The future success of endophyte commercialization will continue to involve comprehensive quality assurance programs to deliver the highest levels of viable endophytes to producers. These programs will need to receive a high priority as part of the commercialization effort and will require continual upgrading. For example, as more endophyte strains enter the market, specific strain detection methods will need to be employed to assess contamination rates from other strains.
Other strategies for producing the best endophyte-cultivar combinations were described by Bouton and Easton (2005). One strategy with good short-term potential employs reselection within reinfected breeding populations, to achieve better endophyte-cultivar combinations for desired survival and infection rates, as well as for other agronomic and nutritional traits.
Biotechnologies will surely be a part of any future breeding and development efforts with fungal endophytes (Bouton, 2007b; Bouton and Easton, 2005). One strategy is to remove the toxic but otherwise compatible strain, use biotechnological techniques to eliminate the ergot alkaloid pathways in the toxic strain, and then reinserting the genetically engineered endophyte into the original cultivar (Wilkinson and Schardl, 1997; Bouton and Easton, 2005). Cloning genes responsible for the endophyte toxic pathways could result in the background knowledge that allows for strategies to eliminate these genes in toxic associations (Scott, 2000).
The ability to change endophyte cross-compatibility to include cereals and maize (Zea mays L.) is an important area of future investigation that may be improved using biotechnologies (Bouton, 2007b). Genetically engineering the strain to contain other value-added genes, such as the Bt toxin used for insect deterrence, may be a viable strategy (Turner et al., 1993). This approach would ensure pollen containment, an important problem in obtaining regulatory approval for any biotech gene, as the endophyte itself has never been reported to be transmitted through the pollen of the host grass. However, because of negative reactions in some quarters of society against using biotech genes for crop improvement, along with government regulation, expense, and intellectual property issues, this approach must be examined carefully and assessed before it is used with fungal endophytes.
Lastly, novel endophytes are the first patented technology to be incorporated in grass cultivars, but the current commodity approach of the major portion of the grass seed industry seems ill-equipped to deal with intellectual property protection and high seed prices (Bouton and Easton, 2005). It would be desirable that seed marketers exercise price discipline currently not found in the marketing of commodity forage products and that farmers demand guarantees for the product, especially endophyte viability.