Taking Advantage of Plants’ Little Fungal Helpers

Thanks to Susan Fisk and the Soil Science Society of America for sharing this with On Pasture! In the Southern Great Plains of the United States, plants have a lot to deal with. Long hot summers, strong winds, low rainfall, disease, and grazing animals challenge growth. Luckily, the plants aren’t going it alone. Many have fungal helpers, endophytes, living inside them. Researchers at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation are working to harness the power of these endophytes. The initiative, Forage365, aims to help farmers provide livestock with year-round grazing. The team of scientists strategically identified four species -- alfalfa, Bermuda grass, tall fescue, and winter wheat – with overlapping growing seasons that cover the whole calendar. In addition, they have sought to identify research areas that can improve plant productivity. Their research with endophytes can help them reach this goal. In some cases, endophytes can help the plant but still be undesirable to farmers and ranchers. In the 1930s and ‘40s, tall fescue became popular as forage. However, ranchers eventually noticed it made their animals sick. After long investigations

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