E. A. Oelke1, E. S. Oplinger2, and M. A. Brinkman2

1Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.
2Department of Agronomy, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Cooperative Extension Service, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI 53706.
November, 1989.

I. History:

Triticale (trit-ih-KAY-lee) is a crop species resulting from a plant breeder's cross between wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale). The name triticale (Triticale hexaploide Lart.) combines the scientific names of the two genera involved. It is produced by doubling the chromosomes of the sterile hybrid that results when crossing wheat and rye. This doubling produces what is called a polyploid.

Hybrids between wheat and rye date back to 1875, but until recently there was little effort to develop high-yielding triticales as a field crop. Plant breeders originally wanted to include the combination of grain quality, productivity, and disease resistance of wheat with the vigor and hardiness of rye. The University of Manitoba began the first intensive program in North America about 30 years ago working mostly with durum wheat-rye crosses. Both winter and spring types were developed, with emphasis on spring types. Since Canada's program, other public and private programs have initiated both durum wheat-rye and common wheat-rye crosses. The major triticale development program in North America is now at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, with some private companies continuing triticale programs; however, the University of Manitoba has discontinued its program.

Even though triticale is a cross between wheat and rye, it is self-pollinating (similar to wheat) and not cross pollinating (like rye). Most triticales that are agronomically desirable and breed true have resulted from several cycles of improvement, but are primarily from the durum-rye crosses with some common wheat parentage occasionally involved.

In the 1960's, approximately 250,000 acres were grown annually in the United States, however markets did not develop as expected, particularly as a food. Today, there are only a few thousand acres grown and much of it is sold as a feed grain. Most of the production is in the western states. The southern states grow winter types which are grazed in the fall. In the Midwest there is some interest in using triticale as a forage crop.

II. Uses:

Plant breeders working with triticale hoped it would have higher yield than other cereal grains, especially under less than ideal growing conditions, and be used both as human and animal food.

A. Milling and Baking:

Quality evaluations of triticale grain for milling and baking show that it is inferior to bread-making wheat and to durum wheat for macaroni, but it is often considered superior to rye. Scientists are testing triticale for possible use in breakfast cereals and for distilling or brewing, but so far no exclusive commercial use has resulted. Table 1 describes the chemical composition of a typical triticale variety.

B. Feed Grain:

Feeding trials in North Dakota, Canada, and Minnesota indicate that triticale has potential as a feed grain. The protein content of triticale lines has ranged from 10 to 20 percent on a dry weight basis, which is higher than wheat. The amino acid composition of the protein is similar to wheat, but may be slightly higher in lysine. As triticale varieties are improved, they may compete with oats and feed barley as a home-grown feed crop, particularly if ergot, a fungus disease, can be eliminated or reduced to less than 0.1 percent in the grain. Higher levels of ergot have ruined the crop for feeding in some years. Ergot is more severe in older than in newer varieties.

Table 1. Composition of triticale grain.
Component Percent of dry matter
Protein 18.71
Fiber 3.10
Fat 1.61
Calcium .12
Phosphorus .44
Total sugars (as invert) 5.74
Starch 67.78
Amino acids  
Threonine .39
Valine .93
Methionine .40
Isoleucine .76
Leucine 1.23
Phenylalanine .85
Lysine .57
Histidine .45
Arginine .80
Source: Waibel er al., 1982, University of Minnesota.

Swine: Early North Dakota trials with swine found triticale unsatisfactory for feed and weight gain when fed as the only grain in a complete, balanced ration for growing-finishing swine. Fed a barley ration, for comparison, swine gained up to 27 percent faster than those on the triticale rations. Feed efficiencies on both the triticale and barley rations were similar: the problem was less intake due to unpalatability. The study indicated when equal parts triticale and barley represented half the grain fed, weight gain and efficiency were much improved over a straight triticale ration.

Cattle: Feeding trials with cattle in North Dakota showed that when triticale was the only grain used in fattening rations, both gains and feed efficiency were reduced compared to barley rations. Usually, triticale was fed in smaller amounts and this partly explains the lower weight gains. Recent feeding trials at the University of Minnesota, conducted by Wright and others with calves, indicated that starter rations containing up to 27 percent triticale as dry matter equaled weight gains and starter intakes in calves fed rations containing soybean meal.

Poultry: Triticale (relatively free of ergot) feeding trials with turkeys and laying hens at North Dakota State University showed that triticale was approximately equal to durum wheat for gain in body weight, feed use efficiency, and energy content.

A University of Minnesota study with turkeys by Wright and others showed that triticale substituted for corn in the diet improved growth significantly at 3 weeks of age. Feed efficiency with the entire triticale substitution was unchanged when compared to corn diet. When 25 percent triticale was included in a corn-soybean meal diet, both growth and feed efficiency were equal to a corn-soybean meal diet.

B. Forage:

Forage yield and quality investigations of triticale at the University of Minnesota (1978-79) by Cherney and Marten and at the University of Wisconsin by Brinkman and Albrecht (1986-88) found that barley, oat, and triticale had similar dry matter yields. However, oat yielded significantly less dry matter than triticale in 1979 at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. Wheat often had the lowest dry matter yields. Mean in-vitro digestible dry matter (IVDDM) yields were 1.61, 1.43, 1.36, and 1.25 tons/acre for barley, triticale, oat, and wheat, respectively. These means were over six maturity stages from flag leaf to dough stage. Triticale, cut slightly before boot stage, makes the best silage similar to other small grains, but dry matter yields are higher at later maturity stages. Table 2 gives the crude protein and IVDDM comparison at the milk maturity stage for the four species. Recently, farmers have grown peas with spring triticale for silage.

Table 2. Crude protein concentration and yield and percent digestible dry matter IVDDM and yield of four small grain species harvested at the milk stage of maturity.1
Species Crude protein IVDDM
  % T/A % T/A
Spring wheat 15.7 0.43 63.3 1.72
Triticale 15.2 0.45 66.4 1.95
Oat 14.6 0.44 61.5 1.86
Barley 15.7 0.50 68.5 2.20
1Source: Cherney and Marten, 1982, University of Minnesota and USDA; means of two varieties, years and locations.

In the Wisconsin studies, four varieties each of winter triticale, winter wheat and winter rye were compared for forage yield and quality (Table 3). When plants were harvested at three-fourths heading, triticale and wheat produced higher forage and crude protein yields than rye.

Table 3: Forage performance of winter cereals harvested at three-fourths heading. Arlington, WI 1986-88.1
Crop Harvest Date Plant Height Forage Yield Crude Protein ADF NDF
    in T/A % T/A % %
Triticale 6/6 37 3.6 12.4 0.44 36.1 64.2
Wheat 6/2 33 3.7 11.8 0.44 35.9 63.8
Rye 5/22 37 3.0 13.8 0.42 37.6 65.1
1Source: Brinkman, Mostafa and Albrecht. 1988. University of Wisconsin; means of four varieties and three years. Values are expressed on a dry matter basis.

A feeding study conducted in 1987 at the University of Minnesota's Agricultural Experiment Station-Rosemount by Paulson and others compared the use of alfalfa, triticale, or oat as the only forage sources in diets for cows for the first 116 days of lactation. Alfalfa (a composite of three cuttings and harvested at mid-bud stage), triticale (harvested at late boot with approximately 25 percent of the heads emerged) and oat (harvested at early heading) were ensiled in plastic silo bags. Forty-two cows were randomly assigned by parity to one of these diets. Diets were composed of a 50:50 ratio of forage:concentrate (dry matter basis) and balanced for calcium, phosphorus, and crude protein by changing the composition of the grain portion. Diets were fed as a total mixed ration using a Calan door feeding system in a loose housing facility.

Dry matter and nutrient composition of alfalfa, triticale, and oat forages used are listed in Table 4. The researchers indicated that recommended dry matter content of small grains at ensiling is approximately 40 percent. Triticale was near the recommended dry matter content, but oat was harvested under poor conditions and ensiled at a lower dry matter than desired. Crude protein content was highest in the alfalfa forage, intermediate in triticale, and lowest in the oat forage. The researchers indicated that a partial explanation for the higher crude protein content in the triticale than the oat forage was that 92 pounds of supplemental nitrogen were applied per acre to the triticale but not to oat. Acid detergent fiber values were similar for all three forages, but neutral detergent fiber values were higher in triticale and oat forage than in alfalfa. The bottom of Table 4 shows the composition of the total mixed diet (forage and grain mixture) used in the study.

Table 4: Forage and diet composition (dry matter basis).1
Item Alfalfa Triticale Oat
  --------------- % ---------------
Dry matter 43.5 37.8 28.0
Crude protein 22.6 17.5 142.0
Neutral detergent fiber 43.8 54.8 52.4
Acid detergent fiber 32.9 32.1 31.1
Calcium 1.69 .56 .42
Phosphorus .43 .56 .39
Dry matter 58.1 52.4 43.7
Crude protein 16.4 17.2 17.3
Natural detergent fiber 30.3 36.9 36.0
Acid detergent fiber 18.0 19.8 19.3
1Source: Paulson, Ehle, Otterby, and Linn, 1987, University of Minnesota.

Cows fed the diets containing triticale produced significantly more 3.5 percent fat-corrected milk (FCM) than cows fed the diet containing oat forage (Table 5). Milk production of cows fed the diet containing alfalfa was intermediate. Milk fat, protein, and total solids percentages were not affected by forage source. Dry matter intake of cows fed the triticale and alfalfa forage diets were similar and higher than the dry matter intake of cows fed the oat forage diet. According to the researchers, the lower dry matter content of the oat forage diet may have affected intakes and influenced milk production.

Table 5: Effect of forage on milk yield and milk composition1 .
  Forage Source
Item Alfalfa Triticale Oat
No. of cows 15 15 12
Milk yield and composition      
3.5% FCM2 (lb/cow/day) 64.7ab 71.9a 60.7b
Fat, % 3.7 3.7 3.9
Protein, % 3.4 3.4 3.4
Total solids, % 13.3 13.3 13.4
1Source: Paulson, Ehle, Otterby and Linn, 1987, University of Minnesota.
Fat-corrected milk.
abMeans differ (P .05).

From this study these researchers concluded that small grain silages can be used as the sole forage for lactating cows if silages are cut at early maturities and harvested at proper moisture levels. Cows fed triticale were similar to cows fed alfalfa in milk production, milk composition, and dry matter intake.

III. Growth Habits:

Triticale growth habit is similar to wheat and rye.

IV. Environment Requirements:

Environmental requirements for winter triticale in the upper Midwest are similar to other fall planted small grain crops such as wheat or rye and for spring triticale the requirements are similar to spring planted oats, barley or wheat.

V. Cultural Practices:

A. Seedbed Preparation:

Preparation of the seedbed should be similar to that for oat, barley or wheat.

B. Planting Date:

Spring triticale varieties, as other small grains, should be planted as early as practical. Winter varieties should be planted in the fall on dates similar to winter wheat but even more care should be taken to leave surface residue to catch snow.

C. Rate:

Triticale should be seeded using a standard grain drill. The planting rate should be 28-36 viable seeds per square foot in a seedbed prepared as for wheat.

D. Fertilizer:

Phosphorus must be adequate for good yields and triticale uses more nitrogen than wheat.

E. Variety Selection:

Both winter and spring triticale varieties are available. Spring Triticale Varieties: Table 6 compares the agronomic characteristics of Karl and Kramer with hard red spring and durum wheat. The triticale varieties are 4-6 days earlier and are more susceptible to leaf rust than hard red spring and durum wheat. Both varieties are susceptible to ergot, but are less so than many of the earlier triticale varieties. Comparable data for Nutricale, a spring variety available from Nutriseeds, Perham, MN, are not available. However, at Staples in 1986 Nutricale yielded 1810 lb/A compared to Rymin winter rye which yielded 2912 lb/A. The yield range for Nutricale in Minnesota has been from 1250 to 4000 lb/A.

Table 6: Agronomic Data for spring triticale and wheat varieties in North Dakota, 1981-83.1
Variety Crop Days to heading Plant height Test weight2 Leaf rust3 Grain protein
      --in-- lb/bu -- % --
Karl Triticale 58 31 47.1 MR-MS 13.1
Kramer Triticale 58 36 45.5 MR 13.3
Era HR spring wheat 64 30 56.7 MR-MS 14.3
Len HR spring wheat 62 32 57.5 MS 14.8
Cando Durum wheat 64 30 57.0 R 13.8
Vic Durum wheat 62 37 60.0 R 14.0
1Source: North Dakota Extension Agronomy Circular No.1.
2Official test wt of triticale=50, Wheat=60 lb/bu.
R=resistant, MR=moderately resistant, MS=Moderately susceptible.

In Wisconsin studies conducted at Arlington from 1987-89, six spring triticale varieties were compared (Table 7). Florico, Karl, and Kramer produced the highest grain yields, while Springfest was highest in straw yield. Test weight ranged from 43.2 to 49.8 lb/bu but averaged below the official test weight of 50. Grain protein percentage was inversely related to grain yield. At the present time, the varieties Florico, Karl and Kramer represent the best choices of high yielding spring triticales available for the upper Midwest.

Table 7: Yield and plant characteristics of six spring triticales harvested at maturity at Arlington, WI in 1987-89.1
Variety Grain yield Straw yield Test weight Grain protein Protein yield Head date Height Leaf rust Stem rust
  lb/a lb/a lb/bu % lb/a June in % 0-9
Florico 3201 4449 49.8 12.7 407 19 37 20 0
Grace 2155 4351 45.3 13.4 289 20 37 8 0
Karl 2970 4141 47.7 12.5 371 14 32 10 3
Kramer 2684 3796 48.0 12.4 333 13 29 15 0
Marvel 2065 4037 43.2 13.0 268 18 38 12 0
Springfest 2378 4854 45.3 11.8 281 26 37 0 3
Mean 2576 4271 46.6 12.6 325 18 35 11 1
LSD(0.05) 686 453 3.9 1.0 88 3 4 - -
1Source: Brinkman, Chapco and Albrecht, 1988, University of Wisconsin.

Winter Triticale Varieties: Performance of released and experimental winter triticale lines have been compared to commonly grown soft red winter wheats in 1987-89 at Arlington and Madison, WI, Table 8. Triticale was generally higher in grain yield, lower in winter survival ratings, and higher in protein concentration than were the wheat varieties. Grain yield and test weight were restricted by unusually dry conditions in these tests.

Table 8: Performance of four winter triticales and three soft red winter wheats at Arlington and Madison, Wisconsin, 1987-89.
  -- Yield --              
Variety or Selection Grain Straw Test weight Winter Survival Head date Height Lodging Protein Leaf rust
  lb/a t/a lb/bu % in % % %
Loc-years 4 2 4 3 4 3 2 2 1
Winter triticale
Nutriseed 2-2-4 3600 3.6 49.6 48 5/29 47 14 9.8 10
Nutriseed 6-6-2 3640 3.1 45.3 46 6/2 42 13 10.6 10
Tritigold-22 3230 3.6 46.7 64 6/5 45 4 10.5 45
WB-UW26 3930 3.5 46.8 74 6/5 46 2 10.4 35
Winter wheat
Argae 3250 3.6 52.4 90 6/5 36 3 10.1 30
Caldwell 3170 2.8 53.8 65 5/30 31 3 9.8 65
Charmany 2780 3.8 51.7 73 6/6 36 11 10.3 80

Limited North Dakota winter survival data indicate that cultivars Nutriseed 239 and Double Crop are more winter hardy than cultivar 1-18. Generally, winter triticale will not survive Minnesota winters unless special care is taken to leave field residue (as for winter wheat) to catch snow and provide cover. In addition, also winter triticales are more susceptible to injury from early spring freezing temperatures than winter rye.

F. Weed Control:

Cultural and Mechanical: Select fields with low weed seed density if possible. Plant early in a well prepared seed bed for rapid germination.

Chemical: Bromoxynil (Buctril) is registered for broadleaf weed control in triticale. No herbicides are registered for grass weed control, so the crop needs to be planted on relatively weed-free fields. Triticale grows slower than wheat in the spring and grassy weeds could be a problem.

G. Diseases:

Ergot is the most serious disease of spring triticale and can cause grain palatability problems as well as health problems in animals. Scab is frequently more serious in the winter types. Avoid planting triticale two years in succession or following rye. Leaf rust is more severe on triticale than on the more resistant hard red spring wheat varieties. No fungicides are cleared for use on triticale.

I. Insects:

Insect problems in triticale are generally not serious but are similar to that of the other small grain crops.

J. Harvesting:

Harvest is about one week later than wheat, and it threshes easily when dry. The cylinder and forward speed of the combine should be slower than for wheat. The concaves should be more open and the air less open than when combining wheat. Post harvest dormancy is less than hard red spring wheat and similar to durum, so harvesting needs to be timely to avoid sprouting.

J. Drying and Storage:

Drying and storage of triticale is similar to wheat or rye. For long term storage grain should be 13% moisture or lower.

VI. Yield Potential and Performance Results:

A. Spring Triticale:

There are a number of spring triticale varieties, but yield comparisons are available on only a few of the recent varieties. Grain yield comparisons during 1981-86 from North Dakota indicated that the North Dakota varieties Karl and Kramer were similar in yield to the hard red spring wheats Era and Len and the durum wheats Cando and Vic, at Langdon, North Dakota (Table 9). However, the hard red spring wheat variety, Wheaton, yielded more than either triticale in 1986. During 1982-83, Karl and Kramer yielded more than Era, Len, and Cando, but less than Vic at Casselton, located just west of Fargo.

Table 9: Grain yields of spring triticales and wheat in North Dakota, 1981-86.1
      Langdon Casselton
Variety Origin Crop 81,83 86 82-83
------------ lb/A ------------
Karl ND Triticale 3315 2148 3152
Kramer ND Triticale 3355 2677 3175
Era MN HR spring wheat 3200 -- 2695
Len ND HR spring wheat 28052 -- 2765
Wheaton MN HR spring wheat -- 2889 --
Cando ND Durum wheat 2550 -- 2722
Vic ND Durum wheat 31562 -- 3485
1Source: North Dakota Extension Agronomy Circular No.1.
1983 only; yields adjusted for comparison.

In Wisconsin studies, spring triticale yields have ranged from 2000 to 4100 lb/a and have equalled or exceeded the yield of spring wheat, barley, and oat when compared on a lb/a basis (Table 10). The performance of six spring triticale varieties at Arlington, WI is summarized in Table 7.

Table 10: Average grain yields of spring triticale, hard red spring wheat, barley and oats at Arlington, WI. 1987-89.
Crop 1987 1988 1989 Avg.
  -------------------- lb/a --------------------
Triticale 3531 2428 1768 2576
Wheat 3300 1740 2600 2547
Barley 3168 2064 4650 3294
Oat 2720 2244 3350 2838

B. Winter Triticale:

Yield and survival data for winter triticale in North Dakota and Minnesota are limited because of its poor winter survival. Table 11 shows winter triticale yield data when early snow cover occurred in 1985-86. Two varieties of winter triticale, 1-18 and Double Crop, yielded about the same as the winter wheats, Northstar and Rose, but less than Rymin rye at Staples, Minnesota on irrigated sandy soil. The yield of 1-18 was comparable to Rymin rye, but the other two varieties, 239 and Double Crop, yielded much less than Rymin rye.

Table 11: Yield of winter triticale, rye and wheat, 1986.
Variety Origin Crop Williston, ND1 Staples, MN2
      ---------- lb/A ----------
1-18 Nutriseed Triticale 1963 2965
239 Nutriseed Triticale -- 1960
Double Crop Nutriseed Triticale 1937 1505
Rymin MN Rye -- 3013
Puma Canada Rye 2244 --
Northstar Canada Wheat 1876 --
Rose SD Wheat 1951 --
1Source: North Dakota Extension Agronomy Circular No. 1.
Source: Meredith and Weins, 1987, University of Minnesota.

As noted earlier in Table 8, the average yield of winter triticale was 3800 lb/a compared to 3070 lb/a for three commonly grown winter wheat varieties in trials conducted at two southern Wisconsin locations under dry growing conditions.

VII. Economics of Production and Markets:

In 1987 there were about 10,000 acres of triticale planted in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Some elevators such as the Farm Service Elevator in Wilmar, MN have been paying a slight premium above No. 2 yellow corn on a weight basis at 14 percent moisture. The official test weight of triticale is 50 lbs/bu. Markets are limited and should be obtained before triticale is planted as a cash crop.

VIII. Information Sources:

Triticale in Minnesota. 1988. E. A. Oelke and R. H. Busch. University of Minnesota Extension Service Pub. AG-FO-3337.

Triticale Performance in Wisconsin. 1974. E. S. Oplinger and V. L. Youngs. University of Wisconsin Field Crops 26.4-T.

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