Spring has to be my favorite time of year. Migrant song birds are on the return flight north, wildflowers are beginning to show their color, crappie are biting, turkeys are gobbling and… quail are nesting. There are a lot of fun and exciting things that we can do to enjoy the outdoors during this time, but we tend to seldom think about bobwhite quail as we are knee-deep in the turkey woods.
Little value to wildlife
Tall fescue is a vigorous, non-native plant that is very common across the state. Fescue provides very little benefit for wildlife. Fescue prevents other beneficial plants from becoming established. It also severely affects rabbit reproduction and obstructs the movement of baby quail.
Convert to warm-season grasses and forbs
Spring is a great time to begin converting your fescue fields into more wildlife-friendly plants, such as native warm-season grasses and wildflowers. These plant species provide excellent year-round habitat for quail and many other species of wildlife, including popular game species such as wild turkeys and deer. The most common method for converting fescue to other wildlife-friendly plants begins with an initial application of a glyphosate-based herbicide at 2.5 quarts per acre. Roundup is a common brand name, but there are others available. Make this herbicide application in early April when the temperatures are above 60 degrees F and fescue is actively growing. After the initial treatment and the fescue has turned brown, apply prescribed fire to remove the dead duff from the field. Within two to four weeks, apply a second treatment of Roundup to the site to remove any fescue still growing. At this time you may seed the site with a wildlife-friendly mix of native warm-season grasses or wildflowers of your choice.
If you follow these simple steps, you will be well on your way to improving the wildlife habitat on your farm. I would recommend that you contact your local Missouri Department of Conservation office for more information on eradicating tall fescue.