Iowa crop farmers might consider planting triticale this fall, says Lance Gibson, an Iowa State University agronomist.

“Triticale provides valuable soil conservation and nitrogen-capture benefits in fall and spring,” says Gibson. “It captures 50-150 lbs of nitrogen per acre that might otherwise be lost to the environment. It also provides protection from soil erosion during April, May and June – a period when corn and soybean fields are the most vulnerable to erosion.”

Gibson coordinated four years of triticale research that included variety development, nitrogen management, swine feeding trials and economic analysis.

Triticale, a cross between wheat and rye, has greater yield potential than wheat, and can be used as a forage or grain. Gibson says its production costs are low, requiring 2.5 times less energy per bushel to produce than corn. Winter triticale yields better and has fewer disease problems than spring-planted varieties, he adds.

In southern Iowa, fall-planted triticale can be harvested as forage in late May, yielding up to 3 tons/acre of dry matter at 15% protein.

“Harvesting in late May would allow a producer to then plant a soybean crop with nearly full yield potential,” he says. Winter triticale planted for grain would be harvested in mid-July.

The swine feeding trials revealed that the feed value of triticale grain is similar to that of corn.

“Swine rations based on triticale required less soybean meal and dicalcium phosphate than corn-based ra-tions, which reduced feeding costs,” Gibson reports. “However, pigs on triticale took a few more days to reach market maturity than if they were fed corn.”

Triticale is susceptible to Fusarium head blight, which may cause swine to refuse to eat it. Also, yields can vary. It yielded less than 50 bu/acre in 2004, a wet growing season, and over 100 bu/acre in 2004, which had a cool, dry growing season, Gibson reports.