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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Poisonous Plant Research » Research » Research Project #445578

Research Project: Developing Mitigation Strategies for Poisonous Plants in Livestock Production Systems

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Project Number: 2080-21500-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 4, 2023
End Date: Dec 3, 2028

Objective 1: Develop science-based guidelines to reduce livestock losses on rangelands, including evaluating differences in toxin accumulation in poisonous plants. Sub-objective 1.A: Evaluate herbicides to determine efficacy in controlling Geyer larkspur (Delphinium geyeri) and determine if the toxicity of Geyer larkspur changes due to herbicide treatment. Sub-objective 1.B: Determine the effect of forage selenium concentrations on relative palatability, and subsequent productivity in livestock. Sub-objective 1.C: Characterize changes in norditerpene alkaloids in Delphinium species among geographical locations, plant parts, and over the growing season. Sub-objective 1.D: Screen herbarium specimens representing species of different genera (Delphinium, Zigadenus, Astragalus, Oxytropis, and Salvia) for suspected toxins. Objective 2: Enhance methods for analyzing plant and animal tissues for plant toxins, measuring toxicokinetics, assessing carcinogenic and genotoxic potential, as well as identifying plant toxin metabolites and biomarkers of toxicoses. Sub-objective 2.A: Evaluate the utility of earwax and hair as noninvasive specimens for diagnosis of livestock exposure to additional poisonous plants (death camas, locoweed, and lupine). Sub-objective 2.B: Characterize the carcinogenic potential of purified dehydro-pyrrolizidine alkaloids (DHPA’s) (lasiocarpine, seneciphylline, senecionine, heliotrine and their n-oxides) and compare these with known DHPA carcinogens. Sub-objective 2.C: Determine primary serum and rumen biomarkers for livestock poisoned by death camas. Sub-objective 2.D: Evaluate DNA metabarcoding technologies as a diagnostic method for poisoned animals and contaminated feeds. Objective 3: Develop improved diagnostic and prognostic procedures to reduce negative impacts of poisonous plants on livestock including early identification of poisoned animals, predicting poisoning outcomes, as well as best management and treatment options. Sub-objective 3.A: Compare the pathological changes in livestock poisoned by Ipomoea carnea with and without swainsonine. Sub-objective 3.B: Determine the effects of chronic exposure to excessive amounts of selenocompounds commonly found in supplements and forages, on spermatogenesis and sperm quality in sheep. Sub-objective 3.C: Develop drug treatments for livestock that are poisoned by poison hemlock. Sub-objective 3.D: Determine the potential toxicity and teratogenicity of hemp to livestock. Objective 4: Develop guidelines to aid producers and land managers in making evidence-based herd management decisions to improve livestock performance on rangelands infested with poisonous plants. Sub-objective 4.A: Determine if mineral supplementation can reduce plant-induced poisonings of livestock. Sub-objective 4.B: Characterize conditions that cause sheep to become poisoned when grazing on death camas-infested rangelands. Sub-objective 4.C: Compare the susceptibility of cattle that are native to larkspur-infested ranges to cattle that are naïve to larkspur-infested ranges. Sub-objective 4.D: Comparison of the susceptibility of taurine and indicine cattle to lupine toxicosis.

There are hundreds of genera of toxic plants, representing thousands of species. Plant poisonings occur worldwide including 333 million hectares infested with poisonous plants in China and 60 million hectares in Brazil. The livestock industry in the western United States loses over $500 million annually from death losses and abortions due to poisonous plants. Actual losses due to poisonous plants are much greater due to wasted forage, reduced animal performance, and increased management costs. 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 the scientific community. 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. Our mission is to develop research-based solutions to reduce livestock losses from toxic plants. There are four 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-containing plants utilizing the various scientific disciplines of the staff. The products of this research will help to 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.