Fescue renovation workshop focuses on novel endophytes

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fescue has long been blamed for causing a variety of problems in livestock. Heat stress, lameness, lack of milk and poor reproduction are the main problems sometimes related to toxins that are produced by the plant.

For years the problems were known by farmers and researchers, but the reason fescue caused such damaging problems remained a mystery according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"Thanks to sound research efforts, the mystery was solved to a certain extent, with the discovery of an endophyte that resides within many fescue plants. The endophyte fungus gives the plant beneficial properties such as disease, insect and drought tolerance. Unfortunately, certain endophytes produce ergot alkaloids that cause more serious side-effects under certain conditions," said Cole.

Researchers have found there are endophytes that give the plant protection without the damaging effects mentioned earlier. These endophytes are referred to as novel or friendly endophytes and have now been introduced into several varieties of fescue.

Fescue workshop

A fescue renovation workshop is being offered in March to acquaint producers with tips on replacing toxic fescue with the novel endophyte fescue. Out with toxic fescue and in with new novel-endophyte fescue is the theme for the grazing schools.

The endophyte school will be held at the University of Missouri Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon starting at 10 a.m. on March 18.

During the daylong school the topics will include: fescue toxicosis; testing for the endophyte; establishing the novel varieties; new fescue variety management; and cost-share incentives.

Speakers will include University of Missouri Extension faculty, representatives from natural Resource Conservation Service, seed company reps and producers. The cost, which includes a meal, is $60 for a single person or $110 per couple.

To reserve at seat the event call 417-466-2148 or email rathmanc@missouri.edu.

"The schools are being conducted by the recently formed Alliance for Grassland Renewal. The alliance was developed to speed the adoption of replacing toxic fescue with friendly varieties, which reduce the economic losses from toxic or hot fescue," said Cole.

The schools are planned by the Alliance for Grassland Renewal. The group brings fescue seed companies together with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, MU Extension and farmers. Seed representatives from Barenbrug, DLF, AgResearch, Pennington and Mountain View will also participate.

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