Tall Fescue Pasture Seed Head Control Methods

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $29,039.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2019
Grant Recipient: The Curators of the University of Missouri
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Rusty Lee
University of Missouri Extension


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)
  • Animals: bovine, equine, goats, sheep
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, grazing management, rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: energy use
  • Pest Management: physical control

    Proposal abstract:

    In Missouri and the other central US states of the “Fescue Belt”, grazing management of Tall Fescue pastures includes management of fescue seed heads. Endophyte infected tall fescue has the highest concentration of the toxic alkaloids in the seed. Removing these heads reduces the negative animal health effects of grazing infected fescue.  For many producers, this involves “clipping” pastures with rotary mowers. In addition to removing seed heads, the cutting/damage to upper canopy foliage stimulates additional vegetative growth for increased carrying capacity. A local cattle producer wanted to evaluate a “roller-crimper” normally used to mechanically terminate cover crops. His idea was to apply crimping damage to the grass stems before “boot” stage and thus reduce seed head emergence. He purchased a roller-crimper and we set up a replicated study in his pasture in the Spring of 2016.  A brief synopsis of what we learned includes: reduced seed head counts per ton of forage grown, reduced tractor fuel consumption, greater acres/hour work rate with smaller tractor requirements, and increased plant species diversity in the sward. Neighboring cattle producers watched the progress and wish to include their pastures in the 2017 trials.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Quantify through forage sampling:

    1) Degree of seed head control with rotary mowing versus crimp/rolling.

    2) Pasture yields by treatment.

    3) Nutritional value of sward by treatment.

    4) Per acre cost of control by treatment.

    Expand to 3 farms in 2017 to increase credibility of findings and better the opportunity for exposure to additional livestock producers.

    Post signage at pasture roadside.

    Host field day demonstrations of alternative seed head control options.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.