4 September 1998

It might be time to give triticale a try

By Peter Grimshaw

CAUGHT in a vicious cost/price squeeze, growers could do well to take a closer look at triticale, say seeds suppliers; increased production could increase prices, traders claim.

Triticale is nutritionally on a par with feed wheat and feed barley, achieving comparable yields from lower inputs, says Semundo director, Chris Green. "It should outyield winter barley, with a projected 7t/ha this year," he says. "It does comparatively better than other cereals on lighter soils, because it has a deeper rooting system. We rarely use fungicides."

Its relative resistance to take-all makes it attractive in place of a second or third wheat, he adds. Resistance to rabbit and bird grazing can be another advantage in problem areas. New semi-dwarf varieties, such as Taurus, mean the crop can be grown successfully on stronger soils, too, with a much-reduced risk of lodging, even without plant growth regulators.

But growers should look out for varietal and local environmental variations before assuming fungicides and pgrs are unnecessary, warns John Garstang of ADAS Boxworth, especially where more nitrogen is used to exploit the higher yield potential of semi-dwarf varieties.

Market development of triticale has failed to keep pace with agronomic progress, but compounders are beginning to take a closer interest, and it is said to be ideal for home mixers, especially those using farm-mixed pig rations. "It will need to squeeze into the market, because it has no champions, and is often sold at a discount," says Mr Green. "I am quite confident that it will come of age in the next two or three years."

Kenneth Wilsons George Doody says triticale trades at a £5/t discount to feed wheat, largely because compounders need to be assured of supply continuity. "As the area increases, that discount should decrease. We have got a lot more people interested this year, especially on less fertile ground."

He thinks it is well worth trying, especially with Agenda 2000 cuts on the horizon. "Most other EU countries are increasing their area." &#42

New triticale Fidelio, seen here behind Riband wheat, is one of the new semi-dwarf varieties which can be grown on heavier soils without lodging, says Semundo.