Impact of endophyte inoculation on the morphological identity of cultivars of Lolium perenne (L) and Festuca arundinacea (Schreb.)

Grass endophytes have been shown to confer enhanced environmental resilience to symbiont cultivars with reports of modified growth. If inoculating with an endophyte (E+) made an accession morphologically distinct from its registered endophyte free (E−) accession, there could be protection and ownership issues for testing authorities and breeders. This study investigated if, in official Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) field trials, the morphological characteristics of E+and E− accessions of perennial ryegrass and tall fescue cultivars were sufficiently modified to designate them as mutually distinct and also distinct from their definitive accessions (Def), held by the testing authorities. Testing perennial ryegrass on 17 characters at 2 sites generated 48,960 observations and for tall fescue on 9 characters at 1 site, 12,960 observations (each for 3 accessions of 4 cultivars × 60 plants × 2 growing cycles). Distinctness required a p < 0.01 difference in a single character from the combined over years analysis (COYD). A few significant differences were recorded between E− and E+accessions. Cultivar Carn E+ was smaller than Carn E− for Infloresence Length (p < 0.01) in both years but COYD analysis (p < 0.05) was insufficient to declare distinctiveness. Overall, the number of observed differences between E−/E+ accessions was less or similar to the number expected purely by chance. In contrast, comparisons between Def and E− or E+ accessions showed a number of significant differences that were substantially more numerous than expected by chance. These results showed no conclusive evidence of endophyte inclusion creating false PBR distinctions but unexpectedly, several E− and E+ accessions were distinguished from their official definitive stock.
Publication history: Accepted - 9 April 2020; Published online - 5 May 2020
Patterson, J. D., Lafaillette, F., Wöster, S., Roulund, N., Charrier, S. and Gilliland, T. J. (2020) ‘Impact of endophyte inoculation on the morphological identity of cultivars of Lolium perenne (L) and Festuca arundinacea (Schreb.)’, Scientific Reports. Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 10(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-64474-7