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Biological Attributes of Rattail Fescue (Vulpia myuros)

  • Daniel A. Ball (a1), Sandra M. Frost (a1), Lynn Fandrich (a2), Catherine Tarasoff (a2) and Carol Mallory-Smith (a2)...


Control of rattail fescue, a winter annual grass, can be difficult in spring or winter wheat. Although rattail fescue is not a new weed species in the Pacific Northwest, occurrences have been increasing in circumstances where soil disturbances are minimized, such as in direct-seed cropping systems. To develop integrated management strategies for rattail fescue, information is needed on the longevity of seed viability in the soil, the presence of seed dormancy, vernalization requirements, and optimal environmental conditions for seed germination and establishment under field conditions. Controlled experiments on the biology of rattail fescue indicated that newly mature seed required an afterripening period of 1 to 12 mo to obtain high levels of seed germination, depending on germination temperature. Maximum seed germination was observed at constant day/night temperatures of approximately 20 C from thermogradient plate studies. Germination tests from seed burial studies indicated that a majority of buried seed was not viable after 2 to 3 yr. Field-grown rattail fescue plants required vernalization to produce panicles and germinable seed. A short afterripening period, cool germination temperature, and vernalization requirements support the classification of rattail fescue as a winter annual. This information will facilitate development of rattail fescue management systems, including crop rotations and various control tactics such as tillage or herbicide application timing during fallow periods.


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