Year of Publication

2013

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Agriculture

Department

Plant and Soil Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Rebecca McCulley

Abstract

Tall fescue is a widely used forage grass in the eastern USA and can form a symbiosis with a fungal endophyte, which can be beneficial for the plant but can cause livestock health issues. Little is known regarding the symbiotic response to predicted climate change. To address this knowledge gap, I analyzed tall fescue variety trial data collected throughout the U.S., exploring relationships between climate variables and yield for two different fescue cultivars that were either endophyte-free or infected. This study showed no endophyte or cultivar effect on fescue yield, but identified temperature, precipitation and location as significant predictors of yield, suggesting that local conditions were more important than endophyte presence or fescue genotype for this dataset. Using a field experiment located in central Kentucky, I quantified the ecophysiological responses of four tall fescue genotypes to endophyte presence, elevated temperature and increased growing season precipitation. In this study, tall fescue genotype was as important as endophyte presence in determining ecophysiological responses to climate change treatments. My thesis illustrates that tall fescue response to climate change will depend on host genetics, the presence and genetics of the fungal endophyte symbiont, and the specific changes to the environment experienced at a site.