Using experimental sheep and/or cattle, the research to be conducted will investigate if an endophyte fungus growing in kochia weed is associated with the clinical signs of liver disease when consumed by livestock. Kochia weed seed and the green plant will be fed to livestock for a period of 40-60 days to assess and describe the toxicity of Kochia weed. If proven toxic, ways to isolate and identify the fungus and the specific toxin(s) responsible for causing liver disease will be developed.
Kochia weed (Kochia scoparia) is a common, drought tolerant annual weed of western North America, especially in the more arid regions of the central and south western States. Kochia weed is poisonous to cattle and sheep, causing a variety of clinical signs ranging from acute death, blindness, central nervous system depression, liver and kidney disease and photosensitization. Kochia has a variety of toxic and potentially toxic compounds present in the plant including nitrates, oxalates, sulfates, saponins, and alkaloids. These alkaloids and saponins in kochia weed have the potential to cause liver disease, and therefore severe economic losses to the livestock industry.