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Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
Contact Information
  • Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
  • 333 Broadway SE. Suite 115
  • Albuquerque, NM 87102-3497
  • 505-724-3660
  • 505-724-3688 (fax)
You are here: Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems / Research by Project / Effect of Fungi on Cheatgrass

Effect of Endophytic Fungi on Cheatgrass Growth and Fecundity

Project Title

Effect of Endophytic Fungi on Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) Growth and Fecundity


Rangelands of western North America are among the most heavily invaded plant communities in the world. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.), native to Eurasia, is one of the worst invaders within these ecosystems. As an ecosystem engineer, this fire-adapted species has the potential to significantly alter invaded ecosystems by disrupting fire regimes and completely replacing native vegetation. This annual grass promotes its own abundance through seed production. Traditional control methods have proven relatively unsuccessful in managing these populations. We have explored whether endophytes might have a role in increasing seed production in cheatgrass plants. The aim is to compare and contrast endophyte isolates from established northern (Moscow ID) populations of cheatgrass, with expanding southern (Albuquerque, NM) populations. To date, 700 fungal endophytes have been isolated from 55 cheatgrass populations across western North America. In both greenhouse and field trials, select endophytes either increased or decreased the fecundity and biomass of cheatgrass. A fire-adapted Morchella isolate increased cheatgrass fecundity and seed thermotolerance over that of non-symbiotic controls. In contrast, endopytic Sporormiella, a dung fungus, decreased fecundity of New Mexico cheatgrass plants. Current research seeks to enhance their relative abundance in cheatgrass-infested fields through the use of prescriptive grazing. Understanding the influence that specific endophytes have on cheatgrass may lead to increased insight as to why this species is so invasive and on how to more effectively manage existing and expanding populations.

Selected Publications

Planting inoculated cheatgrass seedlings
Planting inoculated cheatgrass seedlings as part of a field trial

GSD Principal Investigators

Pendleton, Rosemary    Research Plant Ecologist    505-724-3673

Cooperators and Sponsors


Melissa Baynes, University of Idaho, Department of Forest Resources, Moscow, ID

George Newcombe, University of Idaho, Department of Forest Resources, Moscow, ID


Linley Dixon, USDA ARS US National Fungus Collections, Beltsville, MD

Mike Howard, BLM New Mexico State Office

Karen Launchbaugh, University of Idaho, Department of Rangeland Ecology and Management, Moscow, ID

Tim Prather, University of Idaho, Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Science, Moscow, ID

Jeff Tafoya, BLM Farmington Office

Kerstin Voigt, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Institute of Microbiology Fungal Reference Centre, Neugasse, Jena 25, 07743, Germany

Cheatgrass plants inoculated with fungal endophytes
Greenhouse-grown cheatgrass plants inoculated with selected fungal endophytes
Project Focal Areas