Epichloë Endophyte Infection Rates and Alkaloid Content in Commercially Available Grass Seed Mixtures in Europe
Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, University of Würzburg, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
Noble Research Institute LLC, Ardmore, OK 73401, USA
Department of Pharmaceutical Biology, Metabolomics Core Unit, University of Würzburg, 97082 Würzburg, Germany
Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research (SIAF), University of Zurich, and Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB), 7265 Davos, Switzerland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Microorganisms 2020, 8(4), 498; https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms8040498
Received: 19 February 2020 / Revised: 17 March 2020 / Accepted: 28 March 2020 / Published: 31 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fungal Endophytes and Their Interactions with Plants)
Fungal endophytes of the genus Epichloë live symbiotically in cool season grass species and can produce alkaloids toxic to insects and vertebrates, yet reports of intoxication of grazing animals have been rare in Europe in contrast to overseas. However, due to the beneficial resistance traits observed in Epichloë infected grasses, the inclusion of Epichloë in seed mixtures might become increasingly advantageous. Despite the toxicity of fungal alkaloids, European seed mixtures are rarely tested for Epichloë infection and their infection status is unknown for consumers. In this study, we tested 24 commercially available seed mixtures for their infection rates with Epichloë endophytes and measured the concentrations of the alkaloids ergovaline, lolitrem B, paxilline, and peramine. We detected Epichloë infections in six seed mixtures, and four contained vertebrate and insect toxic alkaloids typical for Epichloë festucae var. lolii infecting Lolium perenne. As Epichloë infected seed mixtures can harm livestock, when infected grasses become dominant in the seeded grasslands, we recommend seed producers to test and communicate Epichloë infection status or avoiding Epichloë infected seed mixtures.