Grass germplasm collection also includes fungal endophytes

January 28, 2011 By Jan Suszkiw

( -- 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: Fungi may help protect plants from disease

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

Related Stories

Fungi may help protect plants from disease

November 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 Switchgrass Germplasm Collected in Florida

November 26, 2009

( -- 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 potential bioenergy ...

New fungi could curb grasshopper populations

January 7, 2011

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

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A huge chunk of a tardigrade's genome comes from foreign DNA

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have sequenced the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, the only animal known to survive the extreme environment of outer space, and found something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.