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Endophyte Effects on the Structure and Function of Tall Fescue Pasture
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences
Endophyte infection in tall fescue can cause significantly alter nutrient cycling and soil characteristics in pastures of the southeast. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the geographic range over which these endophyte effects are observed and to determine whether climate plays a role in governing these effects.
2010 Project Description
In 2010, we accomplished many outputs associated with this project.
Activities performed included: continuing to conduct a field experiment entitled Effects of Warming and Altered Precipitation Regime on Managed Grassland Structure and Function, initiating a trace gas and plant production dataset from field plots of common toxic and novel endophyte-infected (E+) and endophyte-free (E-) tall fescue plots, and performing lab work to characterize the soil nutrient and microbial pools of E+ and E- stands from Indiana and 8 additional locations throughout the southeastern U.S. We analyzed data from these projects. I taught several classes on this topic and mentored five graduate students, one postdoc, and one undergraduate.
Events that occurred were: I organized and facilitated a symposium on this broad topic at the International Symposium of Fungal Endophytes and Grasses Conference in July 2010; my group presented five talks/posters on this topic at conferences, and we participated in one field day, and one multi-state regional meeting. Review services were provided for two nationally competitive panels (USDA-AFRI and NSF), one Hatch proposal, one Kansas EPSCoR proposal, and >20 scientific manuscripts.
Products included creating new collaborations and writing competitive grants on the general topic. My group generated new fundamental knowledge about how tall fescue will respond to climate change and the dependency of these responses on endophyte infection status. I disseminated information on the topic of this KAES project through invited seminars (n=3) to college and university audiences and via presentations at the above mentioned conferences, field days, and workshops. I had one graduate student graduate with a MS degree in Plant & Soil Sciences.
This project has contributed to several changes in knowledge and is actively contributing to the development of the principle discipline (i.e., ecological effects of fungal endophyte symbioses in grasses). The results from our climate change and tall fescue - endophyte projects are some of the first of their kind, and are demonstrating that we do not know or understand as much about this symbiosis as we originally thought. Some surprises have occurred that are generating debate and interest from other scientists involved in the pursuit of this topic.
In addition, through my teaching and various presentations/demonstrations that I have made on this topic, I have educated the public and undergraduate and graduate students on the nature of science as well as this particular topic. I have also taught undergraduate students to identify fact, theories, and opinions in public press items related to agriculture that they read, with the ultimate goal of getting them to critically think about information presented to them on a daily basis.
Brosi, G.B., McCulley, R.L., Bush, L.P., Nelson, J.A., Classen, A.T., and Norby, R.J. 2010. Effects of multiple climate change factors on the tall fescue fungal endophyte symbiosis: infection frequency and tissue chemistry. New Phytologist (in press).
Hall, S.L., McCulley, R.L., and Barney, R.J. 2010. Restoration of native warm season grassland species in a tall fescue pasture using prescribed fire and herbicides. Restoration Ecology (in press).
McNear, Jr., D.H. and McCulley, R.L. 2010. Influence of the Neotyphodium tall fescue symbiosis on belowground processes. Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Fungal Endophytes of Grasses, Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK (in press).
Rua, M.A., McCulley, R.L., and Mitchell, C.E. 2010. Endophytic fungi and climate change drivers interact to alter virus prevalence in grasses. Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA.
Hall, S.A., McCulley, R.L., Barney, R.J., and Phillips, T.D. 2010. Effects of fungal endophyte symbiosis, prescribed fire, and water availability on tall fescue growth. Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA.