Festulolium (Italian X Meadow)
Festulolium is the name for a hybrid forage grass developed by crossing certain fescues and ryegrass. This enables combining the best properties of the two types of grass. The resulting hybrids have been classified as:
Festuca pratensis (Meadow Fescue)
Lolium multiflorum (Italian Ryegrass)
As with most hybrids, the plant breeders attempt to breed the best parts of both parent varieties into the hybrid to create something that improves on the parents’ traits with hybrid vigour. The fescues generally are high yielding and winter hardy, while the ryegrass varieties are palatable with high sugar and protein content. Particular attention should be given to variety selection to ensure that your desired outcomes are met. There is a wide range of varieties even within each hybrid segment depending on the characteristics and phenotypes which have been created.
From F. pratensis: improved root structure, improved animal palatability to late seed head formation, persistent green gene effect, perenniality, extreme cold tolerance.
From L. multiflorum: Fast seedling establishment, very high early spring growth to meet animal life requirements, high seed production potential, good resistance to net blotch and fusarium.
The first festulolium hybrids were listed in the USA and the UK already in the 1960s. The first hybrids used in agriculture were listed in the end of 1980’s and beginning of 1990’s in Germany, former Czechoslovakia and Poland.
1-2 years. Persistence is dependent on variety. An Italian Ryegrass x Meadow Fescue hybrid would not be expected to persist more than a few years. If longer persistence is desired, look at a Perennial Ryegrass festulolium hybrid. Most festuloliums are not to be considered a “permanent” forage grass species in Eastern Canada.
Pasture, hay, silage, stockpiled.
Optimal Time of Use
Spring, summer, fall, winter. Hay festulolium by early heading. Regrowth may be grazed or stockpiled. Festulolium can be continually or rotationally grazed. Enter at 25-30 cm (10-12 inches) and exit/leave at least 7.5 -10 cm (3 -4 inches) for substantial regrowth to occur. Basal leaf growth develops from new tillers throughout the season. Begins growing a little later than other grass- manage accordingly. Good for summer grazing or stockpiling for fall and early winter grazing as it maintains quality well after fall frosts and stands erect through light snowfall. For silage or green chop, festulolium needs to be cut before seed heads emerge for optimum forage quality.
Recovery After Use
Festulolium performs best under a rotational grazing system and should be grazed down to ( 7.5-10 cm (3-4 inches) when plants reach a height of 25-30 cm (10 to 12 in).
Excellent palatability in vegetative stages.
Moderate tolerance. Recovers quickly.
Withstands 2-5 weeks of spring flooding and tolerates wet or waterlogged soil often spring through fall.
Fair to poor tolerance. Winter survival depends on hybrid selection, conditions, drought and dormancy breaks.
Soil Texture Preference
Prefers deep, moist, silty to clayey soils.
Moderate erosion control.
Seeds per kg
499,400 seeds/kg (227,000 seeds/lb)
Grows well with tall growing legumes such as alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, red clover, and alsike clover for hay. Consider seeding with meadow brome and a legume for pasture or stockpiled grazing.
Ease of Establishment
Festulolium is easy to establish due to its rapid germination and seedling vigor.
Once established, hybrid festuloliums can be competitive.
Festulolium seeds should be planted at 25 to 35 lbs. per acre alone, or at 5 to 20 lbs. per acre if included in a combination with other species. Seeding depth is 1/4 inch. In general, 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year will be adequate to maintain a good stand of festulolium. The guideline is to apply 1/3 of the nitrogen in the spring with the balance evenly applied after each harvest or grazing period.
OMAFRA Publication 30: https://www.ontario.ca/files/2022-10/omafra-guide-to-forage-production-en-2022-10-19.pdf