Auburn University
Auburn University

      The Fescue Diagnostic Laboratory was implemented in 1983 to serve the needs of Alabama cattle producers who needed to have pastures and seed of tall fescue tested for the presence of the endophyte which causes "fescue toxicosis" in cattle. The rough hair coat and poor weight gain characteristic of this problem can be seen in the steer on the right, compared to the healthy steer on the left.

      This Neotyphodium coenophialum, formerly Acremonium coenophialum, is a fungus which lives within some fescue plants and produces ergot alkaloids. The dark serpentine lines on the picture below shows the fungus growing inside the tissues of a fescue plant.

      Most livestock grazing endophyte infected fescue or ryegrass can develop some form of fescue toxicosis. Broodmares have special problems foaling when they graze endophyte-infected pastures. (See the links section below for a complete explanation of fescue toxicosis). Ergot alkaloids are also produced by the ergot fungus, Claviceps which can infect almost any grass species including such cereal grains as as rye and sorghum.

Claviceps purpurea on rye Claviceps africana on sorgum in South America

      We accept samples from anyone, anywhere, and our clients have included cattlemen, horsemen, diverse other livestock owners, seed producers, veterinarians, consultants, and other researchers with specific needs.

Taking a Sample for Endophyte Testing

      Pastures may be tested at any time when the plants are growing, but it is important that the sample represent the pasture being tested. The tiller, or stem, of the plant is a good part of the plant to test. Cover as much of the pasture as possible, stopping at intervals to take one tiller from a plant at each of at least 50 locations. Take the lowest 3-4 inches of the tiller, removing any soil or long leaf blades. Remember, we need the stem or tiller to test. Be sure that plants are fescue and not orchardgrass or ryegrass, which are similar in appearance. Plants in flower may also be sampled by taking at least 50 culms or stems which bear the flowers. Again, be sure to sample from different widely separated plants, and include the flowers. This will also aid in identification of the plants. Wrap the plant material in a slightly damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag, and mail so that it arrives within 2-3 days. Avoid a weekend mailing, especially in hot weather.

      Seeds for testing should be taken from many different bags in the seed lot, or taken with a probe if the seed are in a storage bin. The seed should be dry, and no other special handling or mailing precautions are needed. Two tests are available for seeds, the stain test and the growout test. Staining will reveal the presence and amount of endophyte, but not viability of the fungus. The growout test will reveal whether the fungus is alive and infective, but it takes longer and costs a little more.

      Within a few weeks we will report back to you the percentage of plants or seeds which were infected, along with a recommendation for your livestock based on the best available research information.

Current Schedule of Fees

  • Staining Test for Plants or Seeds

    Alabama Residents - $20.00

    Out of State - $30.00

  • Growout Test for Seeds

    Alabama Residents - $30.00

    Out of State - $35.00

      To send us a sample, you can use this form. (To print form: Point to the form and click the mouse. Go to the menu bar, click File then Print from your web browser.

We can mail the following literature to you, just drop us an email.

  • Fescue Diagnostic Lab Brochure: Explains sampling, mailing, fees, etc. in more detail.
  • Tall Fescue/Endophyte/Animal Relationships: Explains effects of infected fescue on Cattle and Horses.

If you wish to contact us by snail mail:

Fescue Diagnostic Laboratory
209 Life Science Building
Auburn University, AL 36849-5409

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