Arthropod abundance in tall fescue, Lolium arundinaceum, pastures containing novel 'safe' endophytes

C. P. Keathley, D. A. Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Poor livestock performance on tall fescue is linked to infection by a fungal endophyte that enhances grass resistance to stress, including herbivory, while producing ergot alkaloids toxic to vertebrate grazers. Novel 'safe' endophyte/grass associations produce no ergot alkaloids yet retain stand persistence, but they could be more susceptible to insect outbreaks. We tested the hypothesis that grass-feeding insects are more abundant in novel endophyte pastures compared with those containing common endophyte. Above- and below-ground herbivores were sampled across two growing seasons in pastures containing common strain endophyte (KY31), novel endophytes (MaxQ or AR584) or endophyte free. We also sampled natural enemies as an indicator of possible tritrophic effects. With a few exceptions, numbers of predatory, chewing (grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars) or sucking insects (leafhoppers, planthoppers) were similar in common and novel endophyte pastures. Contrary to our hypothesis, Aphrodes spp. leafhoppers were more abundant in KY31 than other pasture types in 2008; their nymphs also were more abundant in KY31 than in MaxQ in 2009. Adults (but not total numbers or nymphs) of another leafhopper, Psammotettix striatus, were less abundant in KY31 than other pasture types in 2009. Popillia japonica and Cyclocephala spp. grubs did not differ in density, weight or instar among the endophyte-containing associations. In feeding assays, armyworm (Mythimna unipuncta) survival was higher on MaxQ and NE9301, and weight gain was higher on NE9301, suggesting armyworm outbreaks could be more severe on such grasses, but that result may not be attributable solely to alkaloids because common strain and endophyte-free grasses did not differ in either parameter. Caterpillar abundance did not differ among pasture types in the field. Our results suggest that re-seeding common strain endophytic pastures with livestock-safe novel endophyte/grass associations to alleviate fescue toxicosis is unlikely to promote markedly higher populations of plant-feeding insects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-587
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Entomology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Cicadellidae
  • Fescue toxicosis
  • Herbivory
  • Neotyphodium
  • Pasture
  • White grubs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Insect Science


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