Endophytes Lawns – Learn About Endophyte Enhanced Grasses

By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

While perusing grass seed mix labels at your local garden center, you notice that despite different names, most have common ingredients: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, chewings fescue, etc. Then one label pops out at you because in big, bold letters saying, “Endophyte Enhanced.” So naturally you buy the one that says it’s enhanced with something special, just as myself or any other consumer would. So what are endophytes? Continue reading to learn about endophyte enhanced grasses.

What Do Endophytes Do?

Endophytes are living organisms that live within and form symbiotic relationships with other living organisms. Endophyte enhanced grasses are grasses that have beneficial fungi living within them. These fungi help the grasses store and use water more efficiently, withstand extreme heat and drought better, and resist certain insects and fungal diseases. In return, the fungi use some of the energy the grasses obtain through photosynthesis.

However, endophytes are only compatible with certain grasses like perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue, chewings fescue and hard fescue. They are not compatible with Kentucky bluegrass or bentgrass. For a list of endophyte enhanced grass species, visit the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program’s website.

Endophyte Enhanced Turfgrass

Endophytes help cool season turfgrasses resist extreme heat and drought. They also can help turfgrasses resist the fungal diseases Dollar Spot and Red Thread.

Endophytes also contain alkaloids that make their grass companions toxic or distasteful to bill bugs, chinch bugs, sod webworms, fall armyworms and stem weevils. These same alkaloids, however, can be harmful to livestock that graze upon them. While cats and dogs also sometimes eat grass, they do not consume large enough amounts of endophyte enhanced grasses to harm them.

Endophytes can reduce pesticide use, watering and lawn maintenance, while also making grasses grow more vigorously. Because endophytes are living organisms, endophyte enhanced grass seed will only remain viable for up to two years when stored at or above room temperature.

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