Cool-Season Forage Grasses
Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is a long-lived grass that can be used for livestock feed, lawns, turf, and conservation purposes. Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) is a cool- season, perennial, tall-growing bunch-type grass that can be used for pasture, hay, green chop, or silage. Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is a versatile grass that can be used for pasture, seed, sod, turf, and hay. Timothy (Phleum pratense) is a perennial bunch grass that is primarily used for hay.
Tall fescue, orchardgrass, bluegrass, and timothy are the dominant forage grasses in Kentucky. They have potential for the cash hay market and for intensive grazing. Significant price premiums may be possible for high-quality hay. Timothy hay, either alone or in mixtures with alfalfa, is much desired by horse owners. Historically, timothy has been an important seed crop in Kentucky; however, at present only a small acreage of timothy is grown for seed.
The cool-season forage grasses are generally adapted to a wide range of soil types; however, orchardgrass is more successful in the better well-drained soils in Kentucky. These grasses are best seeded in late summer or early fall. Although seeding in early spring can be successful, plants are more susceptible to summer drought and weed competition. Orchardgrass tends to be more tolerant of shade, drought, and heat than either timothy or bluegrass. Cool-season grasses can be seeded either directly into a conventionally tilled seedbed or seeded using no-till techniques.