Fescue renovation workshop to focus on novel endophytes
Fescue has long been blamed for causing a variety of problems in livestock. Heat stress, lameness, lack of milk and poor reproduction are the main problems sometimes related to toxins that are produced by the plant.
For years the problems were known by farmers and researchers, but the reason fescue caused such damaging problems remained a mystery according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
"Thanks to sound research efforts, the mystery was solved to a certain extent, with the discovery of an endophyte that resides within many fescue plants. The endophyte fungus gives the plant beneficial properties such as disease, insect and drought tolerance. Unfortunately, certain endophytes produce ergot alkaloids that cause more serious side-effects under certain conditions," said Cole.
Researchers have found there are endophytes that give the plant protection without the damaging effects mentioned earlier. These endophytes are referred to as novel or friendly endophytes and have now been introduced into several varieties of fescue.
A fescue renovation workshop is being offered at two locations in March to acquaint producers with tips on replacing toxic fescue with the novel endophyte fescue. Out with toxic fescue and in with new novel-endophyte fescue is the theme for the grazing schools,
The first "endophyte school" will be held at the University of Missouri Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon starting at 10 a.m. on March 18. The second school will be at the University's Forage Systems Research Center at Linneus on March 21, also starting at 10 a.m.
During the daylong school the topics include: fescue toxicosis, testing for the endophyte, establishing the novel varieties, new fescue variety management, cost-share incentives and more.
Speakers include University of Missouri Extension faculty, representatives from natural Resource Conservation Service, seed company reps as well as producers. The cost, includes meals, is $60 or $110 per couple.
"The schools are being conducted by the recently formed Alliance for Grassland Renewal. The alliance was developed to speed the adoption of replacing toxic fescue with friendly varieties which reduce the economic losses from toxic or hot fescue," said Cole.
The schools are planned by the Alliance for Grassland Renewal. The group brings fescue seed companies together with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, MU Extension and farmers. Seed representatives from the following companies will also participate: Barenbrug, DLF, AgResearch, Pennington and Mountain View.