Is my fescue dead, will I need to reseed?

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Hey Forage Gurus,

I have multiple Tall Fescue fields (probably K-31) in Southeast Kansas. They seemed to have gone dormant early due to the drought, and large portions never seemed to come out of dormancy this fall. Is the fescue dead? Should I be making plans to re-seed? Is adding seed with my dry fertilizer applications good enough, or should I be concerned about seedling burn or poor germination? Thank you and I look forward to your recommendations!

Thanks so much for the great question! Here’s the answer.


Unfortunately, time will tell whether the fescue is dead or not, however, due to overgrazing,  low cutting height if hayed, and the extended drought, I do believe we have lost some of our fescue stands.  The question is what to do this spring?

Spring is not the ideal time to plant fescue as it takes time for the plant to develop a root system that will be able to withstand a dry period in the summer.  Not that fescue cannot be planted in the spring, but management is crucial if you do.   If planted in the spring, do not cut it for hay that first season and be careful if you graze it.  If grazing, leave a minimum of 4 inches of plant height and move the livestock around fairly quickly, giving the plant time to recover before the dry summer periods.

Here are two other options to consider if you think your fescue is damaged or dead.

  1. Drill oats into those fescue fields in February.  Oats grow quickly and you should be able to graze them in late March or at least by mid-April.  If your fescue is dead, you now have forage for the livestock to graze or a crop that you can bale for hay.  After grazing or haying the oats, you could drill millet, sudan, or some warm season annual for summer hay or grazing.  Then replant your fescue in the fall when it is more suited for establishment.
  2. If it appears the fescue is dead next spring, use this as an opportunity to establish a warm season grass into the field such as crabgrass or bermuda.  Using a seeded variety, they establish fairly quickly.  Then no-till fescue into the field next fall.  This will provide extended grazing throughout the year and will be a win in the long run.  Fescue and crabgrass work well together if managed correctly.

As for broadcasting fescue, drilling is always better.  You will have a better stand if that seed is covered up.  If you broadcast, especially on top of ground that has not been worked, you will need to increase your seeding rate.  

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