Whatever fame locoweed may earn as the source of a potential cancer-fighting drug, it already has a reputation in cattle country.
That's why Molyneux is tracking swings in the swainsonine content of American locoweeds such as the spotted species (Astragalus lentiginosus) or white locoweed (Oxytropis sericea).
That's so we'll know--more precisely--how much locoweed animals can eat without danger," he says.
Poisoned animals, even if moved to safer pastures, will be more susceptible to swainsonine's effects if they ever again graze locoweed.
PHOTO : Chemist Russell Molyneux examines a locoweed plant while working with the structure of locoweed toxin, swainsonine, on the computer.
The toxin, swainsonine, can weaken and eventually kill not only cattle, but also horses, sheep, goats, and other animals that graze on the dozen or so rangeland plants commonly known as locoweeds, says ARS chemist Russell J.