Researchers make strides in advancing triticale

LACOMBE, Alta. — Researchers have developed two new lines of spring triticale, advancing the crop’s yield and digestibility.

The lines, T256 and T257, also have lower risks of ergot than some varieties currently on the market, said Mazen Aljarrah, a plant breeder with Alberta Agriculture, during a field day in July at the Field Crop Development Centre in Lacombe.

In particular, he said T256, a forage-type line, is more digestible because it has reduced awns, is shorter, and has lower lignin content.

He explained that T256’s shorter stem potentially means it has less lignin, a component in plant cells that make them woody and harder to digest. As well, the reduction in awns allows the crop to be favourable for swath grazing.

As for T257, it has better yield, improved lodging resistance and lower DON content, a mycotoxin that can cause fusarium.

“They both have better digestibility while also maintaining good yield,” he said.

Researchers have developed the new lines to make triticale an attractive cereal to grow.

Ponting out its pros, Aljarrah said triticale requires low inputs, is resistant to rust diseases and generally outperforms barley in yield. However, it faces a host of other issues.

For instance, he said cattle would rather eat a different cereal due to triticale’s rough awns. As well, when compared to cereals like barley and wheat, triticale is more susceptible to ergot and isn’t as digestible.

“In our breeding programs, we’ve been working to address this,” he said.

Seed companies are taking note of the improvements.

Aljarrah said T256 was taken up by Solick Seeds and could become available to farmers starting next year. T257 hasn’t yet been adopted by a seed company, but he said he has been discussing that idea with some companies.

“Triticale is a minor crop, so it takes some effort to convince a seed company of the benefits,” he said.

There is also a new winter triticale line in the works, Aljarrah added.

He said the line, called WT0010, yields extremely well compared to current varieties on the market. For example, its yield is 161 percent of Bobcat and 150 percent of Metzger.

As well, the line’s forage digestibility and lodging resistance are better. It also has larger seeds.

“This line is amazing. I was surprised with the results,” he said.

Aljarrah said the digestibility of the winter line is just as good as spring varieties on the market. Usually, winter lines have lower digestibility than the spring ones.

“This would be more suitable for the southern part of Western Canada,” he said. “It could even be a good replacement for winter wheat.”

He said the winter line is being picked up by SeedNet, a seed company out of Coaldale, Alta.

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