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Abstract

Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) is the most commonly grown cool season grass used for pastures in Arkansas. Most tall fescue contains a fungal endophyte (Acremonium coenophialum Morgan-Jones & Gams), which causes fescue toxicosis in livestock and costs cattle producers millions of dollars annually in lost production. Endophyte presence is known to reduce wild mammal populations in areas where tall fescue is prevalent. The endophyte spends its entire life cycle within the plant and is transmitted through the seed. The association is mutualistic with the plant providing nutrients for the endophyte and the endophyte conferring drought, insect, and nematode resistance to the plant. Several classes of alkaloids exist in endophyte-infected tall fescue including ergopeptides and lolines. The ergopeptides are animal toxins, where as lolines deter insects. Our present work is on elucidating physiological mechanisms explaining animal disorders and improved host drought tolerance due to endophyte, and on identifying endophyte strains that are not toxic to livestock but improve drought and pest resistance in tall fescue.

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