Growing triticale in Victoria
Triticale (genus X Triticosecale) is a cereal crop developed by human intervention from crosses between wheat (genus Triticum) and rye (genus Secale).
It has been developed to incorporate the high yield potential and quality of wheat and the adaptability of rye and is adapted to a wide range of soil types and environments.
It has an aggressive root system that binds light soils better than wheat, barley or oats. Under ideal conditions, researchers have found that it can out-yield wheat and barley and sometimes oats.
Triticale used to be a commonly grown crop in wetter areas of Victoria but has fallen from favour with growers as they have preferred the flexibility of wheat.
Triticale is well established as an ingredient in livestock rations.
See the Victorian Winter Crop Summary for an up to date guide to wheat varieties and last season's yield results.
Triticale in Australia has a spring growth habit which means it behaves similarly to most cereal crops, maturing in late spring to early summer. Breeding and selection programs have ensured varieties possess a range of disease and pest characteristics which can compliment disease management for other cereals. It can also carry diseases which may affect other cereal species.
Triticale can be less susceptible to the common fungal diseases of cereals which make it suitable for use in rotations where stubble is retained. Some varieties have good resistance to:
- stem, leaf and stripe rusts
- Septoria tritici blotch
- Cereal Cyst Nematode (CCN)
Of all the cereals available to farmers, triticale has the best adaptation to water logged soils and those of high pH (alkaline soils). It is also tolerant of low pH (acid soils), grows well on sodic soils and tolerates soils high in boron.
In nutrient deficient soils, triticale appears to respond better to applied fertilisers than other cereals.
Triticale has the capacity to survive utilising trace elements in soils which would be considered nutrient deficient for any other type of crop. However, growth and yield of triticale is very responsive to phosphorus and nitrogen.
Triticale does not tiller well. The desired plant density for triticale is 180 plants per m² up to 200 plants per m² in high rainfall zones. Depending on seed size this equates to a seeding rate of 75 to 100kg per hectare. If sowing is delayed — or when sowing on light sandy soils — the higher plant density should be the target.
Triticale is not usually prone to infection from smuts and bunt. However it is good insurance to apply a seed dressing to the grain when it is being graded. Stripe rust may be a problem in triticale and there are options to treat seed to provide seedling protection against stripe rust.
Triticale has similar phosphorus and nitrogen requirements as wheat and responds to most compound fertilisers. Zinc has also been found a valuable nutrient for Mallee sowings. As with most crops, rates of fertiliser application should be based on soil testing and other historical response information as well as anticipated costs and returns.
It is also valuable to know the anticipated market for the grain and whether price gradients may reward higher protein levels. This may warrant extra nitrogen usage.
Triticale generally has a similar sowing time requirement to other cereals and should take a priority in the sowing schedule commensurate with its importance to the overall cropping enterprise.
In the Victorian Mallee the first 2 weeks of May are the ideal time to sow triticale although the seasonal break often dictates the actual sowing opportunity.
For the Wimmera and north central, mid to late May is generally the optimum sowing time.
For north east Victoria, depending on the variety, the whole month of May is potentially ideal.
In the case of a long season variety (Jackie) it may be sown from early April in the north east.
South west Victoria has a wider sowing window due to a longer growing season and, depending on the variety, crops may be sown from early May to late June.
Acting promptly when a sowing window is available has proven critical over many seasons. Delayed sowing has generally proven costly although to sow very early increases frost risk.
Triticale appears to be more sensitive to frost damage than other cereals. Dry sowing for a portion of the crop is an option which has proven very successful and can be considered for triticale as well as other cereals
Weed control in triticale is similar to that for wheat.
Local agronomists and resellers are also a good source of advice on pesticide use in general.
Triticale as a cover crop
Triticale has poor tillering capacity and good tolerance to shattering. This makes triticale a useful cereal as a cover crop to establish undersown lucerne or medic, but seeding rates may need to be reduced.
Long term on-farm storage of triticale will be a problem unless the storage facility is sealed silos. Triticale grain is softer than wheat and barley grain. Soft grain is more prone to attack from weevils and other grain storage insects. Maintain grain at low (less than 10%) moisture content to minimise insect infestation. Fumigation prior to storage in sealed silos is effective in reducing the risk of insect damage when storing triticale.
Most triticale varieties are subject to plant breeder's rights (PBR) and need to be traded within the conditions of the particular variety's PBR. However, working within PBR limitations, triticale grain is domestically traded on the open market via merchants, grain traders and by end-users. For best returns aim to harvest crops at 12% moisture or less, produce grain with a minimum test weight of 65kg per hl and minimise other cereal grain contaminants. Grain protein content of triticale may be a factor in determining its value.
Uses for triticale
In livestock diets, triticale has a similar role to other cereals. It is primarily an energy source having moderate protein content with high starch and other carbohydrates, giving it high energy content. The major uses for triticale grain are as a feed supplement in the dairy industry, as a component ingredient in beef feedlots and as a constituent of compound rations for intensive livestock (pigs and poultry) rations.
A key physical feature of triticale is that it is a soft grain with a hardness index almost half that observed for wheat and barley. This is an advantage as less mechanical energy is required to mill triticale compared to wheat and barley prior to inclusion in livestock diets.
On the farm triticale can be fed to livestock in the same way wheat or barley would be fed.
Small amounts of triticale are marketed as niche products for human food consumption.
- as a flour supplement to wheaten flour for bread, biscuits and cakes
- rolled whole grains for breakfast cereals
- triticale noodles
- in the brewing and distilling industries
For further information see:
- National variety trials
- Coombs, B (1994) Australian grains: A complete reference book on the grain industry, Hawthorn East, Morescope Publishing. pp 358-363.
- A guide to the use of triticale in livestock feeds