Washington State UniversityWorld Class. Face to Face.Future StudentsCampusesWSU HomeWSU Search
Agricultural Horizons - Alternative Crops    



Triticale for Eastern Washington Dryland Area


By Norm Herdrich In Eastern Washington's dryland small-grain production area, small-grain cereals have a long history as alternate crops. These include barley, triticale and oats. These were frequently planted on allotment ground when wheat acreage was limited under government programs. Barley and oats qualified for payments under the feed grain program. Triticale is a more recent development in that it is a man-made cereal created by crossing wheat and rye. Compared to oats and barley, which have long histories, triticale is between 40 and 50 years old.


Triticale is a man-made crop developed by crossing wheat and cereal rye. It is probably the only new man-made crop in commercial production. According to Matt Kolding, a retired Oregon State University plant breeder, triticale probably occurred naturally due to crossing between wheat and rye, but likely did not produce much, if any, second generation seeds. In the early 1900s, durum wheat and rye were also crossed, but this wasn't developed commercially. This parentage, however, is still being used in some breeding programs in Canada and the Upper Midwest.

One of the first commercial varieties was Rosner, a spring triticale which was released by the University of Manitoba. However, it had a very narrow range of adaptation.

Triticale was introduced to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it got a black eye because growers couldn't find a market for their crop. Kolding says triticale germplasm was and is shared worldwide among the 150 to 200 breeders who are working on the crop.

Ideally, triticale has plump, hard, amber kernels. It has higher lysine content than wheat.

In Morocco, triticale is reported to yield higher than wheat, durum and barley, especially in areas infested with Hessian fly and under saline conditions. In that country, it is used for livestock and poultry feed. The variety Flora has proven to be very tolerant to alkaline conditions and is an excellent poultry feed.

In India, triticale flour has low dough development time, low water absorption capacity, and stability. Mixtures of triticale and wheat flour at a 1:1 ratio, produce bread and chapaties as good as their wheats. Cookies from triticale flour are reported to be crisper and better liked than those from the mixed flours.

In feeding trials in India, chickens feed triticale had a higher rate of gain than did those fed wheat and corn. Triticale also improved egg yield and mass, but not egg weight. Triticale was found to be more efficient than wheat in utilizing and absorbing nitrogen from the soil. It also produced a 30% higher yield on acid soils, and was superior to wheat on copper-deficient soil.

As a forage crop, triticale has been reported to be superior to rye and had a higher tolerance to lower fertility levels.


There are several diseases which can affect triticale. One of these is fusarium head blight, or scab. Kolding said it appears more frequently on the winter triticales he has studied in North Dakota. They appear to have nearly a zero tolerance to the disease. Some spring varieties developed in Manitoba do appear to have some tolerance to the disease.

Fusarium is a special problem because, in addition to yield loss caused by damage to the kernel, grain is rejected for food and feed because of a toxic product, deoxynivalenol, which can appear at toxic levels even in plants that appear to be quite tolerant to scab, Kolding says.

In eastern North Dakota, he notes, several decades of reduced tillage appear to have aggravated the head scab problem. Surface residue provides a reservoir for the sparophyte stage of the fusarium.

Some triticale varieties are very susceptible to bacterial head blights, while others appear to be resistant to tolerant. Kolding says this may be due in part to a waxy leaf surface on some varieties. Head blight leaves a white, empty head.

Brown rust or leaf rust can be a problem in some triticales. He says breeders have sometimes inadvertently used a susceptible variety of rye when developing the new variety, and then found they have a problem later.

Ergot can be a problem in triticale, as it can in wheat, barley and rye. Ergot often forms when a frost kills the stamens of the flowers. The resulting opening into the kernel can be infected with ergot by insects that are attracted to the sugar from the flower.

Cephalosporium stripe is found in triticale when there is damage to the roots in the fall and winter. Kolding said one experimental variety which is a cross between a Chinese white octaploid type and a hexaploid triticale has either resistance or tolerance to cephalosporium, or has a superior root system.

As for viral diseases, Kolding says some triticale lines appear to have resistance to Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus. He also notes that the variety Flora does not exhibit symptoms for Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus, but it is a carrier of the disease and may serve as a reservoir.

Agronomically, triticale production is much like what production, and the same practices are used, Kolding notes. He suggests getting into the crop slowly if you have not grown it before. Also, he points out that some triticale kernels may have dormancy, so caution is needed if following triticale with a crop grown for certified seed wheat. One triticale plant in the field may be cause to have the field rejected.

Herbicides are nearly the same as those for wheat or rye. Caution is advised, and reading labels is strongly recommended. Don't assume that just because a material is registered for either wheat and/or rye, it is labeled for triticale.

In a forage test, Kolding harvested triticale at three growth stages: late boot, anthesis and between a quarter and three-quarters filled. Early cutting produced the highest protein levels in the forage. Cutting at flowering or anthesis produced the most protein per acre; and cutting after the heads had started to fill produced the highest nutrient levels. The varieties used in this trial were Pika, Bobcat, KT940488 and KT941864. According to Kolding, a thick stand is better for triticale planted as a forage crop.

Kolding notes that a beardless triticale variety has been developed in Canada especially for use as a forage crop. The Canadians have also developed a triticale variety that is extra leafy.

One of the drawbacks of triticale grown for grain is that it is prone shatter, says Kolding. He explains that there is a spot about a quarter to a third of the way down from the tip on the rachis that is very weak. This is genetically controlled, Kolding says, and some varieties are stronger than others.

Cephalosporium stripe can be a problem in triticale. Existing varieties do not have a tolerance to cephalosporium stripe, but Kolding says a new breeding line using the China White parentage shows promise.

Rhizoctonia can be a problem in triticale, and bacterial blight will cause white heads.

Growth patterns of triticale plants are either a flat or more prostrate type, or a vertical type. The vertical types are better for fall grazing.

Triticale varieties developed in Poland are doing very well in parts of the United States. One of these is Bobo which did very well in trials at Corvallis.



Triticale is grown for both forage and grain, although growers in Washington are looking at it more from the grain aspect, Nelson says. The high lysine content of triticale, compared to other cereal grains, is a plus for livestock feeders. It means they don't have to buy supplemental lysine to add to their formulated rations, Nelson explains. Triticale is used more in the poultry, swine and dairy industries. While triticale is used mostly for animal feed, there is an organic and health food market as well.

There is very little triticale grown in the United States at the present time, and this means that most of the triticale used in this country is imported from Canada. In the United States, Nelson said that Resource Seeds based in California has a breeding program. As far as marketing of triticale goes, Nelson says they really haven't really figured out how it will be done, but the price will likely follow the corn price.

One of the problems with a new crop, Nelson says, is getting a market established. To do this, generally large quantities of product are needed so livestock or poultry producers can work it into their rations.

The bottom line is that livestock producers need the quantities to work with. However, growers are reluctant to plant the crop unless they have a good return. This means that the triticale market will probably start with the swine industry because ration changes are not as critical for pigs.


TRITICALE - Curtis Hennings, Ritzville

Curtis Hennings has been growing some triticale for several years. The varieties have included San Juan and 6600 from the Resource Seed operation in California. For Hennings, the 6600 always outyielded the highest-yielding winter wheat, and always by a significant amount, he says. He did his calculations using a 60-pound test weight, and the triticale yields were usually 8 to 10 bushels per acre higher than the winter wheat. Hennings has also noticed that no matter how cold the weather gets in the fall, the winter triticale was also green still when the winter wheat had turned brown. He said that the triticale seems to be more winter hardy.

Part of Hennings operation is a conventional small grain-fallow rotation and the rest is direct-seeded. He was looking for a winter crop he could plant late in the fall which had the vigor to compete with goatgrass and other weeds, including cheatgrass. At the same time, he wanted a marketable crop.

Hennings notes that his experience with direct-seeded crops has led him to the opinion that there is no such thing as an ideal drill. The different makes, types and styles all have their advantages and disadvantages.

Hennings said that triticale production is all starting to come together for him right now, but he still isn't sure of all the aspects. He notes that 60 acres of fall triticale is the most he has had. Hennings says there are some new markets for triticale which are coming into the area. One of these is the new poultry operation at Lind. When it is up and running at full capacity, it will use a million pounds of feed a day. With a reliable supply, they would consider using triticale. If the triticale is 20% of the ration, this would mean a requirement of 100 tons per day.

In addition to the operation at Lind, Hennings says Foster Farms out of California is one of the largest poultry operations on the West Coast, and they are looking to put in a feed plant somewhere in the Northwest, probably around Portland. As of right now, there is not enough corn grown in the Pacific Northwest to supply the new poultry operations, let alone any swine operations which start up. Hog operations now using corn would probably consider switching to triticale if it is available, partly because of the higher lysine content.

Hennings says triticale prices are or will likely be based on corn, hopefully with a premium for the higher protein content.

He says two winter varieties developed in the Pacific Northwest - Bojo and Aljo -- have produced significantly higher yields that winter wheat in trials in Oregon. In one trial at Corvallis, Bojo yielded 141 bushels per acre while the yield of Madsen winter wheat was 68 bushels per acre. The Bojo has yielded a lot higher than the varieties Hennings grew himself, and Aljo is reported to have an even higher yield potential than Bojo. Hennings said that yields at this level could offset lower prices compared to wheat on an economic basis.

In addition to the winter triticales, spring varieties are also available. In trials at Prosser, it appears they have a yield potential much higher than that of barley. These are under development by Pro-Genes which is also working with hog operations and has conducted several feed trials under way fairly constantly. Hennings said some trials indicate another advantage for triticale over other feed grains when used in dairy rations, and this is that cows fed triticale appear to produce manure with a lower nitrogen content, and this may be important in some parts of the country, including the dairy regions of Western Washington.

Triticale seems to have good emergence, and the straw seems to tougher than that of wheat. It is more like rye straw. This, Hennings says, can vary with variety. For farmers using on-farm storage, it is essential that the crop be dry going into storage to maintain quality.

Cooperating Agencies: Washington State University Cooperative Extension, United States Department of Agriculture, Eastern Washington Counties. Cooperative Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Cooperative Extension office.

Contact us: Ag Horizons 509-725-4171 | Accessibility | Copyright | Policies
Ag Horizons, PO Box 399, Davenport, WA, 99122 USA