Triticale (trit uh KAY lee) is a hybrid small grain produced by crossing wheat and rye. The name combines the scientific names of the two crop species, that is, wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale).
Although a relatively new genotype, the history of triticale goes back to the late 1800s when the first crosses were attempted. Over the next 50 years, isolated experimentation and research occurred throughout Europe and the Soviet Union. It was not until the 1960s that the first commercial releases became available for producers. Both winter and spring types were developed, with emphasis on spring varieties.
Interest in triticale has developed around several areas of potential use for the grain. The first area of interest is for use as a feed grain for livestock because it has proven to be a good source of protein, amino acids and B vitamins. It has shown promise as both a forage crop and as an alternative protein source in formulated rations for cattle, sheep and goats as well as chickens and pigs. Feeding trials with both swine and poultry have shown that triticale can replace corn in diets with little effect on animal performance.
A second area of interest for triticale is use of the straw for biofuel production. Studies in the U.K. have found triticale outperforms wheat as a biofuel feedstock because it uses less nitrogen to achieve similar yields (Davis-Knight and Weightman 2008). Research efforts are currently being supported by the Canadian government to develop triticale as a feedstock.
The third area of interest for triticale is in developing the grain for use in food products. Current triticale varieties do not possess the milling and baking characteristics to be competitive with wheat for use in bread and pasta products. As a food grain, triticale has been recognized as a hardy crop capable of helping combat world hunger.
According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, 464 farms in over 30 states raised triticale. Total production that year was 2.5 million bushel. The states producing the most triticale were (in order): Washington, Texas, California and Kansas. Triticale was not included in the 2012 census of agriculture.
The majority of the planted acres are used for forage and pastures. Production trends do show steady growth over the last 20 years with a 50 percent growth in production during the last decade. Some of the hurdles slowing growth are inconsistencies, genetic composition and yield in the grain.
The versatility that triticale offers as a grain, a forage and as a biofueld feedstock adds to the economic viability that sustains the interest in the crop. Triticale will likely continue to experience increased levels of production if it is supported with solid research in genetics, production and utilization.
Triticale, Field Crops: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture, National Ag Statistics Service, USDA.
Triticale: A Viable Alternative for Iowa Producers and Livestock Feeders? Iowa State University, 2002.
- Better Cover, More Feed, Angus Journal, 2005 - Bill and Joe Bennet raise triticale on their Washington state ranch. Sown as a cover crop in late fall, triticale allows the Bennets to pasture their cattle throughout the winter rather than feed hay.
- Plant Triticale, Cut Hay Bills, Boost Lamb Profits, Sheep! magazine - This online magazine article gives some agronomic details and economic uses of triticale.
- PureVision Presents Triticale Straw Fractionation Results, Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference, Calgary, Canada, 2007 - Research is bring performed on the conversion of triticale straw into several promising industrial applications.
- Rye and Triticale Breeding in the South, Agronomy Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 2006 - This extension report gives the uses and adoptability of triticale.
- Triticale Enterprise Budgets, Iowa State University, 2003.
- Triticale gets the best of both worlds — wheat and rye, Innovations Report, 2004.
- Triticale Research, Lance Gibson, Iowa State University.
- United States Standards for Triticale, 1998 - This document gives the standards used for triticale in the United States.
Links checked August 2018.