Creeping Red Fescue

Allen Dobb
Scientific name: 

Festuca rubra

Agronomic Grass
Annual precip. min (mm): 
Annual precip. max (mm): 
Seed size: 
Seeds per kg: 
PR Suitability note: 
Creeping red fescue is well suited to the Peace region and is an important forage seed crop in the area.
Key considerations: 
It is adapted to a wide variety of soil types and conditions. It should be carefully managed in pasture situations when it is seeded with other species, because it tends to increase. Although it has been rated low for invasive plant suppression, it provides weed resistance once established. It might be combined with species that are quicker to establish in a mixture if invasive plant suppression is an objective.
General Description: 

Creeping red fescue is a long-lived, hardy, creeping rooted, cool season perennial grass, important for its use in stabilizing soil, as stockpiled forage, as blending for the turf industry, and as a seed crop in the Peace Region.

Root systems are fibrous with short rhizomes. Roots form a thick sod that is resilient to traffic, but they are less dense than smooth bromegrass or Kentucky bluegrass.

Stems are up to 90 cm (35 in.) tall and are often reclining at the base. Mostly basal leaves are produced and are 5 to15 cm (2 to 6 in.) long.

Seed heads are up to 15 cm (6 in.) and branch mostly upright. Spikelets are up to 15 mm long and 4-8 are flowered, producing purple-tinged flowers.

Native to Europe and North America. The early seed in Canada came from Czechoslovakia.
Turf grass, pasture, reclamation, as stockpiled forage.
Optimal time of grazing use: 
Creeping red fescue is adapted to early spring or fall grazing.
Recovery after use (rating): 
Recovery after use: 
Recovery is usually good as growing points are often below grazing level, especially if not continuously grazed.
Forage yield (rating): 
Forage yield: 
Forage yields are moderate with yields up to about 5,400 kg/ha (4,800 lb/acre) in the Black soil zone.
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Creeping red fescue is not only palatable in the fall but also over winter into the spring. It has average total digestible nutrients of 61% and 12% crude protein in the vegetative state. When stockpiled, this species has adequate nutrition for a dry pregnant cow.
Longevity (rating): 
Persistence (rating): 
Invasiveness (rating): 
Competitiveness (rating): 
Creeping red fescue is competitive in moist areas.
Weed resistance (rating): 
Weed resistance: 
Creeping red fescue has low weed resistance until it is established.
Erosion control (rating): 
Erosion control: 
A very good species for controlling erosion and often used for revegetation of waterways and canals since it forms a thick, soil-binding sod, but does not impede water movement.
Drought tolerance (rating): 
Drought tolerance: 
Creeping red fescue has fair to moderate drought tolerance.
Winter hardiness (rating): 
Winter hardiness: 
Winter hardiness is good when adequate snow cover is present.
Soil texture preference (rating): 
Soil texture preference: 
Creeping red fescue can be grown on a wide range of soil textures. It is most suited to moist, sandy, loamy, and clay soils in the Black and Gray soil zones.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
Flooding tolerance: 
Creeping red fescue can tolerate up to 2 weeks of spring flooding or waterlogged soils.
Salinity tolerance (rating): 
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
Acidity tolerance : 
Soil pH as low as 4.5 is tolerated.
Shade tolerance: 
Good shade tolerance so it can grow under taller species when seeded in mixtures.
Pests and/or disease threats: 
Pests can include sod webworms, thrips, cutworms, and cereal leaf beetles. The most common diseases of creeping red fescue are stem eyespot and silvertop.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
Ease of establishment: 
Seedlings are vigorous, and creeping red fescue is relatively easy to establish.
Application requirements: 
Manage cover crops and perennial weeds to ensure good establishment.
Suggested mixtures: 
Can be seeded with legumes such as alfalfa and cicer milkvetch.
Management considerations: 
Use appropriate stocking rates and allow rest following grazing. Creeping red fescue may increase in abundance if seeded with other species in a pasture mix. It also increases in overgrazed pasture situations.