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View Full Version : Mutant, Cyanide-Bearing Grass Kills Cows In Texas. Ranchers Concerned



BigDon
2012-Jul-05, 06:56 AM
I am too.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/texas-cattle-deaths-tied-toxic-bermuda-grass-16685521

More than just cows eat grass.

Not that I'm belittling the economic loss of 15 or so head. What was the loss, about 3 grand per animal?

That'll show up on the quarterly.

profloater
2012-Jul-05, 09:39 AM
Wow, cyanide requires nitrogen which grasses (I think) cannot directly fix, relying on bacteria and fungus to do that essential job so it might be a case of the wrong kind of bacteria on the grass. Or maybe the grass has a recessive gene or a mutant like you said, which manipulates the nitrogen like the nightshade family (inc. potatoes and tomatoes) under some set of circumstances. Reminds me of "Death of Grass" book. but with a twist. Grass finally catches up with ruminants!

Perikles
2012-Jul-05, 10:00 AM
Wow again. The article doesn't say whether he had waited the 7 days before letting the cattle onto the pasture. Nor is there any comment about fertilizers used, which I would have thought might be implicated.


Wow, cyanide requires nitrogen which grasses (I think) cannot directly fix, relying on bacteria and fungus to do that essential job Grasses can't fix nitrogen, so that is why grass mixtures very often include clover, which can.

swampyankee
2012-Jul-05, 12:49 PM
Mutant cyanide-bearing grass? Now, does the grass create the cyanide (CN radicals are not unknown in biochemistry), in which case we may have evidence of evolution in action (oh, wait, that's not allowed in Texas) or merely concentrate it (in which case we have evidence of...)? Or is it an existing variety of grass becoming more common because of animals selectively grazing non-CN containing grasses (in which case we have evidence of ....)?

Swift
2012-Jul-05, 01:14 PM
Cyanide is actually pretty common in plants
LINK (http://www.ehow.com/about_5201273_natural-source-cyanide-plants.html)


Nearly 1,500 plants are known to contain cyanide, generally in the form of sugars or lipids. Cyanic glucoside can be found in varying amounts in Johnson Grass, peach seeds, cherry pits, apple seeds, green beans, bitter almonds, peas, apricots, cassava root, elderberries, flax seeds, choke cherries and bamboo shoots. The bamboo shoot contains the highest amount of cyanic glucoside or cyanide sugar.

And from the ABC article

Since other grasses such as sorghums or Sudan can pose cyanide danger, most ranchers know to wait seven to 10 days after new growth before sending cattle to graze, Redmon said. That allows the grass time to release the cyanide into the atmosphere.

and...

He called the cyanide deaths a "perfect storm" of conditions that remain under investigation. The grass, which had been stressed by drought, soaked up spring rains that prompted lush growth. Prussic acid levels are highest in new growth, which is the layer eaten first by cattle. Grasshoppers, which had reportedly infested the area, may have damaged the grass tissue, causing a release of prussic acid. The cattle were eager to munch on fresh grass.


It doesn't seem time to panic.

BigDon
2012-Jul-05, 06:55 PM
Swift, some plants are even more specific with their "cyanide sugars".

Hydrangea, for instance, has a molecule attached that specifically targets receptors in the cardiac muscles of mammals. The heart muscles selectively suck in the seemingly harmless sugars, cleave the sugar molecule through normal cellular processes and then end up looking at a molecule of prussic acid.

The LD50 for humans is three blossoms. That's pretty potent stuff.

Swift
2012-Jul-05, 07:01 PM
Swift, some plants are even more specific with their "cyanide sugars".

Hydrangea, for instance, has a molecule attached that specifically targets receptors in the cardiac muscles of mammals. The heart muscles selectively suck in the seemingly harmless sugars, cleave the sugar molecule through normal cellular processes and then end up looking at a molecule of prussic acid.

The LD50 for humans is three blossoms. That's pretty potent stuff.
Good to know. Next time my wife wants to plant some, I have a better reason now than "I don't like how they look" :D

Ara Pacis
2012-Jul-05, 08:53 PM
How long before the anti-beef and anti-GMO crowd jump on this?

profloater
2012-Jul-06, 09:56 AM
well Swift's list of cyanide in plants should convert us to sticking to meat!

Perikles
2012-Jul-06, 10:20 AM
well Swift's list of cyanide in plants should convert us to sticking to meat!Or perhaps cyanide is healthy for us. We all know that if something doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. :D

profloater
2012-Jul-06, 10:34 AM
Or perhaps cyanide is healthy for us. We all know that if something doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. :DTrue, we could start a "suck a hydrangea" society?

Swift
2012-Jul-06, 01:08 PM
Or perhaps cyanide is healthy for us. We all know that if something doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. :D
Buttercup: And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.
Man in Black: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

publiusr
2012-Jul-09, 09:59 PM
Now there has been a lot of gas extraction lately. I'm not all anti-fracking (we need Helium from gas wells after all), but I cannot help but wonder if something is percolating upwards allowing cyanide to be more of a problem.