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(fescue), a genus of plants of the family Gramineae. They are perennial grasses with panicled inflorescences. The laterally compressed spikelets are three- or more-flowered.
There are approximately 300 known species of fescue, distributed primarily in the temperate and cold zones of both hemispheres. Some species are found in the mountains of the tropical zone. There are 51 species in the USSR, found from the tundra to the deserts. With rare exceptions, fescues are valuable forage plants. Readily eaten by livestock, they sprout well after grazing and tolerate trampling by the animals. Some species preserve their green leaves throughout the winter and serve as forage in winter pastures. Many fescues have been cultivated. The following species have the greatest economic importance: meadow fescue (F. pratensis), red fescue (F. rubra), and F. valesiaca (formerly F. sulcata).
Meadow fescue, a sparsely branching grass, has a panicle that is secund before blossoming and diffuse during blossoming. The somewhat elongated spikelets have blunt glumes that are membranous along the edges. The lemmas are awnless. The underside of the leaf is shiny. Meadow fescue is widely distributed in the forest and forest-steppe zones, as well as in mountain regions of the USSR where there is sufficient moisture. It grows along forest edges, in glades, and on floodplains. The plant is frost resistant and is able to survive prolonged flooding; it tolerates drought poorly. Meadow fescue prefers loamy and clayey soils. It grows best in the third or fourth year of life; in herbage, it grows for six to eight years or longer. Meadow fescue yields up to 50 quintals of highly nutritious hay per hectare. One hundred kg of hay yield 60.2 feed units and 4.2 kg of digestible protein.
Red fescue is a sparsely branching perennial grass. It sometimes has small, thin rhizomes. The spikelets are lanceolate and have a violet tinge. The lower lemma is short-awned. The leaves are long and narrow. Red fescue is widely distributed in the forest zones; it is less common in the forest-steppe, steppe, and mountain zones. It grows along mountain slopes and on flood-plains in regions having an abundance of moisture. The plant grows best on sandy-loam and light loam soils. It tolerates salinity and is frost resistant. The plant grows best in the third to fifth years; it is long-lived. Red fescue is a valuable perennial pasture and lawn grass. It yields 15–25 quintals of hay per hectare. One hundred kg of hay contains 50.3 feed units and 3.5 kg of digestible protein.
F. valesiaca, a low tufted grass measuring 20–35 cm tall, has bristlelike gray-green leaves. The spikelets are small, and the lemmas have a short awn. The plant is distributed south of the forest-steppe zone and in the steppe and semidesert zones. It grows on disused virgin and old lands on solonetzes and solonchaks. The plant is exceptionally frost resistant and drought resistant. It sprouts in the spring, earlier than other grasses. It is used mainly as a spring and autumn pasture plant. The plant serves as a fattening fodder for sheep. The yield of hay in natural herbages is 3–5 quintals per hectare. One hundred kg of hay contains 52.2 feed units and 5 kg of digestible protein.
Some mountain fescues, such as F. coelestis, which is found in the Tien-Shan and Pamir-Altai, are also important fodder plants.
REFERENCESKormovye rasteniia senokosov i pastbishch SSSR, vol. I. Edited by I. V. Larin. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Mnogoletnie travy v lugopastbishchnykh sevooborotakh. Moscow, 1951.
N. K. TATARINOVA