Start Date: Jun 17, 2008
End Date: Apr 30, 2013
Forage systems provide low cost feed, conserve soil and water resources, and mitigate man’s impact on the environment. Limited basic biological information exists on how plant and/or fungal metabolites affect forage plant quality, persistence, and production. Even less information exists on the cross-talk mechanism between tall fescue (the predominant forage of the transition zone) and its endophyte or about the impact that forage and/or fungal metabolites have on pasture ecosystems. Additionally, basic biological information is limited on how plant metabolites affect animal performance and health beyond the production level. Fundamental information concerning how these production level effects are elicited has only recently become a focus. As such, the available information for predicting animal performance in response to plant nutrients under varying environmental, genetic, physiological status, and management conditions is of limited use. Even more problematic is the poor understanding of the effects of plant nutraceuticals and anti-quality factors on nutrient intake, metabolism and assimilation for product, health maintenance, or work by the animal. Thus, to increase the sustainability of forage-based animal enterprises, it is essential that a better understanding be developed of the fundamental biological processes underlying the interactions between the animal, plant, and environment. This Specific Cooperative Agreement (SCA), through the development and utilization of cutting-edge technologies, real world testing, and technology transfer, proposes to help decipher the complex interactions within the animal-plant-environment interface in order to improve forage production and persistence as well as forage-animal health, performance, and forage intake and utilization. Research is focused on the utilization and production of the predominant forage (tall fescue) of the transition zone and its alternatives and/or companion species. To accomplish the objectives of this SCA, a number of differing methodologies including molecular and chemical investigations of animal tissue and cellular function, nutrient flux experiments in cattle, classical animal nutrition studies, doppler ultrasonography, molecular and chemical investigations of plant/fungal metabolites and physiological function, pasture ecological studies, forage breeding and applied grazing trials, will be utilized.