Report from Jimmy Henning, Extension Forage Specialist
Department of Agronomy
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Twelve horse farms and one hay farm are being monitored for several soil, pasture and environmental parameters considered to be related to the MRLS outbreak of 2001. Forage samples are analyzed for fungal mycotoxins, alkaloids associated with tall fescue, cyanide and minerals. Soil samples are checked for populations of yeasts and molds.

As of June 6, all sentinel farms have had 8 or 9 cycles of sampling completed. There have been EFL cases noted in sporadic and low numbers on monitor farms within the last two weeks.

Sample results are summarized below:

Fungal mycotoxins: Small amounts of zearalenone, T2 and DON have been found by ELISA techniques in some samples. Some compounds have been detected that appear to be mycotoxins using ELISA techniques but that are not confirmed by thin layer chromatography (TLC) followups. These compounds appear to be correlated to the occurrence of MRLS symptoms. Research into the nature of these compounds and their role, if any, in MRLS is ongoing.

Alkaloids associated with tall fescue: In all but a few cases, alkaloid levels are low and are not a concern. In a few fields, levels of ergovaline in tall fescue are high enough (>600 ppb) to warrant concern if this tall fescue formed the primary diet for mares in the last 60 days of gestation.

Cyanide in white clover and forage mineral content (including nitrate) are within normal ranges.

Soil microbial counts: Counts for yeasts and molds are variable but within ranges that have been seen across the season. Counts are not correlated with onset of MRLS symptoms. Fungi from genera have been found that are known to produce mycotoxins. However, mycotoxin values in forage are below detectable limits or very low for most samples.

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