Top Crop Manager

Features Agronomy Cereals
The how and ‘why’ of triticale production

Kevin Elmy has been growing winter triticale for seven years, and he is pleased with its performance, so much so that the durum-rye cross has replaced oats in his crop rotation. “What we like about the triticale is that it needs about the same inputs, per se, as oats, but we’re finding there are a lot more options with it. It’s a little easier to manage and it’s a fall-seeded plant so it really spreads out our workload,” he says.


September 21, 2010
By Shirley Byers

Topics
 how  
An example of head length in triticale, with the scale in inches. Photo courtesy of Kevin Elmy.


 

Kevin Elmy has been growing winter triticale for seven years, and he is pleased with its performance, so much so that the durum-rye cross has replaced oats in his crop rotation. “What we like about the triticale is that it needs about the same inputs, per se, as oats, but we’re finding there are a lot more options with it. It’s a little easier to manage and it’s a fall-seeded plant so it really spreads out our workload,” he says.

At Friendly Acres, Elmy’s Saltcoats, Saskatchewan-area farm, the triticale goes into the ground in the first week of September. “Earlier than that and you can get into top growth, and develop more snow mould,” he says.

Advertisment

Elmy seeds into canola stubble. Seeding into summer fallow can work too, but if growers go that route, he recommends putting down a nurse crop of oats at a rate of a bushel per acre, or five pounds of crown millet about the end of June. After growing up, greening up and providing a home for the triticale, the oats or millet will die out when its job is done.

Triticale is a light eater when it comes to fertilizer. In the fall, Elmy applies 120 pounds of 5-27-27 dry blend mixed with a quarter pound of zinc. At the end of April to the first part of May, liquid nitrogen goes on as a dribble band along with 16 gallons of 28-0-0, which gives 48 pounds of actual N applied along with Agrotain.

Fridge, the winter triticale variety that Elmy grows, is described as having early stem elongation. “What that means is it gets tall quick,” he says.

It also means organic producers, or any producer, keeping an eye on costs, could get by using little to no herbicide.
Because he is in seed production, Elmy applies a herbicide along with a foliar application of copper to keep ergot levels low. “It (ergot) hasn’t been a problem, but we’re on a lighter, sandier ground, so all our cereals get a spring shot of copper,” he says.

As a winter cereal, winter triticale is not subject to a lot of diseases and bugs. It can develop net blotch fungus but in seven years of growing, Elmy has not needed to spray for any disease; a good thing for several reasons, one being the height of the plant. “Right now (July 27) it’s about five-and-a-half feet tall,” he says. “How do you put fungicide on that?”   

The last few years have been wet in the Saskatchewan parklands where Friendly Acres is located, so the triticale has been swathed but it can be straight cut. Elmy was impressed with the way it weathered in the swath. “We have a 9500 combine, not a big, fancy combine, but when we put the swaths through, the straw disintegrated,” he says.

After harvest he turned his cattle out into the field and they enthusiastically cleaned up the straw. 

Markets can be a bit of a concern in some areas. Triticale is still considered a niche crop and feed mills might not be anxious to buy the harvest off of one producer’s 40 acres. It is not enough to do a full run of feed ration.

Musgrave Enterprises at McCreary, Manitoba, is probably the most aggressive market for triticale. Last spring they were talking about prices of $4.50 per bushel picked up in the yard, Elmy says. Yields average 60 bushels per acre at Friendly Acres. Other markets include Johnsons at Welwyn, Saskatchewan, and Ray Glen at Saskatoon.

Elmy has done some research and he says the US hog market prefers triticale to feed wheat; it has a better amino acid balance. “Anybody that has been doing their homework on it would be leaning toward the triticale over feed wheat. The problem is adequate supplies,” he says.

Triticale is poised to gain popularity for human consumption, too. It is significantly higher than wheat in lysine, a protein component required by humans and most other animals for normal growth and development. And it has a distinctive nutty taste.

Triticale is truly a multi-purpose crop. “That’s the reason why we’re excited about getting into it,” Elmy says.

In 2006, he cut a swather width around a field of winter triticale at the end of June and baled it. A month later, the crop he cut had re-grown to the same height as the uncut crop.

In areas where seven inches of rain is the norm during the growing season, there is the potential for one full cut of green feed, a smaller cut of green feed plus some fall grazing, as well.

“It’s a highly durable plant,” he says.