details on these promising developments inAgricultural Research.
The Grass That Inspires Love and
By Don Comis
July 25, 2000
Whether you play golf or just admire
your lawn from a lawn chair--particularly on a hot day-- you should stop for a
moment to thank a toxic fungus called Neotyphodium coenophialum.
This fungus is the reason your tall fescue turf or lawn stays green during
short dry spells and survives the rigors of daily life, including golfing.
Its also the reason that farmers--and horse owners--have a love-hate
relationship with tall fescue. The same toxins that deter insects and other
pests from munching on your greens can do the same for the animals meant to
graze on fescue pastures. U.S. Department of
Agriculture scientists, working with university scientists, discovered this
Since then, Agricultural Research
Service scientists, such as animal scientist John A. Stuedemann in Georgia
and agronomist David P. Belesky in West Virginia, along with university and
other ARS colleagues, have worked on retaining the positive aspects of the
fungus-fescue relationship, while minimizing the negatives. Their work has
borne many fruits. The most recent of these are a vaccine, new fescue varieties
in the mill with less toxic forms of the fungus, and a discovery that the
fungus orders fescue roots to grow better and release
On a hot day, these fescue toxins can cause cattle to lose their ability to
regulate body temperature, which forces them to spend their days standing in a
pond or shade rather than eating. The toxins also endanger many of the
approximately 700,000 horses that graze on tall fescue pastures in the United
States, costing the horse industry big bucks that could dwarf the beef
industrys losses of up to $1 billion a year.
More details on these promising developments can be found in a cover story
and accompanying editorial in the July issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the chief scientific agency in USDA.
Scientific contact: John A. Stuedemann,
J. Phil Campbell, Sr., ARS Natural
Resource Conservation Center, Watkinsville, Ga., phone (706) 769-5631, fax
(706) 769-8962, email@example.com.