Can endophyte-infected tall fescue minimize the grass tetany risk?

  • H. Rahman Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences, The University of Barishal, Barishal 8254, Bangladesh
  • S. Saiga Department of Plant Production, Faculty of Agriculture, Iwate University, Morioka 020-8550, Japan,
  • S. Sabreen The United Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Iwate University, Morioka 020-8550, Japan
  • R. Islam Soil, Water and Bioenergy Resources, The Ohio State University South Centers, Piketon, OH 45661, USA
Keywords: Andisol, Cool season grass, Biologically modified plant, Ecotype, Neotyphodium coenophialum


Non-toxic Neotyphodium (novel endophyte) has been shown to provide similar agronomic performance as wild-type endophyte to deter pathogens without exerting adverse effects on livestock. While the grass/novel endophyte interaction does not synthesize alkaloid peramine that has been linked to mammal toxicity, the connection between wild (naturally occurring) and/or novel endophyte infection and tetany ratio in forage has not been evaluated. The risk of grass tetany was evaluated in naturally occurring endophyte-infected tall fescue grass grown in Japanese Andisol. Three tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) ecotypes (Fukaura, Koiwai and Showa) either infected with Neotyphodium coenophialum (Morgan-Jones and Gams) Glenn, Bacon and Hanlin (E+), or noninfected (E-) were grown in low phosphorus (P) availability black Andisol and high P availability red Andisol under a controlled environment. The biomass nutrient concentration was measured and the tetany ratio, K/(Ca+Mg), was established for all three fescue ecotypes.

Results showed that K, Ca, and Mg concentrations and the K/(Ca+Mg) were significantly affected by endophytes, soils, and ecotypes and their interactions. Regardless of ecotypes and soils, K, Ca, and Mg concentrations were higher in endophyte-infected plants when compared to the control. Among the endophyte-infected ecotypes, the Fukaura and Koiwai showed higher K, Ca, and Mg concentrations in red Andisol. In contrast, the Showa ecotype showed higher K, Ca, and Mg concentrations in endophyte-infected plants than the control in black Andisol. Notwithstanding ecotypes and soils, endophyte-infected plants showed lower K/(Ca+Mg) than their counterparts, suggesting that the grass/endophyte interaction could provide a means of reducing the incidence of grass tetany in livestock.


1. Aibara, I., & Miwa, K. (2014). Strategies for optimization of mineral nutrient transport in plants: multilevel regulation of nutrient-dependent dynamics of root architecture and transporter activity. Plant Cell Physiol, 55(12), 2027-2036.
2. Barber, S.A. (1984). Nutrient Absorption by Plant Roots. In: Soil Nutrient Bioavailability: A Mechanistic Approach, (Ed. Barber, S.A.), J. Wiley & Sons: New York.
3. Blankenship, J.D., Spiering, M.J., Wilkinson, H.H., Fannin, F.F., Bush, L.P., & Schardl, C.L. (2001). Production of loline alkaloids by the grass endophyte, Neotyphodium uncinatum, in defined media. Phytochemistry, 58 (3), 395-401.
4. Bush, L.P., Fannin, F.F., Siegel M.R., Dahlman, D.L., & Burto, H.R. (1993) Chemistry, occurrence, and biological effects of saturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids associated with endophyte-grass interactions. Agric Ecosyst Environ, 44, 81-102.
5. Butler, E.J. (1963). The mineral element content of spring pasture in relation to the occurrence of grass tetany and hypomagnesemia in dairy cows. Journal of Agricultural Sciences (Cambridge), 60, 329-340.
6. Carrow, R.N. (1996). Drought avoidance characteristics of diverse tall fescue cultivars. Crop Sci., 36, 371-377.
7. Chen, Z., Jin, Y., Yao, X., Chen, T., Wei, X., Li C., White, J.F., & Nan, Z. (2020). Fungal endophyte improves survival of Lolium perenne in low fertility soils by increasing root growth, metabolic activity and absorption of nutrients. Plant Soil, 452, 185-206.
8. Crush, J.R., Popay, A.J., & Waller, J. (2004). Effect of different Neotyphodium endophytes on root distribution of a perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cultivar. New Zealand J Agric Res., 47, 345-349.
9. Dezam, A.P.G., Vasconcellos, V.M., Lacava, P.T., & Farinas, C.S. (2017). Microbial production of organic acids by endophytic fungi. Biocat Agric Biotechnol., 11, 282-287.
10. Fang, S., Liu, J., Liu, D., & Xie, B. (2010). Enzymatic activity and nutrient availability in the rhizosphere of poplar plantations treated with fresh grass mulch. Soil Sci Plant Nutr., 56, 483-491.
11. Farhat, N., Elkhouni, A., Zorrig, W., Smaoui, A., Abdelly, C., & Rabhi, M. (2016). Effects of magnesium deficiency on photosynthesis and carbohydrate partitioning. Acta Physiol Plant., 38,145.
12. Fribourg, H.A., Hannaway, D.B., West, C.P. (2009). Tall Fescue for the Twenty-First Century. Agronomy monograph No. 5. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Madison, WI, USA.
13. Guerre, P. (2015) Ergot Alkaloids Produced by Endophytic Fungi of the Genus Epichloë. Toxins, 7, 773-790.
14. Hannaway, D.B., Bush, L.P., & Leggett, J.E. (1982). Mineral composition of Kenhy tall fescue as affected by nutrient solution concentrations of Mg and K. Journal of Plant Nutrition, 5, 137-151.
15. Hides, D.H., & Thomas, T.A. (1981.) Variation in the magnesium content of grasses and its improvement by selection. J Sci Food Agric., 32, 990-991.
16. Hoveland, C.S., Schmidt, S.P., King, Jr.C.C., Odom, J.W., Clark, E.M., McGuire, J.A., Smith, L.A., Grimes, H.W, & Holliman, J.L. (1983) Steer performance and association of Acremonium coenophialum endophyte on tall fescue pasture. Agron Journal, 75, 821-824.
17. Hou, W., Wang, J., Nan, Z., Christensen, M.J., Xia, C., Chen, T., Zhang, Z., & Niu, X. (2020). Epichloë gansuensis endophyte-infection alters soil enzymes activity and soil nutrients at different growth stages of Achnatherum inebrians. Plant Soil, 455, 227-240.
18. Kemp, A., & Hart, M.L. (1957) Grass tetany in grazing milk cow. Neth. J. Agric. Sci. 5. P. 4-17.
19. Kobayashi, H., Rahman, M.H., Hossain, M.M., Suzuki, T., Inoue, T., & Saiga, S. (2004). Application of experimental animals to toxicological study of feed poisoning in livestock. Jpn J Anim Hyg., 30(2),103-109.
20. Kutil, B.L., Greenwald, C., Liu, G., Spiering, M.J., Schardl, C.L., & Wilkinson, H.H. (2007). Comparison of loline alkaloid gene clusters across fungal endophytes: Predicting the co-regulatory sequence motifs and the evolutionary history. Fungal Genet Biol., 44 (10), 1002-1010.
21. Latch G.C.M, Christensen M.J. (1985) Artificial infection of grasses with endophyte. Ann Appl Biol., 107(1), 17-24.
22. Leuchtmann, A., Bacon, C.W., Schardl, C.L., White, J.F., & Tadych, M. (2014). Nomenclatural realignment of Neotyphodium species with genus Epichloë. Mycologia. 106 (2), 202-215.
23. Malinowski, D.P., & Belesky, D.P. (2000). Adaptations of endophyte infected cool season grasses to environmental stresses: mechanisms of drought and mineral stress tolerance. Crop Sci. 40(4), 923-940.
24. Marschner, P. (2011). Marschner’s Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants. 3rd edn. Academic Press, San Diego.
25. Mayland, H.F., & Grunes, D.L. (1979) Soil-Climate-Plant Relationships in Etiology of Grass Tetany. In: Grass Tetany, Rendig, V.V. and Grunes D.L (Eds.). Vol. 35, 123-175. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc., Madison, WI 53711-5801, USA.
26. Mayland, H.F., & Sleper, D.A. (1993). Developing a tall fescue for reduced grass tetany risk. Proceedings XIV International Grassland Congress, Palmerton North, New Zealand and Australia, 17, 1095-1096.
27. Parish, J.A., McCann, M.A., Watson, R.H., Hoveland, C.S., Hawkins, L.L., Hill, N.S., & Bouton, J.H. (2003). Use of non-ergot alkaloid-producing endophytes for alleviating tall fescue toxicosis in sheep. J Anim Sci., 81, 1316-1322.
28. Rahman, M.H., Saiga, S., Kodama, Y., & Tsuiki, M. (2003). Effects of endophyte infection on tall fescue ecotypes grown in different Andisols. Grassl Sci., 49, 7-11.
29. Rahman, M.H., & Saiga, S. (2005). Endophytic fungi (Neotyphodium coenophialum) affect the growth and mineral uptake, transport, and efficiency ratios in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea). Plant Soil,, 272, 163-17.
30. Rahman M.H., Saiga, S., Sabreen, S., Kodama, Y., & Tsuiki, M. (2006). Neotyphodium endophyte infection affects the performance of tall fescue in temperate region Andisols. Grassl Sci., 52, 23-28.
31. Rahman, M.H., & Saiga, S. (2007). Endophyte effects on nutrient acquisition in tall fescue grown in Andisols. J Plant Nutr., 30, 2141-2158.
32. Rowan. D.D., & Latch, G.C.M. (1994) Utilization of Endophyte Infected Perennial Ryegrass for Increased Insect Resistance. In C. W. Bacon and J. F. White, Jr. (Eds.) Biotechnology of endophytic fungi of grasses. Boca Raton, Florida. CRC Press..
33. Ryan, T.A. (1960) Significance tests for multiple comparisons of proportions, variances, and other statistics. Psychol Bull., 57, 318-328.
34. Saiga, S. (1997) Possibility of livestock poisoning caused by endophyte. The Dairy Situation, 57, 14-21.
35. Saiga, S., Saitoh, H., Sabreen, S., & Tsuiki, M. (2002) Effectiveness of nutrient solution culture for detecting genetic variability in Mg concentration of orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.). Grassl Sci., 48, 209-215.
36. Shewmaker, G.E., Johnson, D.A., Mayland, H.F., Martin, S.A., & Hansen, S.B. (2004). Elemental uptake in relation to root characteristics of tall fescue. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal., 35(9-10),1339-1355.
37. Siegel, M.R., & Bush, L.P. (1997). Toxin Production in Grass/Endophyte Associations. In: Carroll, G.C., Tudzynski P. (eds.) Plant Relationships: The Mycota (A Comprehensive Treatise on Fungi as Experimental Systems for Basic and Applied Research), Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, Vol. 5, 185-207.
38. Sinclair, K., Fulkerson, W.J., & Morris, S.G. (2006). Influence of regrowth time on the forage quality of prairie grass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue under nonlimiting soil nutrient and moisture conditions. Aust. J. Exp. Agric., 46, 45-51.
39. Sleper, D.A., Vogel, K.P., Asay, K.H., & Mayland, H.F. (1989). Using plant breeding and genetics to overcome the incidence-of grass tetany. J. Anim. Sci., 67., 3456-3462.
40. White, J.F., Kingsley, K.L., Zhang, Q., Verma, R., Obi, N., Dvinskikh, S., Elmore, M.T., Verma, S.K., Gond, S.K., & Kowalski, K.P. (2019). Review: endophytic microbes and their potential applications in crop management. Pest Manage Sci., 75(10), 2558-2565.
How to Cite
Rahman, H., Saiga, S., Sabreen, S., & Islam, R. (2022). Can endophyte-infected tall fescue minimize the grass tetany risk?. Land Reclamation and Water Management, (1), 71 - 80.