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Plant Toxins

Old cultivars of reed canarygrass, and all wild reed canarygrass, are high in alkaloid content. High alkaloid content can cause serious neurological disorders, while lower concentrations cause less serious problems of diarrhea and weight loss. Essentially all seed currently sold is low alkaloid types, but care should be taken if utilizing any wild reed canarygrass for forage purposes. Old cultivars of tall fescue were infected with an endophytic fungus that caused a variety of toxic syndromes leading to serious animal health problems. The fungus travels with the seed, but prolonged seed storage eliminates the fungus. Almost all tall fescue now sold is endophyte-free, or deliberately infected with a novel endophyte that confers plant stress tolerance without production of toxic ergot alkaloids.