Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Poisonous Plant Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #341290

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

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Title: Plant secondary metabolites in alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, reed canarygrass, and tall fescue unaffected by two different nitrogen sources

Author
item Clemensen, Andrea - Utah State University
item Provenza, Fredrick - Utah State University
item Lee, Stephen
item Gardner, Dale
item Rottinghaus, George - University Of Missouri
item Villalba, Juan - Utah State University

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/16/2017
Publication Date: 3/3/2017
Citation: Clemensen, A.K., Provenza, F.D., Lee, S.T., Gardner, D.R., Rottinghaus, G.E., Villalba, J.J. 2017. Plant secondary metabolites in alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, reed canarygrass, and tall fescue unaffected by two different nitrogen sources. Crop Science. 57(2):964–970. https://doi.org/10.2135/cropsci2016.08.0680.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2135/cropsci2016.08.0680

Interpretive Summary: Plant secondary metabolites may increase the sustainability of agriculture systems by reducing inputs, as plant secondary metabolites protect plants against herbivores and pathogens, act as pesticides, insecticides, and antiworming agents, while also attracting pollinators and seed dispersers. Therefore, it is important to understand what affects plant secondary metabolites fluctuation in plant tissues. Limited research has investigated how different nitrogen sources affect plant secondary metabolites concentration in alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, reed canarygrass, and endophyte-infected tall fescue. We investigated how manure and synthetic fertilizer influence nitrogen concentrations and the plant secondary metabolites; ergovaline, gramine, saponins, and extractable condensed tannins in endophyte-infected tall fescue, reed canarygrass, alfalfa, and birdsfoot trefoil, respectively. Our results reveal the variability in plant secondary metabolites production by plants and highlight the complexities of predicting fluctuations of plant secondary metabolites in forages. As environments where plants grow vary through space and time, we recommend studies on a case-by-case basis depending on land management objectives.

Technical Abstract: Plant secondary metabolites (PSM) may increase the sustainability of agriculture systems by reducing inputs, as PSM protect plants against herbivores and pathogens, act as pesticides, insecticides, and anthelmintics, while also attracting pollinators and seed dispersers. Therefore, it is important to understand what affects PSM fluctuation in plant tissues. Limited research has investigated how different nitrogen (N) sources affect PSM concentration in alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.; Alf), birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.; BFT), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.; RCG), and endophyte-infected tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.; E+TF). We investigated how fecal manure (feces) and synthetic N fertilizer (urea; 46% H2NCONH2) influence N concentrations and the PSM ergovaline, gramine, saponins, and extractable condensed tannins (CT) in E+TF, RCG, Alf, and BFT, respectively. Ergovaline, saponins, and CT were not affected by fertilization. Gramine tended (P = 0.06) to be greater in control plots than in fertilized plots. Total N in E+TF and RCG was greater (P < 0.05) and tended to be greater for Alf (P = 0.08) in synthetically fertilized plots than in unfertilized plots. Seasonal variation in PSM and N was significant (P < 0.003) across all species and it was species-specific. Total N in E+TF was greatest in June (41.4 g kg-116 ) while ergovaline contents were at the lowest values recorded (117.2 µg kg-117 ), with subsequent increases to the greatest ergovaline values observed in July (680.0 µg kg-118 ). Our results reveal the variability in PSM production by plants and highlight the complexities of predicting fluctuations of PSM in forages. As environments where plants grow vary through space and time, we recommend studies on a case-by-case basis depending on land management objectives.