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3. Cultivar Selection

The number of perennial grass cultivars available has increased dramatically in the past decade. Tall fescue, for example, was reported to have over 135 forage-type cultivars available for certification in 2005. In the past the primary goal for cultivar selection was to exclude cultivars with obvious anti-quality components such as alkaloids and endophytes. From a yield standpoint, the most effective method of grass cultivar selection is to check out grass cultivar yield trials, if available in your environment or in similar environments. Orchardgrass and timothy cultivars are now available in a wide range of heading maturities, to make them more compatible to your specific use. There are now numerous tall fescue cultivars with “soft-leaf” type characteristics, making them more palatable for grazing. Breeding cool-season perennial grasses for improvements in forage quality has only recently begun.

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A tall fescue trial in Freeville, NY, with 45 cultivar entries. The number of cultivars to choose from is steadily increasing.