Variety trials eye triticale as potential cash crop

Senior Editor

(May 26, 2015) Maryland farmers might soon have a new cash crop to put into the ground.
It’s triticale, a hybrid cross between wheat and rye and highly favored as a forage and feedstock source and in Maryland, it offers promise as a new cover crop.
Dr. Robert Kratochvil, University of Maryland Extension grain specialist, has confirmed that he has some variety tests in the ground, that he is “looking at some triticale lines” developed by North Carolina State University. 
The variety trials are being funded by the Maryland Crop Improvement Association and the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board.
Kratochvil explained that he is comparing the performance of these elite breeding lines with  a couple wheat varieties, two barley varieties, four rye varieties, and “two or three triticale varieties that are currently being sold.” 
“The goal,” he said,  “is to find one or two triticale lines that will do well as a cover crop and also produce good seed yield.” 
There is increasing demand for triticale as a green chop forage among the dairy industry, Kratochvil said, and the Crop Improvement Association is hoping that if the performance of one or two of the triticale lines he is testing “is good both for grain yield as well as cover crop performance, that an arrangement can be worked out with NCSU to market them in this area as an alternative to the already used rye, wheat, and barley as cover crops.”
It is favored 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. It also has attracted interest in its use of the straw for biofuel production, as a cover crop and as food grain.
According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, 464 farms in over 30 states raised triticale. Total production that year was 2.5 million bushels. The states producing the most triticale were (in order): Washington, Texas, California and Kansas.The majority of the planted acres are used for forage and pastures.
Researchers at other land grant universities argue  that the versatility that triticale offered as a grain, a forage and as a biofuel 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, the grain experts contend.