequate. In high altitude, high rainfall areas, spring sowing (September) can be successful too.

  • New Zealand fescue seed does not contain toxic endophyte

  • Regeneration from seed is poor but does slowly spread vegetatively by short rhizomes.


  • Slow establishment 

  • Heavy grazing, in late spring/summer, may reduce longevity in drier areas areas

  • Careful grazing management in the first year is essential to ensure proper plant population

  • Graze only when the root system is well developed, so it is not pulled out of the ground

  • For seed production, the paddock its needs to be locked up in mid-September to allow seed set.

Mixture suggestions

  • Grasses mixes, phalaris, ryegrass, cocksfoot

  • Legumes clovers, lotus, lucerne, if not sown with legumes, nitrogen fertiliser will be required

  • Suggested sow rate: 20-25 kg/ha alone 15-18 kg/ha in mixtures

  • When sown with vigorous grasses like perennial ryegrass reduce their sowing rate to 2kg/ha