Grass germplasm collection also includes fungal endophytes

Jan 28, 2011 By Jan Suszkiw

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the world's largest collections of cool-season forage and turf grasses is located at the Western Regional Plant Introduction Station (WRPIS), operated in Pullman, Wash., by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It could also be said that the station is, by default, among the largest collections of endophytes, a specialized group of Neotyphodium that live symbiotically within the tissues of certain grasses—tall fescue among them.

The endophytes' presence can be a mixed bag, however. On the one hand, they help their grass hosts tolerate stresses like drought and they produce metabolites that repel insect pests. But some of the metabolites—notably, ergot alkaloids—can cause fescue toxicosis in grazing livestock.

Fortunately, intensive research over the past several years has identified new endophyte strains that don't cause fescue toxicosis, but that still confer desirable benefits to grass.

According to Stephen Clement, who recently retired as an entomologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Pullman, research organizations in the United States and abroad are increasingly mining the WRPIS collection to identify new strains of these nontoxigenic endophytes. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Mindful of the interest in the collection, Clement and colleagues with the ARS Seed and Cereal Research Unit in Corvallis, Ore., conducted research to ensure that the station's current seed regeneration practices are suitable for maintaining viable stores of the endophytes.

Clement had been conducting studies to better characterize the diverse grass-endophyte associations in the collection and to determine what effect this has on feeding by insect pests. In recent research, Clement observed a decline in the survival of cereal leaf beetles—invasive pests of Pacific Northwest seed nurseries—that fed on endophyte-infected grasses, including the wild tall fescue Lolium arundinaceum.

Explore further: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

More information: Read more about this research in the January 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Provided by USDA Agricultural Research Service

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fungi may help protect plants from disease

Nov 22, 2005

Scientists say they've determined microscopic fungi living inside trees might help protect the trees from disease and predators. The fungi, called endophytes, are found throughout various types of plants, with different endophyte ...

New fungi could curb grasshopper populations

Jan 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Beneficial fungi that could help manage grasshopper populations are being tested by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and university colleagues.

New Switchgrass Germplasm Collected in Florida

Nov 26, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators have collected 46 new populations of switchgrass in Florida, adding valuable new accessions to the germplasm collection of this ...

Recommended for you

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

Sep 19, 2014

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

Asian stars enlisted to fight African rhino poaching

Sep 19, 2014

Increasingly desperate South African conversationists are turning to a multi-national team of "rhino ambassadors" to try to end the scourge of poaching—and Vietnamese pop diva Hong Nhung has been recruited ...

Tropical fish a threat to Mediterranean Sea ecosystems

Sep 18, 2014

The tropical rabbitfish which have devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea pose a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin if their distribution continues to expand as the climate ...

User comments : 0