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A mixed blessing

epichloe-typhina

The image shows Epichloe spp. infecting some of our grass.  It is a fungal grass infection commonly known as “choke”.  Neil Mahler, Suffolk county fungi recorder, says

“This is in fact beneficial to the host plant overall in that it causes more seeds to be produced, despite strangulating the infected tiller preventing flowering and seeds being produced.   An 80% increase of seed production in infected fields is often mentioned.

From a graziers point of view however this is similar to ergot and can have an effect on cattle and sheep called ‘ryegrass staggers’.  The more intense the grazing, more toxins are produced according to a study of Soay Sheep in the Hebrides (Bazely et al.,1997) in which poisonous alkaloid production in ungrazed grasses was considerably lower than in grazed grasses.”

Our cattle have wisely avoided it and the grazing intensity is very low – hopefully improving our seed crop!

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