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Understanding and Mitigating the Adverse Effects of Poisonous Plants on Livestock Production Systems


Objective 1: Develop science-based guidelines for grazing livestock on rangelands infested with toxic plants (particularly Lupinus, Senecio, Delphinium and swainsonine and selenium-containing plants) and evaluate the potential for establishing improved forage species on infested sites to improve livestock gains, reduce the risk of livestock loss, and improve other rangeland ecosystem services.

Objective 2: Reduce the risks of livestock losses due to variations in quantitative and qualitative differences in toxin accumulation over time and plant species by quantifying the influence of endophytes, climate changes, and genotype on plant toxin accumulation (particularly swainsonine-containing plants and Delphinium and Lupinus species).

Objective 3: Enhance feed and food safety by improving risk assessment and diagnosis of plant-induced poisoning to livestock by improving analytical methods for analyzing plant and animal tissues for toxins; measuring toxicokinetics, assessing carcinogenic and genotoxic potential, and identifying toxin metabolites and biomarkers of toxicoses.

Objective 4: Develop improved procedures with guidelines for diagnostic and prognostic evaluation to reduce negative impacts of poisonous plants on livestock reproduction and embryo/fetal growth by improving early identification of poisoned animals, predicting poisoning outcomes, and management and treatment options through improved understanding of clinical, morphological and molecular alterations of plant-induced toxicosis.

Objective 5: Develop guidelines to aid producers and land managers in making genetic-based herd management decisions to improve livestock performance and safety on grazed rangelands infested with poisonous plants through the use of identified animal genes, physiological pathways, and molecular mechanisms of action that underlie Conium, Cicuta, Delphinium, Lupinus, and Nicotiana, and other neurotoxic plant effects.

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Livestock poisoning by plants results in over $503,000,000 lost to the livestock industry annually in the 17 western United States from death losses and abortions alone (Holechek, 2002). Plant poisonings extend worldwide to include 333 million poisonous plant-infested hectares in China and 60 million hectares in the central western region of Brazil, to name a few. There are over 6,000 species of pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA)-containing plants, and over 350 individual PAs causing diseases in animals and humans have been identified. Economic losses are much larger as significant amounts of nutritious forage are wasted and management costs are increased due to the threat of toxic plant-related livestock losses. The Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory (PPRL) has provided worldwide leadership in poisonous plant research to the livestock industry and consumers including numerous solutions to toxic plant problems using an integrated, interdisciplinary approach (see Figure below). The research team investigates plant poisonings in a systematic matter by identifying the plant, describing the effects in animals, determining the toxin(s) and evaluating the mechanisms of action. The ultimate goal is to develop research-based solutions to reduce livestock losses from toxic plants. There are five coordinated objectives in this project plan providing guidelines for potential genetic-based management. This research will reduce livestock losses from plants and enhance the economic well-being of rural communities, improve rangeland health by combating invasive plant species, and help to provide safe animal products free from potential plant toxins for consumers.
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Cook, Daniel
Davis, Thomas (Zane)
Gardner, Dale
Green, Benedict
Lee, Stephen
Panter, Kip
Pfister, James
Stegelmeier, Bryan
Welch, Kevin
Published Journal Articles USDA ARS (NP 108):
Identification of the quinolizidine alkaloids in Sophora leachiana
Lee ST, Cook D, Molyneux RJ.
Biochem Syst Ecol. 2014 Jun;54:1-4.
Detection of toxic monofluoroacetate in Palicourea species
Cook D, Lee ST, Taylor CM, Bassuner B, Riet-Correa F, Pfister JA, Gardner DR.
Toxicon. 2014 Mar;80:9-16.
Mitigation of larkspur poisoning on rangelands through the selection of cattle
Green BT, Welch KD, Pfister JA, Chitko-McKown CG, Gardner DR, Panter KE.
Rangelands. 2014 Feb;36(1):10-5.
Effect of selenium concentration on feed preferences by cattle and sheep
Pfister JA, Zane Davis T, Hall JO.
J Anim Sci. 2013 Dec;91(12):5970-80.
Plant alkaloids that cause developmental defects through the disruption of cholinergic neurotransmission
Green BT, Lee ST, Welch KD, Panter KE.
Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today. 2013 Dec;99(4):234-46.
Evaluation of the respiratory elimination kinetics of selenate and Se-methylselenocysteine after oral administration in lambs
Davis TZ, Stegelmeier BL, Green BT, Welch KD, Hall JO.
Res Vet Sci. 2013 Dec;95(3):1163-8.
Discrimination of grassland species and their classification in botanical families by laboratory scale NIR hyperspectral imaging: Preliminary results
Dale LM, Thewis A, Boudry C, Rotar I, Pacurar FS, Abbas O, Dardenne P, Baeten V, Pfister J, Pierna JAF.
Talanta. 2013 Nov 15;116:149-54.
Dose-dependent effects of nectar alkaloids in a montane plant–pollinator community
Manson JS, Cook D, Gardner DR, Irwin RE.
J Ecol. 2013 Nov;101(6):1604-12.
Production of the alkaloid swainsonine by a fungal endophyte in the host Swainsona canescens
Grum DS, Cook D, Baucom D, Mott IW, Gardner DR, Creamer R, Allen JG.
J Nat Prod. 2013 Oct 25;76(10):1984-8.
A toxicokinetic comparison of two species of low larkspur (Delphinium spp.) in cattle
Green BT, Welch KD, Gardner DR, Stegelmeier BL, Lee ST .
Res Vet Sci. 2013 Oct;95(2):612-5.
Methods of inducing conditioned food aversion to Baccharis coridifolia (mio-mio) in cattle
Almeida MB, Schild AL, Pfister J, Pimentel M, Forster KM, Riet-Correa F.
Cienc Rural. 2013 Oct;43(10):.
Experimental rayless goldenrod (Isocoma pluriflora) toxicosis in horses
Davis TZ, Stegelmeier BL, Lee ST, Green BT, Hall JO.
Toxicon. 2013 Oct;73:88-95.
The effect of low larkspur (Delphinium spp.) co-administration on the acute toxicity of death camas (Zigadenus spp.) in sheep
Welch KD, Green BT, Gardner DR, Stonecipher CA, Panter KE, Pfister JA, Cook D.
Toxicon. 2013 Sep 18;76C:50-8.
Comparative oral dose toxicokinetics of selenium compounds commonly found in selenium accumulator plants
Davis TZ, Stegelmeier BL, Welch KD, Pfister JA, Panter KE, Hall JO .
J Anim Sci. 2013 Sep;91(9):4501-9.
Natural and experimental poisoning of goats with the pyrrolizidine alkaloid-producing plant Crotalaria retusa L
Maia LA, de Lucena RB, Nobre VM, Dantas AF, Colegate SM, Riet-Correa F.
J Vet Diagn Invest. 2013 Sep;25(5):592-5.
Pulmonary and hepatic lesions caused by the dehydropyrrolizidine alkaloid-producing plants Crotalaria juncea and Crotalaria retusa in donkeys
Pessoa CR, Pessoa AF, Maia LA, Medeiros RM, Colegate SM, Barros SS, Soares MP, Borges AS, Riet-Correa F.
Toxicon. 2013 Sep;71:113-20.
The role of the α7 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor on motor coordination in mice treated with methyllycaconitine and anabasine
Welch KD, Pfister JA, Gardner DR, Green BT, Panter KE.
J Appl Toxicol. 2013 Sep;33(9):1017-26.
The role of the a7 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in the acute toxicosis of methyllycaconitine in mice
Welch KD, Green BT, Panter KE, Pfister JA, Gardner DR.
J Appl Toxicol. 2013 Sep;33(9):1011-6.
Plant toxins that affect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors: a review
Green BT, Welch KD, Panter KE, Lee ST.
Chem Res Toxicol. 2013 Aug 19;26(8):1129-38.
Conditioned food aversion to Ipomoea carnea var. fistulosa induced by Baccharis coridifolia in goats
Adrien M, Riet-Correa G, Oliveira CA, Pfister JA, Cook D, Souza EG, Riet-Correa F, Schild AL.
Braz J Vet Res Anim Sci. 2013 Aug;33(8):999-1003.
Alkaloid profiles of Dermatophyllum arizonicum, Dermatophyllum gypsophilum, Dermatophyllum secundiflorum, Styphnolobium affine, and Styphnolobium japonicum previously classified as Sophora species
Lee ST, Cook D, Molyneux RJ, Davis TZ, Gardner DR.
Biochem Syst Ecol. 2013 Aug;49:87-93.
Doença de deposito lisossomal induzida pelo consumo de Ipomoea verbascoidea (Convolvulaceae) em caprinos no semiarido de Pernambuco
Lima DDCC, Albuquerque RF, Rocha BP, Barros MEG, Gardner DR, Medeiros RMT, Riet-Correa F, Mendonca FS.
Pesq Vet Bras. 2013 Jul;33(7):867-72.
Conditioned food aversion for the control of poisoning by Ipomoea carnea subsp. fistulosa
Pimentel LA, Maia LA, Carvalho FK, Campos EM, Pfister JA, Cook D, Medeiros RMT, Riet-Correa F.
Pesq Vet Bras. 2013 Jun;33(6):719-23.
The alkaloid profiles of Sophora nuttalliana and Sophora stenophylla
Lee ST, Cook D, Molyneux RJ, Marcolongo-Pereira, Stonecipher CA, Gardner DR.
Biochem Syst Ecol. 2013 Jun;48:58-64.
Production of the alkaloid swainsonine by a fungal endosymbiont of the Ascomycete order Chaetothyriales in the host Ipomoea carnea
Cook D, Beaulieu WT, Mott IW, Riet-Correa F, Gardner DR, Grum D, Pfister JA, Clay K, Marcolongo-Pereira C.
J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Apr 24;61(16):3797-803.
Stereoselective potencies and relative toxicities of γ-coniceine and N-methylconiine enantiomers
Lee ST, Green BT, Welch KD, Jordan GT, Zhang Q, Panter KE, Hughes D, Chang CW, Pfister JA, Gardner DR.
Chem Res Toxicol. 2013 Apr 15;26(4):616-21.
Persistence of echimidine, a hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid, from honey into mead
Cao Y, Colegate SM, Edgar JA.
J Food Comp Anal. 2013 Mar;29(2):103-9.
Effect of a7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists and antagonists on motor function in mice
Welch KD, Pfister JA, Lima FG, Green BT, Gardner DR.
Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2013 Feb 1;266(3):366-74.
Early season grazing by cattle of waxy larkspur (Delphinium glaucescens) in central Idaho
Pfister JA, Cook D, Gardner DR, Baker SD.
Rangelands. 2013;35(4):2-5.
Detection and measurement of carbohydrate deficient transferrin in serum using immuno-capture mass spectrometry: Diagnostic applications for annual ryegrass toxicity and corynetoxin exposure
Penno MAS, Colegate SM, Michalski WP, Hoffman P.
Res Vet Sci. 2012 Oct;93(2):611-7.
Weather and Plant Age Affect the Levels of Steroidal Saponin and Pithomyces chartarum Spores in Brachiaria Grass
Lima FG, Haraguchi M, Pfister JA, Guimaraes VY, Andrade DDF, Ribeiro CS, Costa GL, Araujo ALL, Fioravanti MCS.
Int J Poison Plant Res. 2012;2:45-53.
Non-Journal Publications:
Deteccion de compuestos inductores de aborto en aciculas de enebro (Juniperus communis) y suero de vacas abortadas en los montes de la Rioja - (Trade Journal)
Brieva, J., Atxaerandio, R., Gomez, N., Minguijon, E., Gardner, D.R. 2013. Deteccion de compuestos inductores de aborto en aciculas de enebro (Juniperus communis) y suero de vacas abortadas en los montes de la Rioja. Electronic Publication. 100:18-20.
Biosynthesis of natural products in plants by fungal endophytes with an emphasis on swainsonine - (Book / Chapter)
Food Safety Categories:
On-Farm Food Safety
Contaminants and Contamination
Risk Assessment
Farm-to-Table Categories:
On-farm food production