Southern Extension and Research Activity Information Exchange Group 8

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SERA-IEG 8 Fescue Endophyte Research and Extension

Group Statement

I. TITLE: Fescue Endophyte Research and Extension - SERA-IEG-8

II. JUSTIFICATION

A. Background:

Tall fescue is the most widely grown cool-season pasture grass in the U.S. Over 35 million acres of tall fescue are infected with Neotyphodium coenophialum, a fungal endophyte that costs cattle producers $560 million/year in reduced calf numbers and $233 million/year in reduced weaning weights. Endophyte-infected tell fescue causes cattle to experience reduced growth rate, increased reproductive problems, and poor milk production. Additionally, it causes similar problems in mares, including production of dead foals and other foaling difficulties as well as agalactia.

Despite its toxic endophyte, tall fescue remains the most widely grown pasture grass from eastern edge of North Caroline west to eastern Oklahoma and from central Alabama north to northern Missouri. Its popularity with livestock producers is based on its wide range of adaptation, its long growing season, and its persistence. Tall fescue persists by withstanding stresses from drought, diseases, and insects.

In the mid-1980's, endophyte-free tall fescues were released. Because they did not contain the toxic endophyte, these cultivars increased steer weight gains 30 to 100 percent. The endophyte-free tall fescues also provided normal conception and milk production. However, the new cultivars were less persistent. Research in the last eight years has shown that the endophyte-grass association is mutualistic. Tall fescue provides the host for the endophyte, while the endophyte helps tall fescues tolerate drought, resist pests, survive grazing, and compete in a mixed sward.

B. Formation of Southern Research Information Exchange Group (SRIEG)

A Southern Research Information Group (SRIEG) was formed in 1984 to permit scientists to exchange research data and ideas. Missing from the group was the technology transfer component, Extension Service, and their feedback relative to the management of endophyte-infected fescue. Unofficially, Extension became a valuable component of the Information Exchange Group. SRIEG-37, Fescue Toxicity, functioned effectively and efficiently. Plant geneticists, physiologists, pathobiologists, extension specialists, genetic engineers, animal geneticists, nutritionists, toxicologists, agricultural economists, and veterinarians participated in and supported SRIEG-37. In 1990, SRIEG-37 co-hosted and international symposium on the endophyte problem.

C. Southern Extension and Research Activity - Information Exchange Group (SERA-IEG-8)

The Southern Experiment Station Directors recognized the importance and contribution of the group and approved the changing of the groups' name to a Southern Regional Extension and Research Activity-Information Exchange Group (SERA-IEG). This activity terminates September 30, 1997. Because of the complexity of the problem, the results of research that are applicable to most endophyte-infected pastures and the excellent cooperation demonstrated, a request to extend the SERA-IEG, "Fescue Endophyte Research and Extension," for a four-year period is being submitted. Much remains to be done to understand the mechanism(s) of endophyte toxicity and to assist producers in the management of endophyte-infected pastures. New technologies in which the characteristics of the endophyte are being investigated as well the transfer of non-toxic novel endophytes into endophyte-free plants should lead to long term solutions of fescue toxicosis but with a very desirable forage plant. It is through the efforts of the participants of this group that three international symposiums on grass/endophyte interactions have been held. The last one being held in May 1997 in Athens, GA.

III. OBJECTIVES:

A. To exchange research information, techniques, and ideas.

B. To exchange technology transfer information and to develop management programs appropriate for utilization of endophyte-infected grasses under different applications.

IV. PROCEDURAL PLAN:

Since this is an information exchange group, plans must be directed to provide and effective exchange of information and coordination of efforts to support a teamwork approach. The Administrative Advisors to
SERA-IEG-8 will provide participation institutions with any updates of the objectives and official participants of the IEG, and request the Directors to identify any changes in the institution's participants and official representatives for Extension and Experiment Station components.

The basic format of the meeting will be an institution-by-institution presentation. Specific plans may include a summarization ofxtension fescue management recommendations and the feasibility of developing common recommendations. Researchers will be encouraged to review the problem and to identify areas that need additional or a new research approaches. This is an IEG; thus, the meeting should be constructed to maximize the exchange of ideas and information. The format should be flexible.

V. KINDS OF PARTICIPATION IN THE ACTIVITY:

A. Disciplines: Plant genetics, plant physiology, agronomy, animal genetics, reproductive physiology, veterinary medicine, nutritionists, toxicologists, biochemists, and genetic engineers.

B. Agencies: State Agricultural Experiment Stations, State Extension Services, Cooperative State Research Service, Cooperative Extension Service, Agricultural Research Service, and producers of fescue feed.

VI. DURATION:

Four-year period - October 1, 1997 - September 30, 2001.



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