Food Safety Research Information Office
Title: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.

More Info:
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.
Funding Source:United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Start Date:2013
End Date:2018
Project Number:5428-32630-012-00
Accession Number:424163
Institutions:USDA/ARS - Northern Plains Area
Investigators: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):
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.
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.
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.
Food Safety Categories:On-Farm Food Safety
Contaminants and Contamination
Risk Assessment
Farm-to-Table categories:On-farm food production
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