Breakthrough brings new opportunities
AgResearch’s ground-breaking discoveries about the relationship between fungi and grasses have forged critical new paths for farm productivity research.
Endophytic fungi are essential to the health of ryegrass, relying on the plant for nutrients while protecting it from insects. In 2008, AgResearch Scientists Mike Christensen, Dr Christine Voisey and colleagues dispelled the long-held belief that endophytes only grow at the tips of the filaments (threads of fungi).
This shift in understanding explains how endophytes colonise grasses from seed as if they were a host tissue, extending within each leaf as it grows, and explains other puzzling aspects of the endophyte-grass relationship. Basic understanding of fungal growth is essential to ensuring reliable infection within new elite endophyte associations. The team is now able to continue their work in this scientifically and practically important field thanks to investment by the prestigious Marsden Fund.