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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Poisonous Plant Research » Research » Research Project #436003

Research Project: Understanding and Mitigating the Adverse Effects of Poisonous Plants on Livestock Production Systems

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Project Number: 2080-32630-014-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 25, 2019
End Date: Dec 3, 2023

Objective 1: Develop science-based guidelines for grazing livestock on rangelands infested with toxic plants and evaluate the potential for establishing improved forage species on infested sites to improve livestock productivity, reduce the risk of livestock loss, and improve other rangeland ecosystem services. See project plan for Sub-Objectives 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4. Objective 2: Evaluate the risks of livestock losses due to variations in quantitative and qualitative differences in toxin accumulation in various plant species. See project plan for Sub-Objectives 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7. Objective 3: Enhance feed and food safety by improving risk assessment and diagnosis of plant-induced poisoning to livestock by improving analytical methods for analyzing plant and animal tissues for toxins; measuring toxicokinetics, assessing carcinogenic and genotoxic potential, and identifying toxin metabolites and biomarkers of toxicoses. See project plan for Sub-Objectives 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4. Objective 4: Develop improved procedures with guidelines for diagnostic and prognostic evaluation to reduce negative impacts of poisonous plants on livestock reproduction and embryo/fetal growth by improving early identification of poisoned animals, predicting poisoning outcomes, and management and treatment options through improved understanding of clinical, morphological and molecular alterations of plant-induced toxicoses. See project plan for Sub-Objectives 4.1, 4.2, 4.3. Objective 5: Develop guidelines to aid producers and land managers in making genetic-based herd management decisions to improve livestock performance on rangelands infested with poisonous plants through the use of animal genetics, physiological pathways, and molecular mechanisms of action that underlie the effects of toxic plants. See project plan for Sub-Objectives 5.1, 5.2.

The livestock industry in the western United States loses over $500,000,000 annually from death losses and abortions due to poisonous plants (Holechek, 2002). Actual losses due to poisonous plants are much greater due to wasted forage and increased management costs. Plant poisonings occur worldwide and include 333 million poisonous plant-infested hectares in China (Xing et al. 2001; Lu et al. 2012) and 60 million hectares in Brazil (Low, 2015). There are hundreds of genera of toxic plants representing thousands of species. The Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory (PPRL) provides numerous solutions to toxic plant problems using an integrated, interdisciplinary approach representing several scientific disciplines and continues to provide worldwide leadership in poisonous plant research to the livestock industry and consumers. The PPRL research team investigates plant poisonings in a systematic manner by identifying the plant, determining the toxin(s), evaluating the mechanisms of action, and describing the effects in animals. The ultimate goal is to develop research-based solutions to reduce livestock losses from toxic plants. There are five coordinated objectives in this project plan providing guidelines for potential scientific-based management. The project focuses on several toxic plants including larkspur, locoweed, lupine, and dehydro-pyrrolizidine alkaloid (DHPA)-containing plants utilizing the research disciplines at the PPRL. This research will reduce livestock losses from plants and enhance the economic well-being of rural communities, improve rangeland health by combating invasive plant species, and help to provide safe animal products free from potential plant toxins for consumers.