Joseph H. Bouton
Creative Research Medal 2002
Joseph H. Bouton, Professor of Crop and Soil Sciences, has developed a new tall fescue product that is significantly improving livestock performance. In humid areas of the United States, tall fescue is the most widely grown pasture grass with nearly 40 million acres in production. Inside these plants, however, lives a fungus that produces ergot alkaloids. These alkaloids are toxic to livestock, substantially reduce their growth and reproduction, and constitute an annual loss of $1 billion to U.S. beef producers alone. Because the fungus is essential for fescue growth, survival, and drought protection, killing it is an unacceptable option. Dr. Bouton, in collaboration with Dr. Garrick C.M. Latch of New Zealand’s Grasslands Research Centre, successfully solved this problem by isolating naturally occurring fungal strains incapable of producing ergot alkaloids and re-introducing these strains into elite tall fescue cultivars previously developed by Dr. Bouton at UGA. After extensive animal and pasture testing, the most successful strain was commercialized under the name “MaxQ” tall fescue. Such revolutionary new products have gained a reputation among producers for their immense success and positive impact on the productivity and financial profitability of the livestock industry.