RUI: Systematics and Biological Studies of Balansieae (Ascomycetes)

Project Details


The Balansieae are widespread fungal associates of grass plants. All grass communities are likely to contain at least some individuals that are infected by members of the Balansieae group, and many communities in North America are composed of predominantly Balansieae-infected plants. Some of these fungi have been shown to enhance insect resistance, drought tolerance, and in some cases vegetative growth of host plants. Endophytic Balansieae are now routinely employed in turfgrass breeding programs to improve hardiness of commercial varieties and reduce turf requirements for water and pesticides. Balansieae also have major impacts on the livestock industry worldwide. Toxic syndromes affecting cattle grazed on endophyte-infected tall fescue frequently occur in the United States, while sheep grazed on endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass experience toxic syndromes in New Zealand. %%% Taxonomic knowledge of the ascomycetous fungi grouped in Balansieae is rudimentary, and classification schemes are based upon very few and potentially unreliable morphological features. Representative samples of species of the genera Balansia and Epichloe are being collected from North and South America, in order to determine more reliable morphological markers of the species and to correlate these with mating patterns in the laboratory. Reproductive compatibility groups, where correlated with morphological features, provide the basis for discriminating species. These basic taxonomic studies will prepare for future determination of phylogenetic relationships among the fungal taxa and the analysis of possible coevolution with host grasses.

Effective start/end date9/1/932/28/97


  • National Science Foundation: $118,056.00


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