The USDA–Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Watkinsville, Ga., will be hosting a field day from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday June 12, 2007. The field day will consist of a guided technical program, information displays, and meal/fellowship.

All cattlemen and production — and environmentally-concerned citizens in the region are invited to attend this free event.

The technical program will describe (1) the significance and role of tall fescue in the region, (2) beef cattle performance and production with wild, novel, and endophyte-free tall fescue varieties, and (3) environmental quality of cattle grazing systems.

The field day is being co-sponsored by the Madison and Clarke-Oconee County Cattlemen’s Associations, the Georgia Grazing Lands Conservation Coalition, the USDA–Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the University of Georgia. Agrinostics Ltd. and Pennington Seed are sponsoring the evening meal.

Tall fescue is a common cool-season pasture grass that is naturally infected with a fungus (i.e. wild endophyte), which in association with the plant, produces chemical compounds known to cause a variety of animal health disorders.

Suggestions have been made that toxic symptoms might be exacerbated in pastures with animal manure application.

On the other hand, the presence of the fungus in tall fescue appears to be essential for the fitness of the grass to survive in stressful environments, such as the hot and humid conditions prevalent in the summer. Removing the endophyte completely from tall fescue has often resulted in stand loss.

A selected strain of the fungus that produces low levels of toxic ergot alkaloids (i.e. novel endophyte) has been isolated and inserted into tall fescue cultivars. How this grass persists requires long-term research.

Scientists at the USDA–ARS in Watkinsville have been evaluating pasture composition, beef stocker performance and weight gain, and soil and water quality from three fungus combinations (none, novel, and wild) with Jesup tall fescue and fertilized inorganically or with poultry litter during the past 5 years.

This field day will allow producers and the public to see and hear about this research, and to interact with scientists and professionals from around the area.

For further information, contact: Alan Franzluebbers, 706-769-5631 ext 223, e-mail: alan.franzluebbers@ars.usda.gov.