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Plant Industry - Seed and Fertilizer Section

Endophyte Testing Service

A number of grasses, including tall fescue and perennial ryegrass, contain a fungal endophyte which has a beneficial relationship with the grass host. The tall fescue endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum (previously Acremonium coenophialum), lives exclusively inside plants, and can only be detected through laboratory analysis. This endophyte has been proven to give the grass insect, disease and mammal resistance. Though very beneficial to tall fescue plants, this endophyte produces chemicals which are toxic to a variety of animals. In North Carolina, fescue toxicosis is especially a problem in horses and cattle.

Most of the perennial ryegrass and tall fescue seed sold in North Carolina is used for lawn and turf purposes, where the presence of the Neotyphodium endophyte is beneficial. The perennial rygrass endophyte, Neotyphodium lolii, has a similar lifestyle to the tall fescue endophyte and is detected in the same way. The only way either endophyte is know to spread is through infected seed produced by infected plants.

When Should You Use The Testing Service?

Livestock, lawn and turf, and seed producers who grow tall fescue should consider using the service when the following conditions occur:
1. You want to ensure the endophyte is present and viable for use as a biological control agent.
2. Symptoms of fescue toxicosis are observed in animals grazing tall fescue during the summer.
  • Poor gains
  • Unthrifty appearance
  • Rough hair coat
  • Low milk production
  • Elevated temperature or respiration rates
  • Standing in water or shade for long periods

Grazing Cow
3. Horses or other animals grazing tall fescue are having reproductive problems.
Grazing Horse
4. You are establishing or renovating a pasture with your own or unlabeled seed.
5. You are producing tall fescue for seed.
6. You have renovated a pasture and you want to ensure that a thorough kill of the old pasture occured.
Sampling Procedure for Pastures and Lawns
1. Take at least 30 tillers per sample (Note: Tall fescue is a clump grass and each "stem" in the clump is called a tiller.) Take one and only one tiller from each plant selected. Remove the tiller with the root attached. Then remove roots and soil (see figure below on right) and place in a plastic bag. If sample will not be mailed that day, refrigerate sample until mailed. DO NOT FREEZE TISSUE! Do not select tillers that have flowers or seed heads. Make sure you correctly identify the plants as fescue or ryegrass.
Clump of FescueTiller of Fescue
2. Limit the field, lawn or turf area to a maximum of 10 acres. Take a sample from which the seed lot, seeding date, and production practices are similar.
3. Take more samples in:
  • Fields greater than 10 acres
  • Fields originating from different seed lots or seeding dates
  • Fields with different management practices
4. Sample a field or area using the scheme below:
Field Sampling Pattern
5. For pastures, avoid sampling ditch banks, fence rows, and other non-typical areas in the field.
6. Avoid sampling during periods of rapid growth and after severe freezes.
Sampling Procedure for Seed

New crop seed, seed less than a year old, are examined with a seed stain test. If the fungus is detected, it is assumed to be viable. Turnaround time is about two weeks. The endophyte viability test is used for old crop seed, or seed more than a year old. The seed must be grown out, and the resulting plants are examined for viable fungus. Turnaround time is about 10 weeks.

Sampling Seed Fields

Take a random sample of seed, preferably after harvest. Include seed from many different fescue plants in the sample area. Seed taken from any given plant will produce the same results.

Sampling Bags of Seed

A single sample of seed should represent no more than 2,000 pounds of seed. For best results, take small sub-samples from several bags or from several areas within a given seed lot. A seed probe is the best way to obtain such samples. Mix these sub-samples and then take one (1) pint from the mixture to be mailed to the Endophyte Testing Service for analysis.


Type of
In-State Out-of-State
Tissue Stain $15.00 $25.00
Seed Stain $15.00 $35.00
Viability Test
$25.00 $45.00

Packaging and Mailing Procedures
Plant Tissue Samples
  1. Collect plant tissue samples, clean & place in a plastic bag.
  2. Mail to the laboratory in a padded envelope early in the week.
  3. If using USPS mail, address to :

           NCDA & CS
           Plant Industry Division
           Seed and Fertilizer Section
           Endophyte Testing Service
           1060 Mail Service Center
           Raleigh, NC 27699

  4. If using FedEx, UPS, THL or other delivery, address to our physical address:

    NCDA & CS
    Plant Industry Division
    Seed and Fertilizer Section
    Endophyte Testing Service
    216 West Jones St.
    Raleigh, NC 27603

Seed Samples

  1. Place seed samples in a plastic bag and mail in a padded envelope or box.
  2. Seed samples can be mailed any time of the week.

As soon as the results from the analysis are available they will be reported to the person who submitted the sample. Livestock producers should consult their local Cooperative Extension Agent for assistance in interpreting these results.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Endophyte Testing Service is operated for livestock producers and seedsmen who wish to determine the approximate levels of Neotyphodium coenophialum (Acremonium coenophialum) in tall fescue seed or pastures. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services assumes no liability regarding animal performance, eventual fungus status of seed or pastures, or any private or commercial uses of reported results.



NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division - Seed & Fertilizer Section
Seed & Fertilizer Section Administrator - Danny Turner
Mailing Address:1060 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1060
Physical Address: 216 West Jones Street, Raleigh NC 27603
Phone:(919) 707-3735 | FAX: (919) 733-1041