Most laboratories offering testing services give detailed instructions for sampling a field for tall fescue fungal endophyte (Vincelli et al., 2009). Sampling is a relatively simple procedure and can be done easily by managers and producers.
1. Identify the area you are testing. Usually you will be sampling an individual field, but sometimes parts of a field where there are obvious differences in, for example, soil type, drainage, or slope or the age or appearance of stands, or part of a farm could be sampled. For seed, ensure the sample is representative of the seed lot being tested.
2. Plan a route that covers the sampling area uniformly. Sample long (i.e., ungrazed) and short (i.e., heavily grazed) areas equally. Avoid bias for or against these areas since they may have different endophyte levels (Brown et al., 2007). Both "line" and "random" sampling give similar results (Thompson et al., 1989).
3. Sample in summer or fall. Avoid sampling in spring and winter because that may result in inconsistent results.
4. Collect 20 to 50 tillers of tall fescue from different plants. Thompson et al. (1989) recommended at least 12 tillers/ha (5 tillers/acre), with high sampling errors for <7 tillers/ha (3 tillers/acre).
5. Tillers can be pulled by hand or cut, but samples should be taken low enough that some remnant roots are present. The ideal plant portion for testing is the pseudostem, 2.5 cm (1 inch) above the junction between roots and shoots.
6. Avoid selecting extra-large or extra-small tillers; select tillers that are of average size for the field.
7. Sample only vegetative tillers, avoiding plants in the boot stage with emerging heads or with mature seedheads.
8. Avoid plants with soil or fecal contamination.
9. Ensure that any plant (i.e., clump, bunch) is sampled only once.
10. Remove surplus leaves and dead material, and put the tillers into a sealable plastic bag. To prevent any confusion, label the bag immediately, including your name, field identification, and date of sampling. Once labeled, place the bag in a cooler with ice.
11. If an ice pack is available, pack the tillers with it and send by overnight courier to the testing laboratory.
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