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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Poisonous Plant Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #345437

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

Location: Poisonous Plant Research

Title: How planting configuration influences plant secondary metabolites and total N in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.)

Author
item CLEMENSEN, ANDREA - Utah State University
item ROTTINGHAUS, GEORGE - University Of Missouri
item Lee, Stephen
item PROVENZA, FRED - Utah State University
item VILLALBA, JUAN - Utah State University

Submitted to: Grass and Forage Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/7/2017
Publication Date: 5/29/2017
Citation: Clemensen, A.K., Rottinghaus, G.E., Lee, S.T., Provenza, F.D., Villalba, J.J. 2017. How planting configuration influences plant secondary metabolites and total N in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.). Grass and Forage Science. 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1111/gfs.12298.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/gfs.12298

Interpretive Summary: Theories suggest that incorporating alfalfa (Alf) or birdsfoot trefoil (BFT) into endophyte-infected tall fescue (E+TF) pasturelands may improve livestock production. We investigated how planting configuration might influence plant secondary metabolites (PSM) and nitrogen concentration in these forages. Total nitrogen (N), in addition to condensed tannins (CT), saponins and ergovaline (EV), was compared in BFT, Alf and E+TF, respectively, when forages grew in monocultures and all possible two-way “mixtures” using a block design with repeated measures in three blocks. Ergovaline concentrations in E+TF were greater when growing adjacent to legumes than when growing in monoculture, and N and EV concentrations in E+TF were positively correlated. No differences in saponins or CT were found when Alf or BFT grew in monoculture or in two-way mixtures. We conducted an in vitro trial to determine whether CT or saponins isolated from BFT and Alf, respectively, would bind to EV in water. Ergovaline bound to saponins to a greater extent than CT. Because EV was lower in E+TF monocultures than in E+TF–legume mixtures, and because CT and saponins may form complexes with EV which may alleviate fescue toxicosis, animals may benefit from systems which allow them to graze monoculture patches of E+TF and Alf or BFT rather than grass–legume mixtures.

Technical Abstract: Theories suggest that incorporating alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.; Alf) or birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.; BFT) into endophyte-infected tall fescue (Festuca arundinaceas Schreb.; E+TF) pasturelands may improve livestock production. We investigated how planting configuration might influence plant secondary metabolites (PSM) and nitrogen concentration in these forages. Total nitrogen (N), in addition to condensed tannins (CT), saponins and ergovaline (EV), was compared in BFT, Alf and E+TF, respectively, when forages grew in monocultures and all possible two-way “mixtures” using a block design with repeated measures in three blocks. Ergovaline (p < .01) and N (p < .001) concentrations in E+TF were greater when growing adjacent to legumes than when growing in monoculture, and N and EV concentrations in E+TF were positively correlated (r = .51; p = .001). No differences in saponins or CT were found when Alf or BFT grew in monoculture or in two-way mixtures (p > .10). We conducted an in vitro trial to determine whether CT or saponins isolated from BFT and Alf, respectively, would bind to EV in water. Ergovaline bound to saponins to a greater extent (39%; SE = 0.25) than CT (5.1%; SE = 5.13; p < .05). Because EV was lower in E+TF monocultures than in E+TF–legume mixtures, and because CT and saponins may form complexes with EV which may alleviate fescue toxicosis, animals may benefit from systems which allow them to graze monoculture patches of E+TF and Alf or BFT rather than grass–legume mixtures.