Triticale as a Forage Crop for the Southeastern United States1
Triticale (X Triticosecole Wittmack) is a man-made cereal developed by crossing wheat and rye. This robust cereal is grown worldwide for its grain and forage. Triticale has considerable potential either as a grain crop or forage crop for the southeastern United States. Triticale is well suited to the multi-cropping systems common in this region.
Triticale as a Grain Crop in the Southeastern United States
Initially, the thrust of triticale breeding programs in the Southeast focused on development of grain varieties. Several cultivars were developed and released in the 1980s (Blount et al. 2006), and this promoted some triticale grain production in the southeastern United States. These varieties were spring types, but were planted in the fall in the Southeast. Back-to-back abnormally cold winters in the 1980s resulted in considerable winter kill. This led to decreased production and interest in triticale as a grain crop.
Triticale as a Forage Crop in the Southeastern United States
In the Southeast, summers are hot and humid, and winters are typically mild. Small grain cereals (mostly oat and rye) and annual ryegrass are commonly planted in the autumn to provide forage for grazing, green chop, silage, or hay during the cool season. Typically, these annuals are planted in October through December. Depending on weather and rainfall, they are grazed or green chopped from late autumn/early winter to mid/late spring. For silage or hay, harvest is typically in April. Triticale for forage fits the same growing period as the other cool-season annual forages used in the southeastern United States.
Initially, triticale cultivars that were developed for grain were used in cool-season forage programs with unsatisfactory results in the southeastern United States. Recent releases of forage-type triticale cultivars have resulted in a surge in acreage, especially on dairy farms. Acreage today is estimated at 400,000 acres in 2012. Acreage is expected to continue to increase significantly in the future.
Results of Forage Yield Trials
Cool-season forage variety tests conducted in the southeastern United States by Auburn University, University of Georgia, and University of Florida are summarized in Tables 1, 2, and 3. The Auburn test summary is an average of results from eight locations over three consecutive years; the Georgia summary is an average of three locations over two years. The Florida test is from one location for one year. In each test, the triticale forage varieties either ranked at the top or near the top for seasonal forage dry matter yield.
Present Status of Triticale Forage
For the United States as a whole, triticale for forage is a minor crop. Presently there are two main production regions: 1) the southern Great Plains and 2) the West Coast, especially California. In the Great Plains, triticale forage acreage is estimated at 50,000 acres (2008; Resource Seeds Inc. estimate). In this region, triticale forage is grown to provide grazing for stocker beef cattle and, more recently, for silage on dairy farms. On the West Coast, triticale forage is produced on about 200,000 acres (2008) and is grown primarily by dairy farmers for silage and green chop.
In the southeastern United States, dairy farmers are the primary growers of triticale forage. Triticale fits well in the common rotation of maize for silage during the warm season and an annual forage such as triticale for green chop and/or silage during the cool season. Yields of up to 18 ton of triticale forage per acre (about 3–4 tons of dry forage) are common. Most of these dairy farms pump manure effluent through the irrigation system to the forage crop fields as the primary means of nutrient fertilization. Thus, these farmers are interested in crops that not only yield a high amount of nutritious forage, but also use nutrients provided by the effluent (wastes). Dairy farmers have noted that forage triticale is an effective crop to capture and use the effluent. Recent research conducted by the University of Florida has shown that triticale grown for forage was very effective in using a relatively large amount of N and P (Mackowiak, Blount, and Myer 2008). Further trials using forage triticale for nutrient mitigation are under way.
Nutritional Value of Triticale Forage
There is limited data on the nutritional value of triticale forage grown in the southeastern United States for cattle. Compositional data collected so far indicates that triticale forage has similar nutritional value to other small grain cereal forages and annual ryegrass (Table 4; Myer, Mackowiak, and Blount, 2008). The average values in Table 4 are from samples harvested every four weeks during the cool season. The samples were harvested just before or at jointing in the plant. Samples harvested at a later maturity (e.g., boot stage, dough stage) would have less crude protein and soluble carbohydrate, and higher fiber concentrations.
Studies done in other parts of the world have generally reported that the nutritional value of triticale forage for ruminant animals was similar to that for other small-grain cereal forages at similar stages of maturity (for a review see Myer and Lozano, 2004). However, much variation has also been reported in both composition and feeding value among triticale varieties (Myer and Lozano 2004; Emile et al. 2007). Field reports indicate no drop in milk production when dairy cows are switched from a maize silage-based total mixed ration to a triticale silage-based total mixed ration.
Recommended Triticale Forage Varieties
For best results, only triticale forage varieties specially developed for and/or adapted to the southeastern United States should be planted. Variety recommendations for the southeastern United States include TriCal 342, TriCal 2700, and Monarch triticale. Both TriCal 342 and Monarch were developed by the University of Florida and University of Georgia. TriCal 2700 was bred and released by Resource Seeds, Inc. (Gilroy, CA) and is now marketed by Syngenta. These three forage-type cultivars are well adapted to the growing conditions in the Southeast. More forage-type triticale varieties adapted to the Southeast are expected to be released in the future.
Planting and management of triticale is much like that of other small grain cereals grown for forage in the Southeast (e.g., wheat and rye). Further information can be found in the EDIS publication SS-AGR-161 Forage Planting and Establishment Methods (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag107).
Triticale has been available in the southeastern United States for more than 30 years but it never developed into a significant grain crop in this region. The recent development of high-yielding forage varieties has renewed interest in it as a forage and has increased triticale acreage. This interest is particularly apparent with dairy farmers; however, triticale forage may also be suitable pasture forage for beef cattle grazing.
Blount, A. R., R. D. Barnett, P. L. Pfahler, J. W. Johnson, G. D. Buntin, and B. M. Cunfer. 2006. Rye and Triticale Breeding in the South. SS-AGR-42. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag147.
Day, J. L., A. E. Coy, and J. D. Gasset. 2008. Georgia 2007-08 Small Grain Performance Tests. Crop and Soil Sciences Res. Rep. no. 715. Athens, GA: Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Georgia.
Emile, J. C., C. C. Joblin, F. Surault, and Y. Barriere. 2007. "Genetic Variations in the Digestibility in Sheep of Selected Whole-Crop Cereals Used as Silages." Animal 1 (8): 1122–1125.
Glass, G. M., and E. van Santen. 2008. Performance of Small Grain Varieties for Forage in Alabama. Agronomy and Soils Series no. 293. Auburn, AL: Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn University.
Mackowiak, C., A. R. Blount, and R. O. Myer. 2008. "Seasonal Productivity and Nutrient Uptake Comparisons among Cool-Season Annual Forage." ASA CSSA SSSA joint meeting abstracts CD-ROM (no. 569-12), ASA CSSA SSSA, Madison, WI (abstract).
Myer, R. O., and A. J. Lozano. 2004. "Triticale in Livestock Production." In Triticale Improvement and Production, edited by M. Mergoum, 49–58. Rome, Italy: FAO.
Myer, R. O., C. Mackowiak, and A. R. Blount. 2008. "Water Soluble and Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrate Concentrations in Cool-Season Annual Forages in the Southeastern USA." ASA CSSA SSSA joint meeting abstracts CD-ROM (no.568-9), ASA CSSA SSSA, Madison, WI (abstract).
Three-year average seasonal forage yield (dry weight basis) of triticale, wheat, oat, and rye grown at eight locations in Alabama during the cool season (2005–06, 2006–07, and 2007–08).a
Two-year average seasonal forage yield (dry weight basis) of triticale, wheat, oat, and rye grown at three locations in Georgia during the cool season (2006–07 and 2007–08).a
Seasonal forage yield (dry weight basis) of triticale, annual ryegrass, oat, and rye grown in North Florida during the 2007–08 cool season.a
Average composition (% of dry forage) of annual forages grown in North Florida during the 2007–08 cool season.a