Date of this Version
Published in J. Prod. Agric. 1:127-132 (1988).
Breeding tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) cultivars that are free of the endophytic fungus Acremonium coenophialum Morgan-Jones and Gams [previously identified and referred to as Epichloe typhina (Fries) Tulasne] is necessary to improve animal performance. The techniques used in developing new cultivars are not greatly different from those used previously, with one exception. Prior to the evaluation of new tall fescue lines or populations, the endophyte needs to be eliminated from the seed or the plants. Several techniques utilizing aging, heat, or chemical treatment are being used to effectively accomplish this in the seed. Methods for permanently eliminating the endophyte from plants are not available. The major new considerations in breeding endophyte-free tall fescue cultivars do not involve drastic changes in breeding methodology, but rather focus on new objectives. In the past, much effort was directed at overcoming the toxic effects of the endophyte. Now, breeders can focus their efforts on objectives such as increasing digestibility, physiological efficiency, mineral uptake, and insect and disease resistance. Losses in stress tolerance due to the elimination of the endophyte from tall fescue may also have to be addressed, especially in areas of marginal adaptation.