Fungal endophyte symbiosis alters nitrogen source of tall fescue host, but not nitrogen fixation in co-occurring red clover

Lindsey C. Slaughter, Anna E. Carlisle, Jim A. Nelson, Rebecca L. McCulley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Infection of tall fescue with the common toxic fungal endophyte Epichloë coenophiala harms livestock via toxic alkaloid production; therefore, non-toxic ‘novel’ strains of the endophyte have been developed and released. How different endophyte strains impact biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) in mixed species pastures is unknown. We asked whether novel endophyte or common toxic endophyte-infected (NE+; CTE+) tall fescue affects symbiotic and non-symbiotic BNF, and utilization of biologically-fixed nitrogen in tall fescue. Methods: Tall fescue was planted either endophyte-free (E-), infected with CTE, two non-toxic strains AR542 NE, AR584 NE, or a blend of endophyte treatments. We measured natural abundance of 15 N in plant and soil samples, and conducted soil acetylene reduction assays. Results: Endophyte presence and strain significantly affected the δ15N of tall fescue. Near red clover, CTE+ and AR584 NE+ tall fescue were most 15 N-depleted; but away, E- tall fescue was most 15 N-depleted. Endophyte strain significantly influenced N concentration in red clover, but not symbiotic or non-symbiotic BNF. Conclusions: Endophyte strains produce different effects on tall fescue’s competitive ability and nitrogen utilization. In mixed pastures, deployment of NE strains for decreased alkaloid toxicity will differentially impact use of biologically fixed nitrogen in tall fescue and nitrogen concentration in red clover.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-256
Number of pages14
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Acetylene reduction assay
  • Epichloë coenophiala
  • N natural abundance
  • Schedonorus arundinaceus Schreb
  • Temperate pasture
  • Trifolium pratense L


Dive into the research topics of 'Fungal endophyte symbiosis alters nitrogen source of tall fescue host, but not nitrogen fixation in co-occurring red clover'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this