Fine fescues: A review of the species, their improvement, production, establishment, and management

Ross C. Braun, Aaron J. Patton, Eric Watkins, Paul L. Koch, Nicole P. Anderson, Stacy A. Bonos, Leah A. Brilman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Fine fescues (Festuca L. spp.) comprise a group of five cool-season grasses used in turfgrass systems under many conditions: strong creeping red fescue (F. rubra L. ssp. rubra Gaudin), slender creeping red fescue [F. rubra L. ssp. littoralis (G. Mey.) Auquier], Chewings fescue [F. rubra L. ssp. commutata Gaudin; syn. F. rubra L. ssp. fallax (Thuill.) Nyman], hard fescue (F. brevipila Tracey), and sheep fescue [F. ovina L.; syn. F. ovina L. ssp. hirtula (Hack. ex Travis) M.J. Wilk.]. Their extensive geographic distribution is a result of adaptation to many different environmental and management conditions especially low-input sites. This review summarizes the history, production, establishment, management, use, and availability of fine fescues; discusses strengths and shortcomings of fine fescue; identifies knowledge gaps; and provides an outlook toward further research on this group of grasses. Improved cultivars have been developed in recent years that expand the geographic distribution and uses of species but additional efforts to increase seed yield and improve abiotic and biotic stress tolerances are still needed. Expanded use of fine fescue could be achieved through increased sod production of fine fescue, though current research-based information is limited. Research on fine fescue allelopathy and the contributions of fungal endophytes, both of which could lead to reduced pesticide requirements is important for improved pest management. Future research on fine fescues should focus on implementation and management of new cultivars that possess enhanced abiotic and biotic stress tolerance that will result in fewer inputs and improve the appeal and adoption of these low-input grasses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1187
Number of pages46
JournalCrop Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge the funding support by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Specialty Crop Research Initiative under award number 2017-51181-27222. The authors would also like to thank Dominic Petrella for his input on the allelopathy section, Sam Bauer for his assistance in collecting information on retail lawn seed products in Minnesota, and Chas Schmid on his assistance with fine fescue seed market estimations and Figure?5.

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