Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council are hosting several winter conferences on tall fescue in January to demonstrate novel approaches to managing fescue production and also disease management of the grass.

The theme of the conference series this year is “Tall Fescue in the 21st Century,” and will highlight current knowledge and practices that producers can apply to management of their tall fescue-based grazing systems.

The conferences will occur throughout the state from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m in the following locations:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 26: Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Blackstone; 
  • Wednesday, Jan. 27: Wytheville Meeting Center, Wytheville; 
  • Thursday, Jan. 28: Weyers Cave Community Center, Weyers Cave.

The conferences will begin with introductions by Extension agents followed by presentations by experts in tall fescue production and management. The morning program will focus on understanding issues and problems with tall fescue and the afternoon program will explore potential solutions to these problems.

Matt Booher and John Benner, Extension agents in Augusta County, will discuss results from field trials conducted in the Shenandoah Valley, followed by Glen Aiken from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s Forage-Animal Production Research Unit in Lexington, Kentucky. Aiken will demonstrate the impact that endophyte-infected tall fescue has on the animal population and will provide a research update on tall fescue toxicosis. Joe Bouton, professor emeritus, University of Georgia, and former director of the Forage Improvement Division at the Noble Foundation, will discuss the opportunities and challenges of incorporating novel endophyte tall fescues into grazing systems.

The second portion of the program will feature discussion of a new genetic test for evaluating the tolerance of cattle to tall fescue toxicosis by Craig Roberts, AgBotanica, LLC and University of Missouri Extension. The test, called the T-Snip, is the first commercially available genetic test that can identify cattle with improved tolerance to tall fescue. Byron Sleugh, field scientist with Dow AgroSciences, will discuss chemical seedhead suppression in tall fescue pastures as a potential component of an integrated approach to tall fescue management.

The conference will highlight producers from each region of the state that will describe how they manage tall fescue on their farms. These speakers will provide an overview of their operations and share insights on how they are managing tall fescue at the farm level.

Council-sponsored students from Virginia Tech will share their experiences from a two-week, multi-university traveling course that began in Texas and ended in Colorado. The objective of the course was to allow students to learn about the various components of grazing systems and how they differ in various regions of the country.

Extension Specialist John Andrae of Clemson University will make the final presentation of the day. He is a co-author of Fescue Toxicosis and Management and will help participants understand how to integrate what they have learned at the conference into a strategy to better manage tall fescue in their grazing systems.

Register online using a credit card or download the conference registration form and mail a check made payable to the VFGC. Early registration is $35 and must be submitted online or postmarked by Jan. 4, 2016. After January 4, 2016, the registration fee increases to $50 per person. A youth registration rate is available.

For more information, email Margaret Kenny or call 434-292-5331.

Written by Amy Loeffler

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