The presence of the endophytic fungus Acremonium coenophialum Morgan-Jones et Gams in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) induces toxicity when this grass is grazed by cattle; however, there is evidence that removing the endophyte reduces the stand vigor and longevity of fescue. A field trial was conducted to determine the effects of water supply and the presence of the endophytic fungus on plant growth, drought tolerance, and soil nematode populations in 'Kentucky 31' tall fescue. The design included two factors, level of endophyte infection (0 and 75%) and irrigation regime (none, low, and high). Where water deficits occurred, herbage yield and leaf area were lower, and percentage dead tissue and canopy minus air temperature were greater in endophyte-free compared with endophyte-infected fescue. Soil populations of Pratylenchus scribneri and Tylenchorhynchus acutus were substantially higher in the noninfected than in the endophyte-infected plots. The endophyte apparently confers drought tolerance to Kentucky 31 tall fescue, and this effect may be at least partially mediated through enhanced resistance to soil-borne nematodes.
- Pratylenchus scribneri Steiner
- Tylenchorhynchus acutus Allen
- canopy temperature
- drought stress
- leaf area