Missouri producers can learn to successfully graze novel-endophyte fescues after they’ve eradicated toxic fescues – including Kentucky 31.

Two grazing schools will show how to evaluate toxic fescue pastures as well as kill and replace them with non-toxic varieties. They will be offered March 18 at Mount Vernon and March 21 at Linneus.

“We’ve known for years that infected fescue reduced grazing gains and cut reproduction in livestock,” says Craig Roberts, University of Missouri Extension specialist. “Now we have several novel-endophyte fescue varieties to replace the toxic grass.”

One key is careful management as livestock graze the new varieties. The animals prefer the novel-endophyte fescues so much that they can overgraze and kill new plantings, Roberts says.

Previous attempts to replace Kentucky 31 with endophyte-free fescues were unsuccessful. Fescues need endophytes, which are fungi that live between cells in the grass plants. The old endophyte, such as the one in Kentucky 31, produces toxins that also protect the grass from drought, diseases, insects and nematodes. Novel endophytes keep the fescue protected, but don’t produce the toxins that poison livestock.

The schools are being planned by the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, which helps fescue seed companies collaborate with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, MU Extension and farmers.

Specialists expect to hold more regional schools in the future.

To enroll in the Mount Vernon school, to be held at the MU Southwest Research Center, contact Carla at 417-466-2148 or RathmannC@missouri.edu. To attend the school at the MU Forage Systems Research Center at Linneus, contact Tamie at 660-895-5121 or CarrTa@missouri.edu.