Beneficial Endophytes and Animal Health

Learn about the variety of ways in which endophytes can improve your animal and pasture performance.

What Are Endophytes?

An endophyte is a naturally occurring fungus (Epichloë festucae var. lolii, formerly known as Neotyphodium lolii) found in many grass species. It grows inside the cell walls of the plant, and the endophyte produces chemical compounds known as alkaloids which help protect the plant from insect damage and can increase persistence. However, ergovaline, an alkaloid found within the endophyte, can also affect animal health and performance.

Endophyte Life Cycle


  1. Endophyte is a fungus found in seed
  2. As the seed germinates, the endophyte grows into the emerging shoot
  3. It stays in the base of the plant
  4. In spring, as stems form, the endophyte grows up into new seed

Why Have Endophytes?

The endophyte enhances the yield and persistence of grass by helping protect plants from a range of insects and other pests. In drought conditions grass containing an endophyte consistently persists better than grass without an endophyte.   The traditional Standard (or Wild) endophyte depresses animal performance and can cause fescue toxicosis. Several beneficial endophytes have been discovered. E34 soft leaf tall fescue reduces the risk of fescue toxicosis and improves animal performance. Where grass with an endophyte is sown, the resultant plants will consistently contain that particular endophyte. The endophyte lives inside the plant for the life of that plant. It does not transfer from plant to plant, or from soil to plant.