A new tall-fescue variety containing a beneficial or friendly endophyte should be released in 2009 by the Noble Foundation, says Joe Bouton of its Forage Improvement Division in Ardmore, CA. Fungal endophytes, he adds, may hold the key to improving the forage quality of tall fescues.

“Fungal endophyte research is a (rapidly) expanding field because of what (endophytes) can do for plants. Fungal endophytes live inside plants such as tall fescue and have a mutually beneficial relationship with their hosts, often improving the plant’s persistence and performance.”

Tall fescue, a cool-season perennial grass, covers more than 40 million acres in the U.S. alone. It is naturally infected with fungal endophytes, some of which are not beneficial to livestock, Bouton says. Fungal endophyte research has increased persistence in new varieties of tall fescue, while helping to eliminate the negative effects on livestock he says.

“The Noble Foundation is leading groundbreaking research in the field of fungal endophytes,” he says. “Our work has far-reaching implications, not just for scientists, but farmers and ranchers – regionally, nationally and internationally – are also going to benefit ... ”